hot  /  reviews  /  videos  /  cblogs  /  qposts

Review: Nidhogg

9:00 AM on 01.14.2014 // Patrick Hancock

In hogg heaven

Nidhogg has always been a mysterious turbo-indie game that only the cool kids could play at secret underground events in the 13th hour (NO, I WASN’T JEALOUS). Anyway, we plebeians finally have a chance to own and play the game whenever we want! Even online!

It’s easy to see why Nidhogg has always been regarded as a game that you simply must play if given the chance, but that isn’t to say that it’s official release isn’t without some rough edges. 

Indie rough edges.

Nidhogg (PC)
Developer: Messhof
Publisher: Messhof
MSRP: $14.99
Release Date: January 13, 2014

Nidhogg is a virtual sport. Not an eSport or any of that hullabaloo, but a sport with rules, competitors, and virtual spectators. Each Nidhogg match starts the same way: both competitors enter the arena, armed with fencing swords. The object is to kill your enemy, get “The Arrow,” and proceed past the various screens towards the end.

To explain that last part a bit, a player that scores a first kill gets “The Arrow,” which tells the player to run a certain direction. That player must follow that path to the end of the screen, which moves the fight to the next screen. The opponent, meanwhile, is trying to kill that player in order to get The Arrow on their side and go towards their side of the screen. The first player to make it to the last screen, wins. That probably sounds a lot more complicated than it is (it's tug of war, basically).

Fencing is as intense as it gets. The player can move the sword up and down before thrusting, throw the sword at the enemy, disarm the enemy, jump, divekick, duck, duck-jump, punch (when unarmed), sweep the leg, and rip out a downed enemy’s still-beating heart. Sword positioning and player positioning are key, as a single misstep can lead to a good stabbing. The moments when it looks like nothing is really going on is when the game is its most suspenseful; a small step here, an empty jump there, a roll and STAB! He’s off to the races!

However, death is not the end in Nidhogg. As long as the opponent still has distance to travel, the player will continuously respawn in front of them, sword in hand. Just knowing this fact helps to even the playing field, however. Sure, it’s another hurdle to get through, but a well-timed sword throw will put your newly-respawned opponent in a defensive position immediately. Or perhaps you’ll wait before a level hazard and have them spawn near a disappearing platform. The more conniving the strategy, the better.

The full release of Nidhogg comes with more modes than simply local two-player versus. Players can play the turorial, play against a series of AI opponents in singleplayer, host a local tournament, or go online to play against friends or play matchmaking.

At least, in theory.

The tutorial no longer works. I say no longer because when playing the game a day before release, I managed to play the tutorial just fine. However today, that has changed. The tutorial can no longer advance past the first step, moving left and right. This will likely be patched soon, which is great news because Nidhogg is fairly complex and the tutorial does a splendid job of introducing the various mechanics at play.

Inviting friends is evidently a gamble. I was able to invite a friend just fine, but when he clicked on my name to invite me, the invite went to someone else completely. Matchmaking is also hit-or-miss, sometimes connecting to another player and other times finding no one, claiming no one is online. While in the pre-match lobby, we also had seemingly random disconnects. The best advice I can give is not to alt-tab or use the Steam overlay while in a lobby, as it may cause a disconnect. Chatting in the lobby is also unexpectedly horrendous, as a single line can only hold approximately 20 characters before the player must hit send, and the font makes all H’s, M’s, N’s and W’s look the same. It’s best not to chat much.

The netcode while playing online is also hit-or-miss, unless you’re the host. When not the host, you can expect some slight lag or an “underwater” feeling as inputs register just late enough to make it noticeable. There have been times that I have stabbed an opponent on my screen, only to see myself dead a second later and my opponent running off towards the exit. It’s more annoying than in some other games, as precision is all that stands between you and sweet victory in Nidhogg, and lag renders precision meaningless.

Though many would argue, myself included, that Nidhogg is a game for the couch. A game best played next to someone so that your victory dance is all the sweeter. With no lag and no random lobby disconnects, local multiplayer is the true star of Nidhogg and is easily the best way to play. Grab two controllers and simply go at it. The controls are simple enough to explain to anyone, and its’ amazing to see the type of strategies that evolve from two people who know how the other one thinks. There’s even some game variants to be played with, like disabling swords or forcing players to always crouch, if you want to get silly.

Playing against the AI is a decent way to get used to the game, but that’s about all it will amount to. The AI, like most fighting game AI, is easily exploited in certain situations. Sometimes the AI will perform an incredible 5-input move that could probably only be done with computer-esque precision, and later it will stand on a disappearing platform and wait for death. It just isn't as satisfactory to play against robots.

There are four levels, and each is completely unique. That may seem like an inadequate number, but they’re so varied and contain so many possibilities on each screen that it’s hardly noticeable. My only concern is the first screen of the Clouds level, which makes it nigh-impossible to actually see your characters, especially for us colorblind players. It’s easy to lose your on-screen avatar or an airborne sword, but feels cheap rather than interesting.

The game’s music and animation are the true stars of Nidhogg’s aesthetic. Seeing these single-color pixelated characters move so fluidly makes them come to life despite a lack of any real defining art. It makes them feel real in a very virtual world. The music, courtesy of Daedelus, dynamically shifts around the action and is a perfect fit for the game. I only wish I had the time to enjoy it before I get impaled through the groin.

