Wednesday 18 December 2019

Shovel Knight: Plague of Shadows Review (Switch)

The first major expansion released for Shovel Knight focuses on Plague Knight as the protagonist and runs in parallel to the main quest. It follows the same map as the original game and presents players with a remixed set of levels designed to accommodate Plague Knight's unique skill set.

Playing as Plague Knight requires you to get to grips with using explosives with three interchangeable parts. As the adventure progresses players will acquire different casings, fuses and explosive to create different bombs that do everything from heat seeking to sending walls of flame around the levels. Even basic functions like how long the bombs take to explode and weather they are thrown high or low can be customised as you progress.

Getting used to the bomb mechanic is tricky to start with and the initial levels can seem far more difficult when playing as Plague Knight. Once you have a few things unlocked and have more options the difficulty does drop but taking down Spectre Knight in particular was incredibly frustrating with just a basic load out.

The other key gimmick of the campaign is the how the health system works. Plague Knight is somewhat more fragile than Shovel Knight but he can boost his health with potions. The increased health bar stays in place until you die. At that point it reverts back to the original base level and players will need to find more potions to increase it again. This sets up a risk strategy where it can often be safer to travel through levels with low health so as not to waste the potion effects until you get to a major obstacle.

After a tough and somewhat frustrating start we found the Plague of Shadows campaign developed into a highly enjoyable and smartly written adventure. There’s a lot of humour in the interactions between Plague Knight and the other characters and small touches like the character having to take alternate ways into the villages and other areas where ‘good guys’ are often raise a smile. Size wise it rivals the original game as well which is impressive.

Overall, if you enjoyed Shovel Knight and are up for a challenge then you should enjoy this adventure as well. It requires a completely different rhythm and approach to the original game and offers up a greater understanding of the world and characters that fans should love. It can be frustrating but once the new mechanics click you’ll be just as addicted to it as before.


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