Nidhogg Review: A Duelist’s Dream

Nidhogg, much like its namesake, has been something of a mythical beast in the world of indie games. The side-scrolling arcade title has been appearing at various conventions ever since 2010, always popping in to win some awards, and then, once the show ends, news about it seems to go silent again. But stories always float around about how awesome it was when that one person rolled under that other guy’s sword, only to get that sword thrown in their back as they tried to run away.

Here we are in 2014, and finally the general gaming public has the chance to experience the simple, yet deep, brilliance of Nidhogg’s sword fighting combat, its unique spin on the 2-D fighting genre, and the joy and satisfaction of gladly leaping into the mouth of a giant pink monster.

Nidhogg
Platform: PC
Developer: Messhof
Publisher: Messhof
Release Date: Jan. 13, 2014
MSRP: $14.99

Despite a lack of life bars, super meters and combos, Nidhogg is essentially a 2-D fighting game. It’s a one-on-one duel of wits and skill as you try to read your opponent and punish their mistakes. The main difference between Nidhogg and other fighters is that instead of having multiple characters with various special moves and attacks, you have one generic character, your trusty fencing sword, and your bare hands.

Combat in Nidhogg is deceptively simple. Your sword is always held out in front of you in a fencing stance, and you’re able to hold it in the high, middle, and low positions. You can stab at any of these positions, but if your opponent is also holding their sword in the same position, your attack will be blocked. Bypass the guard and poke the squishy parts, and it’s a one-hit kill, regardless of where the blow lands.

In addition to simply blocking, a player can also knock a sword out of their opponent’s hand by switching stance in the middle of their opponents attack. Once you’ve been disarmed, you’re at a pretty substantial disadvantage, but not defenseless. One well-placed divekick, slide attack, or punch to the face will stun your opponent, allowing you to potentially break their neck while they are on the ground.

Then you add in the sword throws, the dive rolls, the wall jumps, the cartwheels, and you begin to see the surprising amount of depth to Nidhogg’s sword fighting.

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