When it comes to party games or just good old competitive thrashing, many endeavours often result in the same pursuits. Mario Kart, Call of Duty and Halo just become part of the grind, but there’s a whole world of brilliant multiplayer games on Steam and consoles.

One such game on Steam had me and my friends cheering, cursing and jumping for joy on the victory screen shouting out “NIDHOGG!”

Nidhogg was an endearing party game the combined tug of war style gameplay, the engaging sense of competition, epic fencing and an overall weird nature that’ll leave you pondering what just happened. The end state and the glory you’ve been fighting for results in being eaten alive by a horrid worm creature. With dear friends and bitter enemies it was a riot to play. Its simplicity and bare bones nature to competitive gameplay was brilliant and very little could be done to improve upon it.

Now a few years later I ask the question, “How do you make this game any better?”

Nidhogg 2 is the long await sequel fans have been dreaming about and for this period of development, they’ve asked the same question. What Nidhogg 2 offers is a brutalising competitive experience where players will battle till the death and race in the opposing direction to reach their goal. Players will do whatever it takes to reach the goal on their opposing parties’ side from fencing, murdering, evading and running like hell.

The core gameplay/design is simple yet the execution is absolutely enthralling and totally captivating for competitive play. But this design is exactly the same as the original game, so I ask, what's new?

The first major change to Nidhogg you’ll notice (even if you’ve only seen images of the original game) is the massive overhaul on the graphics and presentation. The visual style will be more appealing to a wider audience as it resembles what Disney would be like if it had a satirical and violent edge. For me, I consider the look to be great move as it provides something more visually nurturing for multiple play-throughs. I know other fans may not like the change from the minimalistic visuals that gave Nidhogg its unique identity. But at the same time it was needed for the sequel and overall pays off.

It’ll be a love/hate reaction from fans but what this clay-animation inspired style provides is a better sense of world building. You may never have considered the world of Nidhogg to be busting with details but there’s a complexity and compelling lore to the world before you.

One of the arenas will see players aboard a massive flying vessel that harvest the giant Nidhogg worms themselves in such cruel manners. Very similar to the Whale harvesting in Bethesda’s Dishonred. They even feature as part of the level design and a sense of compassion could be felt for these poor creatures. Everything about the art style works extremely within Nidhogg 2 to build a better sense of the world as well to capitalise on the oddity and surrealistic nature we love about the original game.

And yes, the Nidhogg does look a little like a giant Homer Simpson worm.

As for the core gameplay, everything remains structurally the same. The goal is no different and the methods you go about completing the task at hand resorts to what you’ve done before. This is what felt slightly disappointing in many respects as it’s the same game we’ve played originally. Nidhogg 2 lacks any new dynamics and introduces minimal changes that older fans may feel underwhelmed by.

The few additions include new weapons and better level dynamics and flow. Players will be assigned random weapons at the start of the match from large broadswords, bows and daggers. These weapons each have their own tactics and a skill requirement, adding an edge to combat that encourages players to change tactics or engage in new manoeuvres. But for most players, they’ll follow the tried and tested approach of swinging, stabbing and running like hell. That’s was what Nidhogg truly fun, that thrilling rush of panic and quick calculation but now there's more structure and depth. Now experienced players can have a sense of mastery while new players can build on their skills and progress to better fighters.

The improvements to the level design incorporate new environmental hazards and altering terrains that can combine parkour/evasion elements into those frantic rushes to the finishing area. But Nidhogg knows when to change the pacing and there’ll be times when the environment will dramatically change from an open outdoor location to a claustrophobic sewer tunnel where an intense duel can break out.

I get it; if it isn’t broke don’t fix it. The original formula is great, near perfect for what is a fine competitive game. Other developers have done the same and so it’s not a major surprise that Nidhogg 2 at its core is the same game. But the few changes are very welcomed.

While Nidhogg 2 offers a thrilling competitive experience, its arcade mode lacks any real substance or replay value. The single player version pits players in a duel against an AI opponent over the course of several matches which will last 30 minutes if I’m honest. It’s a shame as there could’ve been more modes or modifiers in place to allow players to change the pacing and dynamics of matches. There are cheats which alters the game's pacing such as low gravity, limited weapons and baby mode which limits players to only crawl. But these modifiers are limited in their amusement and by going from my friends reactions, they'll be divisive in popularity. This is mostly due to the fact that it takes away from the amazing experience rather than building upon it and making it better. There’s no unlockable content and little else apart from the tournament mode.

While this may not be the ultimate sequel we’d hope for, Nidhogg 2 is still very good and a much desire improvement on the original game in many respects. With some major polishing and neat touches to add depth to the combat, it’s a great starter for new players and a reason for old fans to remember why they loved the original game. It doesn’t evolve to a standard many were hoping for but it does the job well enough. Enthralling, massively entertaining and hugely competitive while remaining beautifully weird and wonderful.

++ Captivating competitve gameplay
+ Great visual style
+ Some great new additions
- Lacks new game modes
- Lack major changes

A Steam copy of Nidhogg 2 was provided by the publishers for the purpose of this review