Nidhogg 2 expands upon the original with new weapons, mechanics, and levels. What originally was a sidescrolling sword dueling game now includes bow and arrow, daggers, and broadswords. You’ll use whatever weapon is randomly assigned to you to fight your way past your opponent, and keep running until you eventually are eaten by the titular creature, signifying your victory. Yeah, it’s kinda weird.
Not all of the additions are beneficial, however, as I found a couple of the weapons mostly just frustrating. The dagger’s short range makes it ineffective against anything other than another dagger. I found it best to look for an opening to throw it and hope for the best. Similarly, the bow fires so slowly I found it to be a detriment in most situations. I do like the broadsword however, and it’s ability to swing weapons out of your opponent’s hands with ease. The downside to it is you are left exposed in the middle position, but that’s a fair tradeoff.
Given that I actively dislike half of the weapons in the game, the system of respawning with a random weapon is quite frustrating. Further, it injects a needlessly random element into an otherwise perfectly symmetrical, balanced game. The maps are even, characters have no special skills, but spawning with an outmatched weapon takes some of the skill factor away and replaces it with pure luck.
If you look around the internet, you won’t have to go far to see people complain about the new art style. It’s much different from the original, for sure, but I have no issues with it. The pixel art is uniquely styled, and I had no problems keeping up with the action on screen. There are a few areas where players are intentionally obscured, but that’s balanced on both ends of the map. Being hidden behind tall grass or being shown as a silhouette is a design choice, and positively impacts the style of Nidhogg 2.
Online multiplayer includes ranked and unranked varieties, but I found it perpetually troublesome. Even with preferences set to only match me against the closest possible opponents, gameplay was laggy. Hopefully this is something that can be worked on in a future patch. Nidhogg 2 relies on pixel perfect precision, and any element of jittery screens makes for a frustrating time. Local multiplayer will shine, however, and includes a built-in tournament mode allowing for up to eight players to engage in a double elimination bracket. In a group setting, expect some raucous cheering as momentum swings one way or another.
A single player arcade mode has you fight through every available map, but adds nothing of real value to the overall package. There’s a couple trophies earnable through the mode, but it’s basically just a speedrun mode against some AI that rarely feels like they know what they’re doing.
Nidhogg 2 is an OK sequel that is hampered by its additions to the simplicity of the original sleeper hit. While the same gameplay loop can be found and enjoyed, the random nature of weapons results in unbalanced matches. Online play isn’t quite up to par connection-wise, but as a local party game it’s sure to find a home.