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Nidhogg

Nidhogg

We love reporting on indie games here at UGDB, and so on Wednesdays you'll be seeing more indie games being featured on the site. Each week I'll be featuring my indie pick of the week. This could be a small studio working on a project that doesn't get the benefit of a marketing campaign, or it could be the the work of a single developer publishing their personal project on Steam, itch.io, or another game-hosting site. Small games can have big ideas, take us in unexpected directions, and tackle unconventional subjects. This series highlights those games.

I don't often play 2D brawlers anymore. It's probably because my twitch skills have slowly been eroding as I make that inevitable march towards 30. But I still find them interesting. Fighting mechanics are easy to understand and analyze because they interact so frequently in the blazing speeds of fighting games. I've been playing 2014's Nidhogg, and I think it's a worthy fighting game that has really satisfying combat and doesn't get old over extended play--two requirements I have for any fighting game.

I take a low stance, while my opponent keeps a mid stance ready for my attack

Nidhogg is a low-fi, side-scrolling fencing game that is fast and violent. To call it a fighting game is a bit misleading, because your fencer doesn't have a health bar that gets depleted when hit by attacks. Nidhogg is a one-hit-kill game, and winning relies more on territory control and quick reflexes than anything. Let me try to break it down a bit.

In Nidhogg, you face off against a player on a map that has five zones of control. Players start in the middle zone, trying to push forward towards the two enemy zones. Each time a player is killed they respawn a few seconds later on their side of whatever zone is being contested. This allows players who score a kill to advance deeper into the enemy territory. Once they've passed through the second enemy zone, they win. So while killing an enemy only takes one hit, they will be back in a few seconds, ready to resume the fight. Is it a fighting game? Yes. But the objectives of the game feel much more in line with a lane-pusher than a traditional brawling game.

There is a lot to like about Nidhogg, but I think the simplistic approach to sword-fighting is the thing I like most. Fighting in Nidhogg uses six controls (left, right, up, down, attack, and jump) and combining these keys in varying ways lets you perform a number of different maneuvers. You can hold your sword out in three stances, delivering thrusts to the head, chest, and belly, respectively. Simultaneous attacks in the same stance will cause the blades to clang off each other. If your blade is one stance above or below your opponent's, and you switch your stance to bring your blade to their level, you will disarm them, sending their blade flying. These attacks can be combined with jumps and ducks. Flinging your sword at your opponent may seem like a last-ditch move, but it actually has a place in Nidhogg. Sure there's the risk of losing your blade and having to try to punch through a person who has a sword, but a well-thrown sword can end a fight before it begins.

I charge and my opponent throws his blade at me

Unable to dodge, I take a sword through the chest

Despite the relatively few inputs required to play the game, the combat retains a surprising level of depth. It's the kind of 1v1 game that would be endlessly fun to hot-seat with a group of friends.

Nidhogg is available on Steam. It's a little pricy at $14.99, but it's regularly on sale and definitely worth playing.

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