Begun, The Nidhoggening Has

By Nathan Grayson on January 14th, 2014 at 11:00 am.

You might be able to stab me from every conceivable angle, but I could totally dunk on you if I wanted to

Take up your blade, ye merest of mortals. Though in truth, it’s more of a formality than anything, for I shall pierce your heart before it’s even able to flutter in fea- oh, you got me. Aha! But I’m back, and this time I shall deliver a blinding riposte tha- right, my organs. A clever place to strike indeed. But not clever enough, for I shall now throw my sword in the wrong direction and cartwheel intimidatingly away from you. Mind games, you see. Nidhogg is a chess match, friend, and I’m so many moves ahead that you-

Win. You win. Maybe I could stand to become a little better at Nidhogg.

I have yet to master Nidhogg, admittedly (I’m probably only third or fourth best in the world), but the game itself is a masterful expression of sublime simplicity. Two players do murders to one another, what with pointy metal sticks and gentlemanly fisticuffs, until one of them is devoured by a giant worm. Though the end goal may be derivative of most sports, the combat is anything but. It’s quick, incredibly tense, and people die and come back to life constantly. Again: last thing derivative of real life, everything else wholly original.

Seriously though, it’s a race to the finish in opposite directions, and also there are swords. The formula couldn’t be more basic, but hidden complexity abounds. Poke high? Poke low? Attempt to disarm my opponent or go for the gut? Slide-kick? Throw my sword? Hurl extremely personal insults at my opponent because words are the sharpest swords of all? These are just surface-level choices.

It must, however, be noted that Nidhogg is at its best in local multiplayer. Online is an option, but the game got its reputation appearing at various conventions and gatherings of the geekly-minded for a reason. That said, if you abhor other humans so much that you won’t even murder them repeatedly with a sword, there’s also an single-player arcade mode. I doubt it’s all that long, but it’s something at least.

Nidhogg is available right now on Steam, and it’ll run you $11.99 until January 20th, at which point it will revert to its full price of $14.99. I think you should purchase it. Then we can have a duel for the ages, a rivalry that will necessitate new forms of storytelling to contain its magnitu- OK, that was luck. Also, my cat wouldn’t stop trying to sit on the keyboard and I’ve been blind for 17 years.

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84 Comments »

  1. CelticPixel says:

    Really excited that it’s been released and I’ve enjoyed it so far, but I’m a little disappointed/surprised with how clunky the controls feel. I’d expected that aspect of the game would be a bit tighter given all the praise the game’s been given. It’s still a lot of fun though!

  2. Clavus says:

    For those stuck with euros: you can buy it for $12 on the Humble store, includes a Steam key.

  3. Jac says:

    Is this like a modern day urban champion then minus the danger of having a flower pot dumped on your head by irate neighbours?

  4. Tony M says:

    Wait… the _winner_ is devoured by a giant worm?

  5. LionsPhil says:

    It’s a shallow comment, I know, but: dear god that’s ugly. This is not how you pixel-art. Or “retro”, either. It has the visual appeal of something you scrawled in MS Paint as a placeholder.

    • darkChozo says:

      It’s more abstract than retro presentation-wise. Kinda reminds me of Superbrothers, or maybe something like a 2D Proteus.

    • RedWurm says:

      I’m not all that enamored with some of the levels – the cloud level just doesn’t do it for me – but I love the animation of the characters. Also, the huge amounts of bright shiny blood.

    • Monkeh says:

      The backgrounds make my eyes bleed, hence I’ll never play this game.

    • meepmeep says:

      It’s not trying to be pixel art or retro.

    • Cinek says:

      It looks little more ugly than Price of Persia. Perhaps something on a level of Deluxe Ski Jump (original one, not 3D garbage).

    • Tacroy says:

      It’s actually more rotoscoped than retro-pixel.

    • Wurstwaffel says:

      No no no no. It’s not a shallow comment. Only someone with a complete lack of any sense of aesthetics would not find this game hideous. Fuck the people who say the “video” part of video games is irrelevant. It’s not the only important thing by any stretch of imagination but it is still important. And this game is just offensively ugly, especially at a price of 11€ to 14€.

    • siegarettes says:

      Strangely, I actually love the aesthetic of the game. But then again I’m one of those people.

  6. Geebs says:

    It looks fine as long as you’re wearing a pair of glasses frames with fake lenses. And skinny jeans.

    • The Random One says:

      Why would I not be wearing those?

      • Geebs says:

        It’s a physiological thing. The skinny jeans push more blood to your head, like a pilot’s flight suit, and the resulting retinal oedema causes colour desaturation to a more tasteful palette. The haze from the greasy fake lenses provides a form of extreme anti-aliasing as well as bloom, meaning that to the properly-attired person, this game looks like Crysis.

