Ever since I finished my 2018 game of the year God of War I’ve been on the lookout for any other game that could give my my Norse mythology fix. That’s why when I caught a glimpse of developer Ellada Games new title Niffelheim I just knew I had to see what it was about. It’s part 2D side-scrolling action adventure, part survival, and all viking. Let’s go to Valhalla!
In this game you play as a viking who fell and died in battle. Normally your soul would pass on to Valhalla when you die but instead you find that you’ve been imprisoned in Niffelheim. From here you must set out to collect 20+ pieces of a portal that you can then build and which will take you to Asgard. The game actually does a poor job of explaining that this is your objective in the game so don’t be surprised if you’re a bit lost at the start like I was. That’s basically your story primer so let’s talk about what you’ll be doing in the game. You are given the choice of four different classes to play as upon starting the game with those being a Viking, Shaman, Valkyrie, and Berserker. Each class varies in how much damage they can deal and take and how much stamina they have. As you play you can increase their stats with new equipment you find and with items you consume.
The map of the game contains a central hub area surrounded by four different worlds. You’ll choose to start in whichever one of these four worlds you want. There is a working clock in the game as well so time will pass as you are playing. While the game is 2D it is very much open world so you can go and explore where you want to. One of the places you’ll be spending a lot of your time at is your castle. The castle contains a workshop where you can upgrade different stations like a kitchen, forge, etc. Each station can be upgraded multiple times and doing so increases the quality of item you can get by crafting at it. You’ll need better items to get further in the game so I found the loop here to be pretty satisfying. I would venture out to find new materials to bring them back to upgrade my stations and thus was able to make even better stuff. That said the game can feel repetitive as well as I would frequently be doing a lot of the same things for a good amount of time in order to get the amount of material I needed. I’d say this is very much a grindy game so if you don’t like those keep that in mind.
There are also chests located here in the castle that you can store items you find in but beware as your castle can be attacked by enemies. Successful enemy attacks can cause items from your chests to be stolen. Your castle defenses can be upgraded though so that you are better prepared for when these attacks happen. Another feature of the game is the mines you can enter from the workshop in the castle. Every mine is randomly generated and full of materials you can gather, such as gold and copper, and take back to use in the workshop. You’ll have to use your pick axe to mine for the items and you’ll likely want to upgrade your axe for better results. Beware though as these mines are full of enemies as well.
Another thing to keep in mind is that your character has important meters you need to keep an eye on to survive. You stamina meter, or satiety as it’s called in this game, will gradually deplete as you play and you’ll need to eat in order to fill it back up. Which class you picked to play as will determine just how fast this meter depletes. It isn’t all resource gathering and crafting in this game either as there are plenty of enemies in the game to fight such as dead soldiers, trolls, giants, and more. Combat controls are pretty simple with one button pretty much handling your attacks. You are able to carry two different weapons to attack with such as close quarters weapons and ranged weapons giving you some options in how you attack. Most enemies are easy to dispatch but then there are the boss battles and they are very challenging. Don’t bother taking them on until you have a good stock of health potions and some upgraded weapons and armor. Should you die in the game you will be affected by a debuff that will lower your stats. This negative buff can be applied multiple times should you keep dying so it’s best to get rid of it as soon as you can upon respawning. Usually drinking a potion will do the trick for that.
All of the art in the game is hand-drawn which makes for a rather pleasing game to look at. The world is full of detail and each of the five different areas in the world feature things that set them apart from the next. Enemy designs are well drawn as are the items in the menus while navigating them. The soundtrack in the game was actually kind of MIA a lot of the time I was playing and the times it was there it wasn’t very memorable at all. The trophy list will challenge you to get the Platinum. You’ll have to survive 100 days, upgrade all your workshops, kill 1000 skeletons and much more.
Niffelheim will likely appeal to fans of survival games but could be a bit too repetitive and obtuse to those who aren’t. I also wish the combat systems were a bit deeper. That said I enjoyed exploring this hand-drawn Norse mythology world and gathering items within it to take back to my castle to then improve that and my character. It was a satisfying loop that kept me going all the way to Valhalla.
*Niffelheim is out now on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC. Reviewed on a PlayStation 4 Pro. Review copy provided by the publisher for this review.