Nidhogg is a perfect game wrapped in a not-so-perfect package. When playing locally against another human, it is the epitome of competition. Playing online is a mixed bag of lag, disconnects, and a weird chat system. Hopefully some of the bugs get ironed out over time, especially whatever stopped the tutorial from functioning, to make everything more functional as a whole.

Regardless of all that, Nidhogg stands as one of the true kings of competitive gameplay, and that doesn't need to be patched one bit.



Nidhogg - Reviewed by Patrick Hancock
Entrancing - It's like magic, guys. Time disappears when this game and I are together, and I never want it to end. I'm not sure if this is a love that will last forever, but if it is, you'll get no complaints from me.

See more reviews or the Destructoid score guide.

Patrick Hancock, Contributor
 Follow Blog + disclosure therealhancock Tips
Watching and playing competitive games like Dota and StarCraft take up most of his time. His three favorite non-video game things in the world are space, dinosaurs, and puppets. So if there we... more   |   staff directory

 Setup email comments

Unsavory comments? Please report harassment, spam, and hate speech to our moderators, and flag the user (we will ban users dishing bad karma). Can't see comments? Apps like Avast or browser extensions can cause it. You can fix it by adding * to your whitelists.

 Add your impressions

Status updates from C-bloggers

The Dyslexic Laywer avatarThe Dyslexic Laywer
The amount of people who still defend Atlus's terrible marketing for their "crossover game" is kind of disturbing...
RadicalYoseph avatarRadicalYoseph
Playing MGSV Ground Zeroes reminds me of when I was a younger child and I would play game demos over and over again, creating my own objectives and stories with my imagination. I love it!
Parismio avatarParismio
SFV just revealed Laura's video. She doesn't look that combo-friendly tbh. That just might be the video though.
Jed Whitaker avatarJed Whitaker
Apparently some people are upset at Hyrule Warriors Legends calling it "the most expensive DLC", to quote a well known former writer of the site "they're Nintendo fans, that's what they do" complain.
Barry Kelly avatarBarry Kelly
God damn Xenonauts is brutal on Ironman mode. Oh well, time to start again.
Gamemaniac3434 avatarGamemaniac3434
Out of morbid curiosity, whats your favorite handheld gaming machine?
ShadeOfLight avatarShadeOfLight
Who's that Dtoider?! [img][/img]
wutangclam avatarwutangclam
Pathologic Classic HD just got announced and holy crap am I excited. If you haven't played the game, keep your eyes on this one. It's the very definition of an underrated title. Though I'm not sure what'll happen to the remake that was being shown...
El Dango avatarEl Dango
My opinion on Tomba has changed, now I dig it again. Stay tuned for updates.
techsupport avatartechsupport
MGO is a blast and after playing for a few hours as each class, I'm glad I stuck with Infiltrator.
CblogRecaps avatarCblogRecaps
So assuming the terrible blog tools functions correctly, soon there may be a nefarious call to arms. So keep an eye out and hope there isn't a typo due to light-grey on white background text.
Jiraya avatarJiraya
Gonna have a date tonight ? Here's a song for you. [youtube][/youtube]
LinkSlayer64 avatarLinkSlayer64
[youtube][/youtube] And yes, this is video game related!
Nathan D avatarNathan D
"Everlasting. True love. I am yours." -Rule of Rose T^T
Shinta avatarShinta
MGO's pretty fun! I suck at it though. I mostly hang back and just mark enemies and get the occasional sniper kill. It's pretty fun to be semi-useful with a very hands off role like that. Love my avatar character guy too.
Mike Martin avatarMike Martin
Fuck Insecticons
nanashi avatarnanashi
they pooped in my food they pooped in my food they pooped in my food they pooped in my food
Robo Panda Z avatarRobo Panda Z
I have been accused of the greatest of crimes - cookie snobbery.
KyWii avatarKyWii
Rock Band 4 is really fun...takes me back to my teenage days of high school. Also reminds me of all the hours I wasted on a plastic guitar instead of getting better on a real one xD
Avoclefo avatarAvoclefo
Team Fortress 2 just got a massive community-made Invasion update. SFM short, reskins, cosmetics, and 4 brand new maps?!?! God, I love this game and its wonderful community so, so much. [youtube][/youtube]
more quickposts


destructoid's previous coverage:

  Oct 14

Stabby, stabby: Nidhogg hits the PS4 and Vita today

Is that a mythical serpent in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?

  Jul 22

Holy crap, Nidhogg is releasing this year!

The event-only multiplayer fencing game can finally be yours

View all:powered by:  MM.Elephant

Ads on destructoid may be purchased from:

Please contact Crave Online, thanks!


Invert site colors

  Dark Theme
  Light Theme

Destructoid means family.
Living the dream, since 2006

Pssst. konami code + enter

modernmethod logo

Back to Top

We follow moms on   Facebook  and   Twitter
  Light Theme      Dark Theme
Pssst. Konami Code + Enter!
You may remix stuff our site under creative commons w/@
- Destructoid means family. Living the dream, since 2006 -