NIFFELHEIM on STEAM is a side-scrolling action adventure. You control one of four characters from the era of the Norsemen, the Vikings as you struggle to survive in one of the four main lands or in the large city itself.
Before you make any selections you have to watch as your ship is battered by the waves and hidden neath the swirling mists as it attempts to locate a suitable, safe, landing place.
It all begins with World Creation. This is where you select the caste of your character: Bear, Wolf, Eagle & Dragon. Each of these is known for specific abilities in the various terrains of the lands in which they live.
Your first choice is the one your character will belong to. After selecting your own 'Tribe' you can choose the number of Artificial Intelligence tribe opponents you want to face simply by clicking on the icons.
For my games I chose the Dragon clan which inhabit the chilly mountainous icelands and pit the Eagles against me. Seeing as there is no actual choice of Easy, Medium or Hard options for game difficulty I understand the number of opponents you choose to be the practioner of this.
The Character Creation scene is similar to World Creation except you are given the opportunity to be a
Viking: Big, strong, experienced fighter
Valkyrie: Good Fighter, Priestess and Seer of sorts.
Berserker: Fearless worshipper of Odin
Shaman: A bit of a rogue (old fashioned use of the word) as he wants Fame & Fortune but at his way of doing things
Vikings have a slow metabolism, can do decent damage that has a bonus of additional bleeding and stunning.
Valkyries have a very slow matabolism and are much better at preventing damage (to themselves) than dishing it out. They have a strong constitution which gives them a good chance of resisting Poison or Burning.
Berserkers metabolism is fast and they are also blessed with a strong constitution which gives them a good chance of resisting Poison or Burning, plus when they hit they do great damage.
Shaman have enhanced metabolism, a great defence and a strong resistance to most types of damage, but they hit like a wet sponge and do the damage of well cooked spaghetti.
I thought my choice of a Valkyrie from the Dragon clan in the Icelands would give me a good chance of survival while allowing me to explore. There are many mineshafts, doorways, caverns and caves to delve into but I selected to visit the Workshop where I found one of the Thrones (these can be found both underground and in the open) and sitting your character on them will regain lost health, or at least health lost in the current life, more on that in a moment. It is handy to explore as much as you can and if possible draw yourself a mini map on a piece of spare paper to ensure you can get to a Throne quickly when in need. Remember that this is a side-scrolling game so your map will need an upper level and a lower level but designed along straight lines; when you go deeper down into a mine for example you aren't actually seen travelling downwards.
There are several machines and constructions that need building. A Kitchen, Saw Mill, Forge, Alchemy Workshop are amongst the things you a required to build once you have collected the necessary resources. Of course you need to construct these workshops before you can start to Craft and unlike any other side-scroller I have played there are so many items, weapons and equipment that you can create the longer you play. In fact this is the first side-scroller I have played that has all the similarities of a regular action-adventure.
Underground you can use your pick-axe to break down the walls to collect stone, saltpetre, coal, clay etc but the more you use it the quicker your pick-axe wears down until it breaks. I began with 2 pick-axes (yes there is a discrepancy in weight and encumberanceon versus reality as to what you can actually carry) among other tools and weapons, such as the axe which I used to cut down trees and collect wood etc from them. It is also possible to gather herbs, fruits, grasses and to kill animals for their meat and hides and as you progress you can herd sheep and corral them. During play you grow more combat efficient and also as a gatherer and crafter.
When you first venture out up top you encounter skeletons. They are weak and easily dispatched, allowing you to gather their bones and anything else, mainly rusty swords, they might be carrying. The longer you explore the more adversaries you meet and the stronger you get. Experience has brought to me memories of playing MMOs and tabletop RPGs in as much as if you bite off more than you can chew (ie you go down a dungeon too far) you will meet a swift and untimely end.
I began with 83 health points and was doing okay until my first death which saw my health lower to 78 HPs once I had run back to find my body - your corpse is always found on the ground even if you died in a mine - and once you run past it you are resurrected.
Each time you die your Health is reduced until it gets so low that one hit from a dememented bunny will bring your heroic Norse-person to their knees. Then it's time to give up and start again being more careful and learning from your earlier mistakes.
Even sitting on a Throne will do you no good as it only returns health that you have lost in the current lifespan.
When you have collected lots of resources, either from top side or underground, you have a number of chests, plus a safe, into which you can put them.
When you are at one of the Crafting Stations - these can be found up top as shrine-like stone erections and are also the workshops you have previously built underground in your personal mine space - the resources in your chests and vault are ready for you to use, there is none of this running around going to the chests collecting the items then running back to the crafting station only to discover you have forgotten something or don't have enough of a certain resource or two. The 'blueprint' or 'recipe' shows what you have and what you need and allows you to create at just the push of a button, creating more than one at a time as long as you have the ingredients/resources. This is so much a better way to do things as it keeps the game flowing and prevents the frustration of running around like a blue-a**ed-fly (as my Mum used to say).
Crafting, mining, fighting etc are based on experience levels and the more you do of each the more experience you you will gain, rising in Levels as you would in a RPG or MMO.
Graphically it is fairly atmospheric and although the adversaries are rather more 2D than 3D they are effective. Your character is decidely 3D and it is good to see that it changes in visual appearance as you put on or remove pieces of clothing and equipment.
When you are top-side you can go either right or left, obviously as it's a side-scroller, when you reach either end there is a 'portal' that takes you to the next land in line. Speaking of portals, in your backpack you carry 2 Doors and 2 Portals which do a similar job. These magical items are best saved until a specific need arises. I haven't tried using one of them to escape the angry human tribes or monsters (such as big no-nonsense spiders) because at the moment I see what I am about to face my mind goes blank and I forget I have them - note to self: try this next time you play. <end note>
At a certain point in the game you will receive a message stating that 'The Horde are Coming in N Minutes' and a countdown clock appears, ticking down the seconds ....
As you can see from the remainder of the screenshots it is generally quite dark, even up top. Combat is generally very quick, so quick in fact that I couldn't stop to hit the [Print Screen] button which is why there are no screenshots of me fighting or dying.
For players who enjoy action-adventures and MMOs this is a good substitute that can be played in short bursts or long sessions. Of course it is a bit 'samey' but it is also very enjoyable as there are more than enough things to do, options to take and places to explore.
I think this is well worth spending time on, in my opinion, the more time you spend the more time you will ant to spend.
I am not a great fan of side-scrollers, they usually get too monotonous, but NIFFELHEIM is far better than I expected and an actual joy to play (except when you die and have to start again - in which case I suggest changing characters and Worlds so that there are even more differences) but do make a map for each World as you play so that when you return to them you are prepared and less likely to give up your Health Points so easily.