The original Nidhogg was an amazing surprise. The minimalist title offered 1v1 lightning-fast duels, with controls that were easy enough for anyone to understand. Sure, there was definitely an expert tier of players, but new players found it easy to get in on the ground floor. When it came time to craft a sequel though, developer Messhof didn't want to completely tread the same ground.
"We wanted to change a variety of things in the game," explains Messhof co-founder Mark Essen. "Part it was I just wanted to try a different style for the fun of it. We didn't want it to feel like a better version of Nidhogg, we want it to feel like a different version of Nidhogg. We want [Nidhogg II] to feel like its own game."
Nidhogg's combat remains mostly the same in the sequel, so if you've played the original you'll feel right at home. There are more weapons this time around: the classic Nidhogg fencing epee is joined by a wicked sword, a dagger, and a bow. The weapons cycle through as your die, so there's a certain amount of strategy in dying to get a preferred weapon. You can also viciously stomp on a downed foe for a weaponless kill!
"There's a lot more level and weapon variety. The first game had four levels and one weapon. We'll have four weapons and ten levels at launch and hopefully more later," says Essen, confirming to me that the team hopes to have post-launch content for Nidhogg 2. "We had a few different weapons that we ended up scrapping. We had a battle axe that could cut through any other weapon. Weapons, you could throw low, but that just didn't work. These weapons had a lot of variations too."
One change that jumps out at you immediately is the change in art style, care of new Art Lead Toby Dixon. While the first Nidhogg had spartan, single-color pixel art, the sequel has expressive characters and detailed backgrounds. There's a new version of the Castle stage and I also had a chance to play a swamp level. The levels are longer in either direction and are full of alternate routes, like tunnels and homes.
The characters are made of multiple sprites, instead of the single sprites for the first game. Essen tells me the change allows the team to create multiple characters, while still sharing animations. The basic Nidhogg warrior looks like a naked, sexless, wacked out Homer Simpson, but the PAX demo had alternate characters as well.
"I didn't want anything super-serious," says Essen when I ask about the new visual look. "I found [artist Toby Dixon] on Twitter and I really liked his work. He had this real goofy Ren and Stimpy/Earthworm Jim kind of vibe. When we first started out, we made more realistic versions. We want through a few iterations of art styles and it just didn't feel right to have super-barbarians going at it."
Essen also promises twelve music tracks from various artists for Nidhogg 2's soundtrack. The entire game is the original blown up, but the visual style and expanded levels give Nidhogg 2 its own identity. Nidhogg 2 is currently coming to PlayStation 4 and PC sometime this year, but Essen says the team is open to other platforms.
"We want to go as wide as possible," Essen tells me.