IntroductionIndie games have a way of surprising even the most veteran gamers. They offer small development teams a chance to come up with something unique and different. Some are on the border of greatness while others fall short of that hypothetical line categorizing good and bad titles. Niffelheim however, seems to somehow achieve both. Ellada studios have created a 2D action RPG with strong crafting elements and feature a huge hand drawn open-world in a Nordic fantasy setting that is fully explorable within the boundaries of the early access. Though the premise of such a title is great, this indie lacks in a lot of respects and excels in all others. It is currently in Early Access and is available for purchase on Steam for £14.99.
StorylineIn this Nordic set RPG, a brave warrior is slain in battle and is sent off onto his final journey to the promised land of Asgard. On the way, his soul is abducted by demons and instead sent to the land of Niffelheim. A foul place full of creatures, secrets and treasure just waiting to be scavenged.
The main goal for the player is to explore the vast open-world and it's numerous dungeons, to find an ancient artifact that threatens the very existence of the demons. Right off the bat, this title feels reminiscent of Salt and Sanctuary in terms of the combat and overall dark setting and atmosphere. However, this indie also takes the sandbox gameplay of Terraria and combines them both to create a concoction of monumental possibilities that, if done right, could change the globalized standard of indie video games. Though sadly, this is not possible with the current state of the game.
There is hope, however, the title is currently in the Early Access. So the major and apparent bugs and fixes have a chance to be ironed out. Then and only then, can Niffelheim be a truly great game.
GameplayDue to Niffelheim currently being in an early access state, some features are not yet available in-game. As the game begins, the player will have the choice of four different regions depicted by different animals of power. The Bear, Wolf, Dragon and The Eagle, each has their own descriptions and different looks. Currently, there is only one region available and that is the Ice Dragon Wasteland region. Players start at their base with minimal equipment and skills, no tutorials are provided. Players need to figure out what to do and how to do it. There is a learning curve to this indie that will grip hardcore gamers that like a challenge, and a challenge is what they will get.
The brave warrior starts off with a club and shield, and a bow these are primarily offensive weapons used to hunt other creatures. Players are also equipped with an axe and a pick, that can be used to gather resources such as logs and a variety of different ores (to say the least). These resources will be stored in the character's inventory and can be used to upgrade your base, changing the look and overall defense against monster attacks. Inside the base, different workshops can be created ranging from, forges and sawmills to a kitchen and alchemy tables. Forges are used to craft different sets of armour that increase the character's defense as well as the look. Sawmills are used to create a variety of different weapons that can be utilized. The kitchen is used to cook meats that are taken from fallen creatures and wildlife as well as plants and herbs that can be picked up, while exploring, to increase health. Alchemy tables provide the chance for the players to brew special potions that enhance core abilities such as speed etc.
Each workstation can be upgraded several times, unlocking different items that can be crafted. Everything requires resources. To get resources player's need to explore the vast world and work hard to achieve these items. The sheer feeling of finally crafting that set of armour or weapon is very fulfilling, considering that death plays a substantial part in this game. Death is an unavoidable option in this title. The starting character is noticeably under-powered. This is where players might get turned off by this title just by sheer frustration. Every battle feels like so much hard work compared to what it should be. Starting enemies are tough and with the standard gear, no more than 3 can be fought without death being a final outcome.
The main character can be healed with the meat picked up from fallen wildlife, but the healing advantages of this are so little that it is hardly worth doing it at all. All the healing items that are decent need to be made, and sometimes with more than one ingredient. A lot of planning and effort needs to go into preparing healing items before venturing out into the wilderness, but it is a vicious circle. Ingredients need to be gathered, but to gather these ingredients means going into the unknown where the likely outcome is death, this needs to be addressed as soon as possible as this hinders gameplay and any sort of progression.
Dying is very similar to that of Dark Souls, the protagonist will respawn at their base as a ghost. While in ghost form, players cannot interact with any items or enemies until they have reached their body and have been resurrected. The downfall to this, however, is that this will be a familiar scene for as long as the game is being played. Death is a constant outcome no matter what, due to the fact that suitable healing cannot be easily attained.
Throughout the world, dungeons can be explored with the chance of discovering chests within, containing rare items or resources. These dungeons are littered with monsters and due to the healing feature in the game being under par, progressing through these dungeons without dying multiple times is an almost impossible feat to achieve. Through actions, the character will improve their skills based on the action that is being done, fighting creatures will increase the warrior skill etc. When enough skills are attained, the player can gain perks which upgrade the players existing abilities passively.
PresentationThe world of Niffelheim is a beautifully hand-drawn open world that drips with gloom, uncertainty and danger around every corner. The world feels alive, with icy winds whirling past and the constant drop of snow in the background to create a sense of a harsh climate and a never-ending unsettling feeling of what is to come next, a winter that never ends.
The level of detail is quite breathtaking, walking into a building and seeing machinery glisten with an orange glow in the dim light adds to the realism of the world. Enemies will bleed when being fought, trees will crash down after the last cut. The hand-drawn art style conveys levels of storybook detail that dazzle and amaze, giving a sense of wonderment to the title. The vegetation that can be gathered looks like what it is supposed to be. Everything about the visual art style of this indie is on point.
The sound design, unfortunately, is of average quality, with enemies making repeated beats and noises, footsteps don't make any sort of sound. These are little problems but it's the little things that are missing that deny the player a certain degree of immersion within the game.
The title's music is what can be best described as a double-edged sword. It is a combination of heart-pounding tension with epic beats and intense choir notes that gets the adrenaline rushing through the body all while being fitting for the Nordic/Viking setting. However, there is not a lot of variety to the music, it is just a long loop that continually plays over and over again, and then starts over when the character enters a building. The soundtrack captures the mood of the fantasy setting and environment very well but does little to build on it and instead roots its feet into the ground and refuses to move.
ConclusionFans of Salt and Sanctuary or Terraria will love trudging through this dark, fantasy world bursting with golden opportunities. With a lot of content and beautiful environments adds to the entertainment value of the title. If players are willing to overlook some of the more major flaws, they will see Nilffelheim as a mature and epic adventure. Seeing as this title is in early access and is already this good is a positive sign for things to come, it's upwards and onwards from here on in. Although I recommend waiting until the full game has released to reap the full benefits.
| + Beautiful artwork|| - Early Access|
| + Addicting gameplay|| - Major bugs inhibiting gameplay|
| + Variety of enemies and equipment|| - Lazy music loop|
| + Already a lot of content|