It was very, very hard to put down Nidhogg to write this review. What do you know about Nidhogg? The people reading this versed in Norse mythology may think Nidhogg is a dragon that  gnaws on the roots of the Earth tree, Yggdrasill. Although that is relevant and true, Nidhogg in this context, is a 2D fencing game in which two people battle to reach their side of a level where they then get eaten by Nidhogg.


I would like to preface this by saying that Nidhogg is best played with friends. The single player is totally serviceable but this game truly shines in its multiplayer. I played through the single player in about a half hour, from not knowing how to play the game properly. By the time I had finished that half hour, I definitely had the basics down. The goal is to get to your side of the level by going through multiple screens. To get to the next screen, you must kill the opponent, and run while he respawns in front of you on the next screen. Once you have ‘advantage’ you can run to the end, provided you don’t get killed yourself, then you need to kill your opponent again in order to go your way again. It’s a really interesting reverse tug of war mechanic where picking your fights appropriately is incentivised.


Your main weapon is your sword. With the sword you can fence with the other player using up or down to change the height of your sword. The interesting thing about the sword is that you can just stand there and if the opponent touches the sword they will fall onto it, making the entire mechanic similar to zoning in a traditional fighting game. You can lunge at the opponent with the attack button and if their sword is at a different height, they will be killed. If you change heights while under or over a sword, you can disarm the other person, giving you an advantage to attack. You can also fight with your fists, although the disadvantage there is limited reach and having to get close quarters. Two punches, a leg sweep, or a dive kick will knock someone down, crouching and pressing the attack button again will perform a spine rip. Swords can be picked back up by pushing down and can also be thrown by holding up then attack. Thrown swords can be blocked with a raised sword or dodged by jumping or rolling.

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As far as mobility goes you have a basic jump, a forward roll and a cartwheel. There is also limited wall running, jumping and hanging off ledges. This can be good to sneak past an opponent when you don’t have a sword. The wall jumping is a little wonky, but it all works. For ease of control, you’ll be wanting an Xbox controller or similar.


The online multiplayer is a little bit wonky at this point in time. It totally works, but it’s not perfect. Lag in a fast-paced game is annoying; hopefully more improvements are to come, but online multiplayer is there if you have a good connection. Offline multiplayer is certainly the better experience, if only to yell expletives at the person who just stabbed you. A tournament mode with three or more friends will be a very fun time. There are a variety of modifiers for versus as well, such as low gravity, fast or slow speed, and boomerang swords.

2014-01-15_00002The graphics are a gorgeous mix of simple Atari lines and colours with fluid modern animation. It won’t be everyone’s idea of awesome graphics, but they are certainly striking. The animation reminds me of the early flash videos of the internet, where stick figures would brutally murder each other. There are four different stages each with their own quirks that change the strategy of play. For example, the wild level has tall grass you can hide in, while the mines have narrow corridors inwhich swords cannot be thrown and you cannot jump over opponents. The music is composed by Daedelus and is unique with each play through. It’s a catchy mix of electronic tunes that fits the action well.    

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It is available for PC on Steam for $14.99 with a 20% discount for launch, so $11.99 until January 20th. There is also a two-pack option where you can buy two copies for a reduced price. The only criticism I can even muster is that there may not be enough content to justify the $15 price tag for some people.

Last Updated: January 15, 2014

Nidhogg is yet more proof that a simple concept with a simple goal can work, and work well. In a way, it reminds me of a Super Smash Brothers Melee tournament; simple combat and pure competition, that’s what makes Nidhogg so amazing.
Nidhogg was reviewed on PC
81 / 100


Once upon a time, in a land long forgotten, I wrote for this site. The details were gobbled up by an errant database, so instead you’re reading this painfully obtuse default bio.

  • Admiral Chief in Vegas

    Steam special it is then

  • RinceThis2014

    $15 seems rather steep for this doesn’t it?

    • Stephen Snook

      Possibly, depends on how much you like the concept. I would imagine more content will be added.

      • Gideon Venter

        The possible addition of future content doesn’t justify an exorbitant price now.

  • Stephen Snook

    Just as a small addendum to this review. I played Nidhogg on a screen with a low refresh rate, so I blamed that for the screen tearing. But it’s actually a legitimate issue due to the lack of a V-sync option. Hopefully will be added in update.

    • Sageville

      9.0? I give up

      • Stephen Snook

        I think the overall design and fun of the game counters the small problems. It’s seriously worth your money even in early release.

        • Sageville

          Personally, $15 is too much for this,

  • Gideon Venter

    That seems like a very high score for this type of game…

    • Stephen Snook

      It is ridiculously good fun.

      • Gideon Venter

        I’m sure it is, but fun is just one of the metrics of an aggregate score. If the game scores 10 for fun and, say, 7 in every other category, the final score should not be 9. From the article it seems game length and content, for example, may not score very high.

        Furthermore, simply displaying the total score is a bit suspect, making the score seem like more of a thumb-sucked metric.

        The reviewer clearly loves this game. Nothing wrong with that. A review should still be transparent and impartial, however. Tell the readers how much fun it is, and how that fun overshadows other shortcomings, but give a fair score.

        • Stephen Snook

          Call me crazy, but I don’t think 15 dollars is exorbitant. The score is based on the overall experience. I like the art style and I love the infinite replayability that comes with a multi player game. Sure, the content is somewhat limited, in the same way that a traditional fighting game only has a few levels. But there’s very few games like Nidhogg with such a competition focused design that absolutely anyone can pick up and play.

          • Gideon Venter

            15 dollars could be exorbitant, depending on what you get for it. a 15 dollar mint, for example, is exorbitant. If you take into account that I paid 15 dollars for Minecraft, and how much time I spent on that, things start coming into perspective. Minecraft would also not get 9 out of 10.

            You yourself said the price tag may be a bit too much. Surely that should detract from the score? Or are you saying that if it was priced at 5 dollars it would be perfect, 10/10?

            I would have liked to see individual ratings for all aspects of the game.

            Your review is fine. Your scoring needs work, I think.

            By all means say how much you loved the game, and how much you enjoyed it, but be fair and as unbiased as possible in your scoring.

          • Stephen Snook

            How do you compare Minecraft; a game released in alpha that’s a procedurally generated sandbox first person adventure game, to an early release tournament fighter?

            The scope is limited by design, that’s the thick and thin of it. If it’s not enough to grab somebody’s attention, the 15 dollars isn’t worth it because there isn’t much else to grab on to. In the same way that Minecraft might be a nine to me, but to someone else who it doesn’t really stick for, it might be a three. Tournament fighters are a limited genre, but Nidhogg in my opinion, does everything right.

            If you love the concept of such fighters like Smash Bros and Divekick, then Nidhogg is up your alley. I gave Nidhogg a nine because it’s my strong recommendation to give it a try.

          • Gideon Venter

            Alright… I guess we have differing philosophies on how games should be reviewed.

          • Stephen Snook

            I totally understand your view, I do. There are tonnes of people who think price should be dependent on content.

            Also, Minecraft is a nine out of ten according to most aggregates.

  • JustAnotherGamer

    Not for $15 :/

  • Jason Ashman

    Alot of whining here about price. You are all very silly people. Fun > Everything. Also potential.

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