        (To turn on sun-shafts, grow a quiff and put on a fedora)

    • bladedsmoke says:

      Are you saying that a fun, simple fighting game is hipster? I guess everything is fucking hipster now except Call of Duty. The term has lost all meaning.

  7. Greggh says:

    I got hyped by RPS and shot-down by the price of the game… HOLY BEJEESUS, even in local currency (BRL) this game is surprisingly expensive – kinda thinking, that Samurai Gunn game seems to give almost the same proposition of gameplay and is just as expensive…

    Conclusion: duel games are expensive.
    (meh, I’ll wind up buying it anyways)

    • HeavyStorm says:

      Same here. Also, after waiting for like, two years? And seeing that almost no functionality has been added (maybe online mode), I’m really in doubt whether to buy it or not.

      This is the kind of game that should be freeware.

      • VelvetFistIronGlove says:

        This is the kind of game that should be freeware.

        Or you could just not buy it? That would be a little more respectful to the developer than saying, in effect “you ought to give me this game for free”.

        If you still feel that declaring your intention is important, here’s how you might do it:

        I’m not convinced this game will be worth £10 to me, so I won’t buy it.

        • Synesthesia says:

          Exactly. It’s quite rude.

          “Hey! I really want to play this! But can you give it to me for free? I’m afraid some angry forumite will call me a hipster.”

      • Godwhacker says:

        “Should be” freeware? That’s a bit harsh.

        £9.59 is a bit too much in my opinion, but I’m not going to demand it free. I’ll just wait until the price comes down a bit.

        • bjohndooh says:

          It’s harsh but I almost feel similarly.
          I’d gladly pay between $1-5 but at $12-15, I just imagine I’ll forget this game.

        • Evilpigeon says:

          For what it’s worth, if you’ve got someone you know well to play this against, either over skype or in person, then it’s absolutely worth £10. I wouldn’t reccommend it if you don’t have anyone to play it with though.

    • somnolentsurfer says:

      I thought that, then I bought it anyway. Now if only I had some friends…

    • deadly.by.design says:

      Yeah. For such a self-important game, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised by pretentious pricing. As a PC game that touts local co-op as its best way to be played, I think $10 would have been more appropriate.

      $15 for a niche game that’s spent the past two years telling us we aren’t hip enough to play it is a bit much. I don’t demand this for free, but I just think the developer’s pricing is a bit off the mark. I will wait for it to go on sale while I try to play through the rest of my backlog.

    • Baines says:

      Probably trying to maximize profits selling at a high price to a niche audience, instead of selling at a lower price to attempt to reach a wider audience. It is the same thing Slitherine/Matrix does with their wargames. And Nidhogg does look like a game that might not reach a substantially larger audience at a lower price.

      Nidhogg also plays off of years of hype and constant praise by the people that were allowed to play it over that period. It will make a good percentage of its sales off of that hype. (That hype also increases the number of people willing to pay a premium.)

    • SimulatedMan says:

      See Eggnogg for your freeware alternative.

  8. Frosty840 says:

    That said, if you abhor other humans so much that you won’t even murder them repeatedly with a sword

    Finally, someone understands me! :’D

  9. Zankmam says:

    What’s the point of games like this (and Samurai Gunn) having “Local Multyplayer” and “it being the better option than Online multyplayer”?

    It’s always cool for a game to have Local MP, but saying that it’s superior to Online MP in this day and age is just… Ridiculous.

    Who the hell has the time or even ability to organize a Local MP session? It’s not exactly commonplace.

    The selling point of this game is the Online MP and that is what it has over Samurai Gunn, who’s creator obviously doesn’t know what it takes to sell a game.

    With that said, both games have a lot of issues and, when it comes to Nidhogg, the whole “years in development” thing is just… What the hell? How?

    Both games should be bought only if you’re quite generous.

    • lordfrikk says:

      It’s probably largely reflex-based and thus lag is a big no-no. Also, it’s primarily meant as a tournament game from what I’ve gathered.

    • somnolentsurfer says:

      Who the hell has the time or even ability to organize a Local MP session?

      Students who flat share,
      Families who live together,
      Hippies in communes,
      People with friends…

      • Shieldmaiden says:

        Precisely. It’s a two-player game that doesn’t require prior knowledge or planning, or a huge amount of time. So it’s anyone who can invite a friend over.

    • Baf says:

      To answer most of your questions at once: A coworker of mine got Nidhogg and challenged another coworker to a match at his workstation over lunch break. It drew a crowd, because it’s a fun game to watch, especially when both players are physically present and reacting emotionally to every unexpectedly cool move and stupid blunder. And since matches are short, there was plenty of opportunity to hand the controller off to onlookers.

      In other words, it’s well-suited to being a party game. And if there is no party, it will generate one. That is how local is better than online for this game specifically.

