Niffelheim for Xbox One review: Hardcore survival with a Norse theme

Though it has a few problems, Niffleheim ultimately offers an engaging and fun survival experience.

Mythology, especially the Greek variety, is often used as a basis for video game settings. However, one type of myth that has always felt underrepresented in the gaming industry is Norse. Thankfully, though, there's a new title that changes that norm. That title is Niffelheim, and it's a hardcore side-scrolling survival game set in the cold and misty depths of the world of the same name. And while the game definitely has a couple of issues, the overall experience is excellent and will satisfy players looking for a fun, engaging challenge.

What you'll love about Niffelheim

The best thing about Niffleheim is its gameplay experience, which is very engaging and satisfying. As a warrior who has fallen to the depths of Niffelheim, you must get to Valhalla by collecting fragments of a portal to Asgard. You're going to need to gather supplies from the misty, freezing lands, and take on its dangerous inhabitants to build yourself better gear and grow your strength. Activities in the game include gathering wood, mining, combat, base-building, and crafting rations to keep your hunger and health in check. Death comes quickly to the unprepared, but with proper planning and strategy, you can learn to overcome these obstacles. Niffelheim is a very challenging survival game, but it's a rewarding one. If you go into it with a patient and thoughtful mindset, you'll finish the game feeling like you've completed an epic journey against impossible odds. You can choose from one of four classes at the start of each game as well, and each class has very different stats for things like damage, defense, and hunger level. This makes the game very replayable.

Niffelheim is a challenging, yet rewarding experience that kept me hooked for hours on end.

My next favorite thing about Niffelheim is the setting and story concept. A hardcore survival experience set in the depths of a Norse world is cool, and this game brings the idea to life in remarkable ways — mainly by having great attention to detail and being (relatively) accurate to Norse myth concepts. It's clear that the developers have a great love for Norse mythology, and that love shows. You can see it in everything, from the vast landscapes you'll explore to the rich and detailed design of the characters, and even in the weapons, armor, and other types of gear that those characters use.

Speaking of visuals, Niffelheim's presentation factor is top-notch. The game uses a beautiful hand-crafted artwork and animation, and while it can look a little clunky at first glance, you'll soon come to appreciate its charming qualities. The game is rich in color and has excellent sound design, too, bringing life to everything from the howling winds to the skeleton soldiers dwelling deep within caverns.

What you'll love less about Niffelheim

While there's a lot to love about Niffelheim, it isn't without some problems. The biggest one is that the game has a massive and out-of-place difficulty spike towards the end that doesn't fit with the natural difficulty progression that the rest of the game has. I'm not sure why it does this, but it causes the end of the game to become a bit of a chore as a result. It doesn't spoil the rest of the experience, though.

The other issue I have with Niffelheim is that I think it could have had more exciting combat. For the most part, things boil down to just blocking, swinging your sword, or firing a ranged weapon. While there's a strategy in learning how to kite hordes of foes, it would have been cool to have a more varied set of moves to master. Thankfully, there's a lot more to do in Niffelheim than fight, so the intermittent bursts of combat won't feel too repetitive.

Should you buy Niffelheim?

While the issues with combat and the strange spike of difficulty in the late game are certainly worth keeping in mind, the rest of Niffelheim's satisfying gameplay mechanics and impressive visuals mean that it's still a good game in spite of those problems. Many folks have wanted a high-quality Norse-themed title for a long time, and with Niffelheim, they have it.

If you love Norse mythology, tough survival games, or both, I highly recommend checking out Niffelheim.

Brendan Lowry

Brendan Lowry is a Windows Central writer and Oakland University graduate with a burning passion for video games, of which he's been an avid fan since childhood. You'll find him doing reviews, editorials, and general coverage on everything Xbox and PC. Follow him on Twitter.