The Third Time’s a Charm, Too
When I first heard that Yacht Club Games was making a third Shovel Knight campaign, I was a little worried. The original campaign (now known as Shovel of Hope) and Plague of Shadows were great and I loved them, but to go back and fight The Order of No Quarter a third time? Well, for one, it seemed a little unnecessary, but it also felt a little repetitive.
For anyone who came into this with those kinds of feelings, Specter of Torment should be a welcome surprise.
Specter of Torment presents itself as a prequel to the events of Shovel of Hope. What this means is that we do tread familiar territory, but that we do so through a different sort of subplot. Specter Knight’s goal is to recruit the members of The Order and, by doing so, to restore his lost humanity. Obviously, something goes wrong here, and the mystery of this crisis is enough to make the story feel new.
Aside from the plot, Specter of Torment also presents us with an entirely new method of playing the game. Whereas Shovel Knight relies on his items and Plague Knight on his many variations of bombs, Specter Knight is fairly pure. It feels good even just to play as regular Specter Knight, with no special items or armors.
Specter Knight is easily the most mobile and agile of the three characters, and it feels good running up and jumping off walls, dash-slashing through levels. I’ve heard from others that Specter Knight feels like a character from a fighting game, and this is true; to succeed with Specter Knight requires precision and timing, as well as a fair amount of control over the movements of the character.
Mastering Specter Knight’s unique controls is a fun challenge of its own, but fans of the series will be glad to know that the third expansion brings many other exciting challenges. Aside from the story levels, Specter Knight has his own variation of hidden collectibles, known as red skulls. These purchase the various items of your toolkit, but the use of each item first requires that you beat a mini-level themed around the use of said item. Specter of Torment also adds to the pre-existing Challenge Mode and, if you’re so inclined, provides new and tough Feats to strive for.
My favorite new challenge, however, is the new tower climbing mini game. The mini game requires a firm handle on Specter Knight’s controls, as you ascend a randomly-arranged tower, seeking to reach the far-removed pinnacle. The best part is that the many levels are filled with goodies and that dying costs you nothing. This allowed me to play for hours on end, with enough variation on the levels to keep me from getting bored.
All things considered, Specter of Torment is a wonderful addition to the Shovel Knight series. Fans of the series will be glad to see many familiar faces in a new light, as well as the introduction of many lovable characters original to the new expansion. Specter of Torment is every bit as good as the other campaigns, and it may very well be my favorite of the series.. just don’t ever make me choose between them, please.
Additionally, Shovel Knight has a fourth campaign planned for 2017, based around the grandiose King Knight, and I think that’s cause for excitement.
Specter of Torment is available with the original Shovel Knight for free, as part of the new Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove for $24.99, or as a complete, separate expansion for $9.99. It is available on the following devices: Wii U, Nintendo Switch, 3DS, PS3, PS4, PS Vita, Xbox One, and Xbox 360.