      • derbefrier says:

        So what I need is a drm free version I can put on a flash drive so I can bring it to game night so we can duel each other while waiting for the rest of the party to show up. Sounds like a good idea to me.

    • Cinek says:

      It’s always cool for a game to have Local MP, but saying that it’s superior to Online MP in this day and age is just… Ridiculous.
      - Ridiculous is saying that it’s not. LAN > Online. Always.

    • The First Door says:

      Just… what on earth?

      Do you really think it is rare for people to invite a friend or two around to their house to play some video games? It really, really isn’t that rare.

      Plus, there are plenty of games which I (and I’d guess others) find are just more fun locally, with your friends, than online.

      • Randomer says:

        Besides, in this day and age with hundreds of awesome games coming out every year, chances are basically nil that two friends will own the same game*. If I want to play an online game with someone, I have to buy them that game, and them buy them lunch in exchange for them setting aside two hours to try this game with me.

        * excluding games named Starbound

        • The First Door says:

          I’ve not come across that problem very much, but I can see where you’re coming from! The only games I’ve bought recently which I knew would be reliant on online multiplayer (like Payday 2) I bought as a four pack to avoid that!

    • cpt_freakout says:

      Said the cat lady

  10. trjp says:

    You can only hope that by releasing this at a hefty price, the developer is somehow shocked into remembering that he took $5000 of people’s money FOUR YEARS ago for a game he never got around to completing

    http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/markessen/help-fund-my-brutal-arcade-game

    That kinda tells me we’re dealing with a prima-donna arty-type developer here – money, I’d not give it to thems..

    • Llewyn says:

      That’s a very interesting backer funding split.

      Obviously there’s no way of knowing how much individual backers at the $20 and $50 tiers actually pledged, but potentially as much as $4390 of the $5070 he raised came from just five backers. Even assuming that all the $20s were actually $50s and the $50s were actually $100s it would still mean that $3570 (still just over 70%) came from those five backers.

      • trjp says:

        I got that from the storm brewing on the Steam Forums for nidHogg itself of course – the interesting bit isn’t that it happened – it’s how the developer will respond to it.

        It’s not a good place for anyone to be in, really, I’m terrible at finishing things hence I don’t ask people for money for them because I’d feel even worse about it…

        • somnolentsurfer says:

          And it’s been stated in that thread that he’s said in interview that he plans to work on Flywrench now this is done.

        • Baines says:

          Looks like the Steam Forum storm has died out. The thread about Flywrench’s Kickstarter was locked after 260 comments. An attempt to make another thread was quickly locked, with several comments defending the game.

          There seems to be a pretty good amount of defending on the forums. Someone mentions the tutorial doesn’t teach you basic mechanics, and gets replies that you don’t need a tutorial anyway. Someone mentions that the AI is bad (cheating, instant reflexes, or alternatively just standing around waiting to get stabbed), and gets replies that it doesn’t matter.

          Even the price and the frame rate dropping from 60fps to 20-30fps have defenders.

          • somnolentsurfer says:

            People think good game is worth paying for shocker.

          • Machinations says:

            The problem is, its not a good game.

            EGGNOGG, a free parody of this, is at least as ‘good’ a game, is free, and is feature complete. I also think the sprites are quite fetching compared to the revolting epileptic backgrounds he selected.

            Anything is fun with 10 people, and in a world where I can get Injustice for 10 bux, its hard to see where the value is coming from here. Smash Brothers – any variation of it – is a better game.

            Then again, I do have a hate on for pretentious, contrarian hipster illogic.

      • ShDragon says:

        Looking at the backer list, there’s a couple at the bottom that have only backed one project. One is “Grandmom and Granddad” I can imagine grandparents giving a lot to help a grandkid’s pet project. Another listed is Johnathan Blow. I could easily see his contribution being rather large as well.

        Another thing to note, is that there are 29 backers listed, but if you look at the rewards, it’s 14, 8, and 5, which is only 27, so there’s 2 unaccounted for.

  11. Rymosrac says:

    I really hate to give something as awesome as NIdhogg a downvote, but after playing a ton of both it, and it’s parody/little brother Eggnogg. . . Eggnogg came out well on top. It doesn’t have the variety of levels, but the controls feel far, far cleaner, and the resultant duels are always more entertaining.

    Anyone else agree? Disagree?

    http://madgarden.net/2013/05/eggnogg/

    • SimulatedMan says:

      Haven’t played nidhogg, but eggnog is great.

    • Machinations says:

      +1000

      EGGNOGG actually is superior, having played both. Bizarre that this does not get the criticism it deserves. I guess when everyone is friends we cannot criticize their artistic ‘vision’*

      *even when that vision is only about parting people from their money

  12. Stellar Duck says:

    I just don’t know.

