We’ve been playing a few indie fighting games for our latest podcast episode and while there are plenty of titles out there with combos, special moves, health bars, and best-of-3 fights, I opted for the indie sword fighting game Nidhogg II.
Easy to learn
Great with friends
Let’s start by saying the visual style won’t be for everyone. It’s purposely cartoony and sort of disgusting. However, it does provide a colourful and interesting vessel for all the action happening onscreen. You probably wouldn’t want any screenshots of this game on your wall but you could look at any image from Nidhogg II and immediately know what game it’s from.
As for playing the game, the gameplay is simple and accessible. You face off against another character armed with a sword and you can jump, attack, and position your sword at one of three levels. The height of your sword will parry your opponents moves but if there’s nothing there, you’ll die pretty much instantly.
Kills take one or two hits, but the objective is to actually reach the opposite side of the level. Each level is made up of 7 screens and when you kill your opponent, you can advance further towards the last of these. Your opponent will respawn and attempt to stop you and if they do, they can move further into your territory.
Whoever reaches the end screen has the glory of being eaten by the titular Nidhogg, a giant wurm/dragon/serpent from Norse mythology that’s usually found gnawing at Yggdrasil, the world tree.
Essentially, Nidhogg II is fencing combined with tug-of-war and like both of these activities, it’s better with friends. While playing against the AI might be a nice way to kill some time, the real fun occurs when you play against your mates. This, like many other fighting games, is a game designed to be played by groups of friends gathered around a single screen.
It’s not all good, though. The game, while simple, lacks the kind of depth you’d expect in a fighting game. For the same reason that a lack of complexity in terms of controls makes the game really accessible, it may be lacking all the cool special moves that draw in hardcore fans of the genre.
Similarly, there aren’t really any characters in the game. An impressive and diverse roster of playable characters is one of the biggest draws to the fighting game genre but in Nidhogg II, you won’t get the chance to “main” a given character as there aren’t really any.
Sure, you can customise some of the things on your character, but this is all just window-dressing and won’t fundamentally change the way you play the game.
Nidhogg II is a fighting game but it’s so far from your traditional fighting game that it mightn’t have any appeal for hardcore fans of the genre. That said, it’s very enjoyable with friends and is probably better to have on a console than a PC as local multiplayer is where it really shines.