In recent years, the domestic gamedev, as they say, began to get up from his knees, raised his head and no, no, but still releases quite remarkable releases. A good example is a game from a domestic studio Ellada Games entitled Niffelheim, dedicated to survival in one of the nine original worlds of Scandinavian mythology – the eponymous Niffelheim (or Niffelhele). We have to play as a fallen warrior who, without knowing it, came here (and not in Valhalla) for a special purpose. The player will have to lead the brave northerner to Asgard, completing the same mission along the way. Read about the adventures of the glorious Viking in the Niffelheim review.
As mentioned above, the action of the game will unfold in the world of cold and darkness, which, together with Muspelheim, arose long before the appearance of the other seven worlds. The songs of the Skalds refer to this place as a valley of permafrost and darkness, where frost giants live. Ellada Games’ understanding of Niffelheim is close to the original description: it’s really pretty cool here, and giants roam the earth. In general, the Kaliningrad studio is of particular interest: it consists of two brothers – Edward and Andrey Arutyunyanov – and a game designer. The guys have already released remarkable projects and characterize the new game as a cross between Terraria and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.
And it is in the two-dimensional version of the world from the ancient skald songs that we have to spend time. Although Niffelheim tried to convey the image of that very icy desert, it is still quite cozy here: against the background of ice rocks and wolves, bunnies and other game run around, mushrooms, beans, cabbage, etc. grow. It is almost always light here, which runs counter to the description of Niffelheim as a place of eternal darkness. But there are reasons for that.
It is no coincidence that the developers characterized the game as a mixture of Terraria with TES: Skyrim. The brave Viking has to survive here for real: erect buildings, cook food, defend his home and look for a way to Valhalla. Quite a lot of tasks, right? From Skyrim, the game got the entourage, from Terraria – two-dimensionality and mechanics. Here you also have to dig the earth to get better clay or building materials, cut down trees to loot wood. Hunger is an important element of the gameplay. Here, literally every unnecessary movement, every swing of the ax reduces the saturation scale. That is why bunnies, chickens, etc. roam the world of ice and darkness. The Viking must eat. After all, a hungry warrior is a bad warrior.
It’s time to survive
A Northerner can be one of four classes: Berserker, Warrior, Shaman, and Valkyrie. They all differ in every way, from metabolism, which affects satiety, to the size of the health bar. After choosing a character, you go in search of parts of the ancient portal, which will lead the hero first to Asgard, and then to Valhalla. The developers could not quite canonically limit themselves to the classic set of enemies from skald songs – frost giants – so here you will find various skeletons, zombie wolves and a bunch of bosses. You can get to the necessary fragments of the portal by digging the ground and simultaneously fighting with enemies, or by moving along the floors of some primordial crypt. It all depends on the location of the desired item.
A very important element of the gameplay is the construction of your fort – with towers of archers, a forge, a kitchen, a sawmill, an alchemy laboratory, a greenhouse, a sheepfold, a chicken coop. Surviving is not an easy task, so every night we will be raided by hordes of various wickedness. Health can be restored by sitting on the throne in places carefully designated by the developers. And if you die somewhere under the fence of another ancient temple, you will not be very disappointed, but if your fortress falls … the consequences will be really very serious. So do not forget to upgrade buildings, take care of your character and feed the chickens. The game has a store – the Temple City, where you can buy things. And also, having collected a certain set of items, you can call a real dragon for help. Here’s everything you need to know about Niffelheim’s gameplay. Further claims begin.
The most important of them is the monotony of everything that happens. If Kaliningraders had released a game with such a mechanic before Terraria, it would have been a world hit 10 out of 10. But since the gaming industry is already fed up with this kind of gameplay, it should have been something to surprise. But it came out pretty weak. Everything is very similar to the big brother: you endlessly rummage in the ground, chop wood and primitively fight with the next enemies. Primitive – to put it mildly. You just wave your ax frantically, sometimes hiding behind a shield or swapping your melee weapon for a bow and arrow. And this kind of gameplay awaits you throughout the game. You eat, dig the ground in search of another piece of the portal mosaic, eat again, fight, eat again, defend the fort at night and so on until the very end credits. The mechanics around the construction and improvement of the castle dilutes all this a little, but, again, everything is painfully familiar. There are also side quests that are given out by various characters of Scandinavian mythology, but they are as monotonous as possible. Bring 5 beans, kill 10 skeletons. Well, what is this anyway?
What is worth noting is the picture. In each pixel, one can feel the great attention and love that the developers have endowed with their project. Many fans of Machinarium or those who are familiar with the work of the Harutyunyan brothers (The Tiny Bang Story, for example) the style will seem familiar. Similar drawing, models of heroes have something in common. But this is by no means a minus, but a huge plus. In the format of the Scandinavian world of coldness and darkness, this style fits perfectly. The game feels like a fairy tale. Which is sometimes pretty boring to play. The process of exploring the world of Niffelheim is accompanied by the anticipated Scandinavian songs. But it’s not because of the music that we play games of this genre.
It is necessary to mention the possibility to complete the adventure in online mode. This can be done in co-op with friends, or you can find a ready-made game on the Internet and be both for and against other players. But the game still has technical problems, especially online. So get ready.
We received another confirmation that the domestic gamedev, if it did not straighten its shoulders, then certainly raised its head. Time after time, both large studios and small, family representatives of the industry delight players with projects for which they are not ashamed. Recently held developer conference DevGAMM – another confirmation of this. Although Ellada Games did not participate there, they were able to create great entertainment for all lovers of Scandinavian mythology, skald songs and the sound of the berserker ax blows. Those who decide to join the battle need to understand that this is entertainment for two hours a day, no more. So the game will not bother you much and will keep you near the monitor for a very long time.
LID2PRO reviewer verdict
After Terraria, this mechanic will seem inevitably boring over time. Kaliningraders should have made the gameplay more varied. They tried, but it didn’t work out as well as expected. But, in general, the game is capable of luring for a long time.
Machinarium lovers will appreciate the visuals. Everything looks really fascinating.
Scandinavian music. Typical sound design for similar games. But it’s not because of the audio component that we play these games, right?
It’s good that the developers tried to add multiplayer here as a breath of fresh air. But so far the implementation is very lame.
It is quite suitable for lovers of the history of the peoples of the north. But the average player will also be satisfied.
Still, the game is about the Vikings, not about the digger. The battle was implemented very rotten, the rest was pumped straight from Terraria. It is sometimes inconvenient to interact with hotspots.