Nidhogg Review: All Glory to the Nidhogg
The old saying that goes "keep it simple, stupid." AAA and indie titles alike have fallen prey to the trap of cluttering their game with too many elements, trying to appeal to all people. Keeping things simple, however, allows a developer to build a game with a couple of core elements to build on and polish to a mirror shine.
Nidhogg by Messof may be the perfect example of how to keep things simple while creating the best multiplayer game so far this year.
The game is a one-on-one sword fight that starts in the center of the level. Once one player delivers a fatal blow by way of sword or neck snap (if they're on the ground), they begin running in their assigned direction (Player 1 goes right, Player 2 goes left). The other player will keep respawning in front of you to impede your progress. If they can stop the running player and kill them, then they can start running the other direction. The first person to avoid their opponent and run all the way past the final screen will get to sacrifice themselves to the Nidhogg and win (Yes, your reward is getting eaten by a giant worm. This is still an indie game after all).
It's easy enough to pick up and play, but the real challenge of the game is mastering the combat system. There are four stances you can take with your sword; low, middle, high, and sword throwing. Each one has their own advantages and disadvantages. For example, taking a low stance helps protect you from people trying to roll under your guard and leg sweep you off your feet, leaving you open to having your neck snapped. However, you're more susceptible to getting knocked down by a well placed jump kick that will leave you vulnerable to a one way ticket to neck-snap city.
Nidhogg is one of the most exhilarating multiplayer experiences in all of gaming.
The combat system is simple, but rich. Every sword fight is a chess match. Do you try to be aggressive and go for the kill? Do you hang back and let your opponent make the first mistake? If you're the runner, do you try to jump over your opponent and run past them? When you're playing with someone else, Nidhogg is one of the most exhilarating multiplayer experiences in all of gaming.
Where Nidhogg suffers, however, is when you are playing against computer opponents. The AI is atrocious, consistently pulling idiotic moves like throwing their sword at inopportune times and routinely falling into pits. All you have to do is wait for them to screw up and then strike, even with the toughest opponents. There's absolutely no challenge nor does it help prepare you for multiplayer games.
The single player isn't everything it could be, but when played with a group of friends there is no experience like it. Even though only two players can play at a time, the tension in every match can get a crowd of people emotionally invested, cheering and gasping with every sword thrust. Though this game only has a few simple elements, those elements come together masterfully to create one of the best multiplayer games you'll ever play. All hail the Nidhogg.