It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Shovel Knight. I’ve beaten the game numerous times, bought the game on numerous systems and even have considered getting a tattoo of some sort. I genuinely love the game and when it was released on June 2014, Yacht Club Games said that 3 more campaigns would release in the future. In September 2015, they released the Plague Knight campaign titled: Plague of Shadows. This campaign had the same level design as the Shovel Knight campaign but due to Plague Knight’s movements, it became an entirely different game. Almost a year and half later, they release the Specter Knight campaign titled: Specter of Torment and it’s reworked from the ground up.
In the past, I’ve talked about how brilliant Shovel Knight's opening level is, with it’s ability to teach you the mechanics of the game without holding your hand. In Plague Knight’s campaign, they use the same level to teach you an entirely new way to traverse. It is truly unlike we see today in gaming anywhere. Specter of Torment doesn’t just do this, it really wants you to understand that he does not play like the other 2 at all. One of the first things you see is the dirt pile, if you are even remotely familiar with Shovel Knight, you know to strike at this, giving you gold. Then you see a pretty tall wall in front of you with 2 gems hanging on the side, this is a hint to the player to test the waters. That’s just the motif throughout the opening of the game, teaching you how to get through obstacles on your own.
The gameplay is very similar to Ninja Gaiden in a lot of ways. The wall running feels directly lifted from it. The other mechanic you will rely on heavily is the quick Dash Slash. As you are falling near an enemy or glowing item, you can slash through it giving you extra propulsion up or downward. This also works with boss fights as you will need to be fast to beat all 8, plus some side boss fights. The level design will test you a lot with these abilities, so you better learn fast be quick on your toes.
In the Shovel Knight campaign, the story was that Shovel Knight’s best bud was lost to a cursed amulet in the tower of fate. When the tower reopened, Shovel Knight ventured across the land to rescue his friend. In the Plague Knight campaign, the story was told parallel to Shovel Knight’s in that Plague Knight was gathering the essence of the other Knights to concoct the ultimate potion. After both stories end, it’s no mystery to what is happening thanks in part to the credits sequence. However, Specter Knight’s campaign takes place quite a bit before the events of both games before it. I can't say too much about the story for sake of spoilers but i can assure you it's not a happy story. Throughout the campaign, you will have flashbacks to who he is and what his intentions are.
Visually speaking, that game looks very similar to the other past parts. But with a much darker tone. The sky is cloudier, the backdrops are darker, the whole game has a very Gothic feel that fits the characters and story. Much like the previous stories, you will meet a number of characters that will assist you in your quest. There’s Red who will give you Curios for red skulls you find throughout the levels. There’s Manny who will sell you armor with interesting powers. Legion will upgrade your curios, Missy will retrieve any wisp chest you missed during a stage but it’ll cost you. There are quite a few more but it’s more fun to find them on your own. I think that’s something that Yacht Club does very well, keeping you invested in not just the characters but the world as well.
Overall, this game utterly fantastic. It’s some the most fun I've had playing an action side scroller in a while. It’s different enough to not feel like it’s Shovel Knight and unique enough that it doesn't feel like what it’s homaging. It’s not easy though, Specter Knight will challenge you in new ways no other game on the current market will, or at least I’ve seen. I highly recommend checking it out for yourself. I give Specter of Torment a very much earned 9.5 outta 10.
You can as of writing this, pick up Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove which contains all campaigns and the soon to be released King Knight campaign, on Wii U, 3DS, PS3, PS4, Vita, Xbox One, PC, Mac, and Linux. But if you are just wanting the Specter of Torment campaign, you can buy it separately on all the consoles mentioned above.
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