Nidhogg 2 is on the way with axes, arrows, and a grotesque new art direction

Nidhogg, the psychedelic competitive sword combat game in which the winner is consumed by a flying snake deity, is getting a sequel in 2017. Nidhogg 2 is en route with new levels, weapons, and most obviously, a wacky new artstyle.
To understand the changes coming to Nidhogg 2, I talked to Kristy Norindr and Mark Essen of Messhof, the developer duo behind the only game to make me yell at my old roommate Paul and then give him the silent treatment for a week. And no, I’m not sorry, Paul.

A new look

The original Nidhogg has a minimalist Atari-esque art style that relished in comic fountains of colored blood. It was implicitly funny, but with Nidhogg 2, Messhof is cranking up the cartoon violence with art from Toby Dixon. When I asked Essen why he went with such a dramatic change in style, he said it’s because he wanted to focus his efforts on improving the combat systems. And because he’s admittedly not the most talented pixel artist in the world. “I thought it would be a lot of fun to work with an artist and to hit a style that I was not capable myself of hitting.”

Before even knowing the artist, I compared Nidhogg 2’s art direction to that of 90s cartoons and claymation, both of which are abundant on Dixon’s Tumblr and Twitter pages. He brings the physical comedy bubbling below the original Nidhogg’s simple art and interactions to the surface, says Norindr. “His style and the game and what we were looking for was a good match, and it was able to go further with that humor and grotesqueness.”

The combat arenas are getting a similar visual makeover, but more importantly, Messhof is cutting pieces of the level design that proved frustrating in the first game.

“I think the big thing I didn’t like about the levels in the first game was there are a couple instances—clouds and mines—where level elements will just kill you if you’re not watching out. It’s funny at first, but kind of falls flat,” Essen says. “The philosophy we’re trying to use is, whether it’s sticky floors or stuff that pushes you around or stuff that takes your weapons, nothing will actually kill you. It’ll just open up a line of attack so it’ll always feel like your opponent is the one that outsmarted you.”

Exactly what those levels look like remains to be seen. Beyond the remake of the Castle arena shown in the trailer, expect plenty of variation. Messhof is crafting more than 10 levels for Nidhogg 2, which should be more than enough space to try out all the new weapons.

And new moves 

Essen and Norindr don’t want to scramble the simple two-button control scheme of Nidhogg—the sequel is meant to be equally as intuitive. They just want to sweeten the pot of player interactions with a few more tools that behave in predictable ways and, as Essen says, “subvert the holes the sword has in its design.”

Take the bow for instance. You can attack from a distance—three arrows is a kill—and throw it when you’re out of ammo to knock your opponent down, but it takes a while to load. Arrows are blockable with the sword and axe, as you’d expect, and are persistent. So if your opponent misses with an arrow, it’s probably a good idea to pick it up and deny them another shot. The axe can break through the sword’s defense and open up a turtle to another attack—it passes through a thrown sword in the air too—but it’s slow and unwieldy. Throwing knives move swiftly through the air, making them difficult to dodge, but don’t have an autoguard function. If someone gets in your face, all you can do is throw, leaving you open to, well, death. 

Norindr and Essen say plenty more weapons are on the way too, an indefinite number based on playtesting and whatever seems fun. It’s true, the reign of swords is over, but for the old-fashioned types, it’s likely you’ll be able to customize rules to fit your style.

Messhof doesn’t have much new information in the way of new multiplayer modes (local, online, and tournament modes are confirmed) and how players will get their hands on the new weapons—right now they’re assigned randomly at the beginning of a match—which is why they’re spending a significant chunk of their development time until release playtesting. 

The lucky attendees of Twitchcon will be the first member of the public to give Nidhogg 2 a go since it’ll be on site and playable. So if you’re going, be sure to try it out and let Essen and Norindr know what you think. The more feedback they have, the more infuriatingly fun Nidhogg 2 can be.  

For more on Nidhogg 2, check out the official website.

James Davenport

James is stuck in an endless loop, playing the Dark Souls games on repeat until Elden Ring and Silksong set him free. He's a truffle pig for indie horror and weird FPS games too, seeking out games that actively hurt to play. Otherwise he's wandering Austin, identifying mushrooms and doodling grackles.