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There’s something about the thought of just hanging out with a couple of good friends or family – in person (yeah, that used to happen remember?) – popping open a few cans of beer, ripping open the ‘Sour Cream and Onion’ Lay’s, and playing a couch co-op/competitive game for a couple of hours that brings a garlicky smile to my lips. As a great man once said, “Happiness is only real when shared”. 


It’s sad then that couch co-op games are harder and harder to come by, especially the good ones. With the exception of A Way Out, the modern classic Overcooked, and Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime, it’s not easy to name more than a handful of good couch co-op titles in recent years. Some of the most fun co-op memories I have (other than the severely underrated Invisigun) are of playing Nidhogg and its sequel with a college friend. The cheers of triumph, the grunts of frustration and the countless outbursts of politically incorrect insults barraged at each other definitely don’t make it any less memorable.

Imagine my excitement then, when I found out about Griefhelm – a medieval-themed dueling party game heavily inspired by Nidhogg. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it.  But competing with the genius of Nidhogg is no easy feat. Let’s see how it fares.

Expanding on Nidhogg


Griefhelm aims to take that frantic, fast-paced tactical stance-based dueling mechanic of games like Nidhogg and For Honor, and set it in a more serious, gritty world. For newcomers to the genre, you can basically attack the opponent in three stances – high, mid, and low – and if the opponent isn’t in the same stance as the attacker, he takes damage and in most game modes, immediately dies. It’s kind of a Rock-Paper-Scissors mechanic except If you’re defending, you have to match your opponent’s stance to parry their attack and if you’re attacking, you have to not match the defender’s stance to get a hit in. 

While this might come easy enough to those who’ve played Nidhogg, it does take a while to get used to the controls – holding the right stick for the stance feels strange at first. But once you get over that hurdle, you’re good to go!

Just another day on the beach

Depending on your skill level, each duel can last anywhere from 5 seconds to a dramatic, stressful few minutes. Paying attention to your opponent’s stance and reacting rapidly to it is one level of play which is already challenging, but this can soon evolve to complex strategies of feints and bluffs, allowing for a cunning competition where you’re just playing mind games with each other – and that’s where the real fun is. In some maps, there are environmental hazards like chandeliers that can be knocked over to make a charging opponent stumble, giving you an opening, or obstructions in vision you can bait the opponent into to blindside them. 

So that’s pretty much the foundation of the game and is immensely fun on its own. However, Griefhelm offers a lot more than that.


There are several game modes – Encounters, Online, and the Campaign. While ‘Encounters’ are good for a quick match and allow you to choose your own modifiers to make your own fun, the 1 to 4-player co-op campaign features a Slay the Spire-like node system where you choose which path to take after weighing the risks and rewards. Each node corresponds to a battle – which can either be a simple 3 points to win ‘skirmish’, a Nidhogg-style tug-of-war, or a horde mode where you have to massacre multiple waves of enemies to survive.

Though you start each campaign with a basic sword, some nodes will give you a weapon or armor upon completion to help you on your way. From swords to flails, maces, and spears, there are different weapons (all melee) with various speeds of animation and reach, as well as helms and armor that prioritize either dexterity or defense. This adds another level of challenge, as high-level players will have to learn the speed and reach of each weapon’s animation to play well. 


Plus, there’s the perk system. At the end of each battle, you’re awarded a consumable perk that you can use whenever you want, which grants you an extra life, more dexterity, more health, or even a flaming sword to burn your enemies with. Though there are some issues with hitboxes that can make the game frustrating and feel unfair, the core gameplay overall is pretty fun and expands on Nidhogg’s mechanics well. However, the narrative and tone are where the game falls apart for me.  

Pretentious Writing And A Dreary, Boring Tone 

I admit, it does look pretty.

With a single look at some of the maps and the striking art style, or even just the title screen, you’ll know if you’ll be into it. If you like it, well hey, good for you. While I found it interesting at first, for a couch co-op game that’s supposed to be a fun romp with friends, the art style doesn’t really make sense to me. Griefhelm seems to take the super fun party mechanics of Nidhogg and put it in a dreary, gray, ‘realistic’ world which I don’t understand why and just can’t get behind. 

Uh huh
Uh huh, cool bro.

There’s no real story or plot, but the few vague lines of abstract text before battles came off pretentious and felt purposeless to me, and I soon just started skipping them each time. From beaches and forests to castles and battlefields, there’s a decent variety of interesting maps in the game, and the variety is definitely appreciated, but I personally didn’t enjoy the art style at all – all maps have a layer of dreary haze that lost its luster after just the first hour. While the dream-like mysterious music on its own is decent, again, I personally didn’t feel like it suited the fun gameplay experience the title was going for at all. 

Leader battle

Griefhelm’s tone tries hard to be mysterious and interesting, but rarely makes it out of the boring and dreary territory. While the art style, music, and comedic tone of Nidhogg made me look forward to playing it over and over again, Griefhelm just falls apart in this department.


It wasn't.
I guess not.

While the core gameplay of Griefhelm is solid (except for the rebellious hitboxes) and is expanded upon with multiple weapons, armors, and perks, the overall unfun tone of the game made it hard for me to go back to it after just a few hours. Though the game boasts a great variety of game modes that should theoretically make it eternally replayable, the pretentious writing, dreary tone, and sudden difficulty spikes in the dynamic campaign don’t make up for the repetitive gameplay.  To put it simply, Griefhelm simply takes itself too seriously to be fun.

Any game is automatically 5 times as fun playing with a friend, but even friends will get bored with this one after a few hours. With all this in mind, the asking price of 530rs is a bit steep – if you, like me, are desperate for a couch co-op title, I recommend you wait for a sale and don’t expect more than a few hours of fun to be had from it. Or, just go back and play Nidhogg and Nidhogg 2 again – they’re honestly still super fun!

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