Nidhogg is a fighting game designed around fast paced, yet simple combat. There are no combos or special moves, just swords and fencing. There are a handful of strategies you can employ, but they are all easy to grasp for new players. Nidhogg is also a game that allows players of different skill levels to still have fun together. This is because being “good” at Nidhogg requires you to adopt the same combat style as your opponent. If your opponent is bad at the game and just tries to jump around and stab wildly, you are forced to play like them to win. If your opponent tries to fence with you, you can try to beat them with more methodical tactics, but if things start going poorly, such as being disarmed, you can easily devolve into a panic-based strategy where you throw swords or just try to evade their attacks.
Nidhogg is built around fencing as the main combat strategy, which allows you to try to disarm each other by moving your sword up and down. You can also throw your sword and even use your hands as a last resort. It allows combat to start calmly and tactically, yet quickly shift gears into a wild mix of jumping, rolling and throwing. Outside of these tactics, there isn’t much variety in gameplay, but it isn’t necessary; Nidhogg’s combat is perfectly capable of carrying most of the game’s weight. The level design picks up some of the slack, offering a few different locales to play around with. Some offer claustrophobic choke-points where jumping isn’t an option, while others give you wide open expanses with hazards to avoid. Each level has its own theme and style, although there are only a few to choose from.
Nidhogg also has a great aesthetic, with a simple art style complemented by a great soundtrack. Animations look smooth and effortless, giving the brutal combat a contradictory, elegant feel. The soundtrack is varied, but often understated. It rarely commands your attention, but it always fits the moment. It’s not fantastic music on its own, but it complements the game in all the right ways.
My main issue with Nidhogg is a lack of short term replay value. There are a handful of levels to play, and once you play each one, it can feel repetitive to do it again. This isn’t an issue in the long term because the game’s mechanics are polished and enjoyable, but you won’t play this game that much in one sitting, just because of how few levels there are. Still, for a game you can often buy for a few dollars, it’s great for fans of multiplayer fighting games. As long as you know ahead of time that there isn’t a ton of content to play, you’ll most likely get your money’s worth.