    Having heard various games journos and industry types gush about this game for years and years on podcasts, in magazines and else I was expecting… I don’t know… something else.

    It’s the same with that Johan Sebastian Joust game. To this day I have no clue as to how it looks or plays but the feeling of it being a closed club has sort of bred a resentment in me for it. I was thinking when I heard about Nidhogg all those times that it had to be a brilliant game, but seeing it, I just don’t know. I think I resent the game too much. And yes, I am probably petty as hell.

    • Frank says:

      Ditto. I guess they have excuses in both cases, since local multiplayer is/has been more or less mandatory, and in JSJ’s case they’re also doing something quite novel. Nonetheless, I’m pretty biased against these games for the reasons you mention.

      • Stellar Duck says:

        Yea, I’m not saying there aren’t valid reasons for keeping it a closed party, but it’s been ages. And presumably the local multi player would work as well in my house as at Rabbit Con and all the other places I’ve heard people talk about having played the games?

  13. Zyrxil says:

    So what functionality added since the first time RPS wrote about this like 3 years ago? Honestly it looks identical.

    • VelvetFistIronGlove says:

      I don’t know for sure, but at a guess (as it now has all these in there):

      • Online multiplayer
      • AI
      • Single-player campaign

      • DatonKallandor says:

        -The Online Netcode desyncs all the time
        -The AI is cheating and bad
        -The campaign is a series of AI fights which is not good because (see #2)

        Oh yeah and the controls are worse than the joke-ripoff game you can get for free.

        Should have either released this thing when it was actually new or kept it in a box so nobody can buy it forever. Releasing now is not doing it any favors.

    • godzekesatan says:

      Having played a number of versions of Nidhogg since 2011, I will say that the combat has been overhauled (added rolls, dive kicks, more hand-to-hand combat, wall climbing, etc.), the sound and graphics have drastically improved and expanded upon (new animations, backgrounds, level geometry, etc.), and the levels have been changed. This version of Nidhogg is faster playing and more entertaining to spectate. In my opinion, Messhof has done an amazing job tweaking and improving an already strong game.

      • Machinations says:

        Why would you, objectively, describe this as a ‘strong game’?

        I ask because I see more ‘overhyped trash being peddled as groundbreaking by rubbing shoulders with all the right people’

  14. Piecewise says:

    You know what this game needs? A better control scheme. It’s a clusterfuck right now and thats because it insists on using one and only one attack button. You’ve either got a gamepad with a good 8 buttons or a keyboard with like 50. Have up attack, mid attack and low attack get their own buttons and sword throw get it’s own as well. Even Eggnogg handled stance transitions better then then nidhogg.

    • Focksbot says:

      Gotta agree with this. I haven’t tried the multiplayer yet but in single player I can’t even work out how to pick up a sword. I mean, I *can* pick up a sword – I just have no fucking idea how I’m doing it. Sometimes it’s just down, sometimes it’s down and attack – sometimes it seems to happen without me pressing anything! Bah.

      Would help if the tutorial went beyond walking left and right.

  15. The King K says:

    I laughed like a maniac when I killed my brother. I cursed like a sailor when he killed me. We both laughed after jumping into the same hole too many times in a row. We’re not very good, but it’s still a lot of fun. Spend about one hour playing and already had my money’s worth, cause at the end, I noticed my cheeks hurting from grinning all the time.
    If you have somebody to play against, it’s a good purchase

    • bigblack says:

      THIS ^^^.
      Bought a 2-pack last night for myself and a reluctant friend and by the 2nd match we were laughing so hard in ventrilo that my face hurt. It’s intense and fast and hilarious, and we had no connection issues or glitches/bugs.

      There’s a lot of weird attitude around this game and it’s release, but it’s so fun with a friend that I just cannot be bothered to give a shit about the negativity.

  16. Turkey says:

    It feels like a lot of these games are only on the PC cause it’s the only place left where you can distribute indie games.

  17. crinkles esq. says:

    I’ve been reading that the networking code doesn’t account for lag AT ALL, so desyncs and disconnections are common. No lobby, either. Tournament mode is also offline-only.

  18. Hotseflots says:

    I played this at an arcade machine at some INDIGO or other in the Dutch Game Garden – near Vlambeer’s offices!

    I remember having insane amounts of fun with it and being disappointed when i found out it wasn’t released yet. But it’s definitely at its best as a party game, played with large groups of people looking on. The tense gameplay, frustration and bragging rights are a big part of the game’s appeal.

    • Machinations says:

      You know what else is fun with friends? Cards. Playing cards.

      Anything is more fun with a friend and I have a hard time understanding why anyone with a grip on sanity would buy this over say INJUSTICE for the same money – I use this example because they are the same genre – yes, Nidhogg is a ‘fighting game’ just with some slight variance on mechanics.

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