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Shovel Knight: Plague of Shadows

Developer / Publisher: Yacht Club Games
17 September 2015
Shovel Knight: Plague of Shadows - cover art
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Shockingly good DLC that rivals the base game
Plague of Shadows is the first of supposedly 4 competely free DLC expansions for Shovel Knight, and in terms of pure value this is ridiculously generous. The campaign runs about as long as the base game (8 hours if you're like me and poke around everywhere for secrets), and it was for zero dollars. Zero! When I wrote about Shovel Knight, I had genuine difficulty thinking of valid critique. I hold the base game in extremely high regard and I was worried that a dramatic shift in playstyle would lose some of the tightly-snug mechanical magic. While there are some problems overall, this is one of the best expansions I have ever played.

The story follows Plague Knight in a plot that runs concurrently to Shovel Knight's campaign, and explains a fair bit about the characters and world that might have gone unnoticed in the base campaign. Plague Knight finds and trades the relics that Chester eventually sells to you. He mass-murders the guards in the Hall of Champions which explains how it got to be so haunted. The very ending, which I won't spoil, is direct proof that Plague Knight is responsible for some of the trauma of the original ending. This interwoven aspect of storytelling was consistently engaging, especially the Batcave-esque secret lair in Mona's room in the Village. You really do feel like a villain, sneaking around and causing mayhem.

Plague Knight himself is a much more reckless play experience than Shovel Knight, which I feel complements their character designs well. While Shovel Knight was rigorously consistent and balanced, Plague Knight is decidedly not. He can explode himself across stages, whip up a ridiculous number of bomb variants on the fly, and cast a fair bit of magic that helps with platforming and combat. This looseness and speed at which PK operates is such a departure from the base game that I think many will struggle with the jump as I did. The bomb jump in particular has an INSANE angle difference between no dpad input and left/right input, so simple mistakes like that could easily cost you your life. It can be frustrating and hard to reign in, which I think is something important to note when the base game was much more forgiving in its design. For that reason alone I think the gameplay falls a bit short of the main campaign, but it's still a worthy change up when you are able to control PK with some level of proficiency.

Most of the levels are close to identical to their SK counterparts, with a couple changes to better complement the new moveset. However, the differences in which PK and SK can traverse the environment made some relatively simply exercises for SK feel like proper puzzle challenges for PK. It was really refreshing to figure out how to continue instead of just executing. There was a similar concept of re-learning when you encounter enemies that are easier (knights, Mole Knight) or more difficult (dragons, Polar Knight) to defeat in your new form. It's like a whole new game.

Of course, PK has a different motive for visiting all of the Order of No Quarter - he seeks each Knight's essence to concoct a potion that would give him unlimited power. He states it is for alchemical glory (the townspeople don't like him much), but in reality it's just to impress Mona, his partner in crime and love interest. In fact, despite the dastardly mayhem of Plague Knight's campaign, I thought the story was as good or better than the base game, since you find out slowly that PK is actually just acting out as a defense mechanism for his social awkwardness. He's nervous around his crush and just wants to be liked by people - he just REALLY doesn't know how to foster positive relationships. The simple drive to see him and Mona end up together despite their fighting was enough for me to want to see the end of the game, and the ending was so satisfying - especially the waltz. In terms of storytelling tone, SK was something like adventure-hides-trauma. PK, in that sense, is debauchery-hides-loneliness, and I found it personally more compelling as a character drama.

Overall, I don't think I could recommend this highly enough. It's almost as good as the already outstanding base game on the mechanical front, and in terms of the world and storytelling I'd argue it reaches even higher highs. Absolutely worth the time it takes to re-learn how to play the game.
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Catalog

bing_bong_barl Shovel Knight: Plague of Shadows 2024-04-12T19:39:50Z
2024-04-12T19:39:50Z
3.5
2
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
orchidcnr Shovel Knight: Plague of Shadows 2024-04-11T05:15:58Z
2024-04-11T05:15:58Z
4.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
RyanTheDrummer1 Shovel Knight: Plague of Shadows 2024-04-10T06:29:01Z
2024-04-10T06:29:01Z
3.5
1
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Slurmph Shovel Knight: Plague of Shadows 2024-04-01T17:32:17Z
2024-04-01T17:32:17Z
4.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
MartiniEldritch Shovel Knight: Plague of Shadows 2024-03-17T23:45:52Z
2024-03-17T23:45:52Z
4.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
_moonchild_ Shovel Knight: Plague of Shadows 2024-03-17T16:51:01Z
2024-03-17T16:51:01Z
3.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
MikailHuey Shovel Knight: Plague of Shadows 2024-03-07T05:07:13Z
2024-03-07T05:07:13Z
3.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Sothras Shovel Knight: Plague of Shadows 2024-02-06T00:09:10Z
2024-02-06T00:09:10Z
4.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Jeycoil Shovel Knight: Plague of Shadows 2024-01-22T09:52:12Z
2024-01-22T09:52:12Z
3.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
numSkull31 Shovel Knight: Plague of Shadows 2024-01-19T10:41:21Z
2024-01-19T10:41:21Z
4.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
nachomf Shovel Knight: Plague of Shadows 2024-01-14T04:18:09Z
2024-01-14T04:18:09Z
3.5
2
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
gis Shovel Knight: Plague of Shadows 2024-01-01T18:34:26Z
2024-01-01T18:34:26Z
1
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
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  • PoisonYad 2019-07-28 20:13:59.318589+00
    somehow even better than the main game
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  • rainstorm 2020-01-31 05:40:08.055674+00
    This is often a frustrating game to play, namely because Plague Knight's skillset (compared to Shovel or Specter Knights) is very cumbersome to use in a variety of the combat and platforming sections. It's also very punitive when you die, to the point where I started ignoring gem-collecting altogether.
    reply
    • warioman 2020-12-30 19:58:03.193655+00
      sometimes he feels a little weaker than the other guys when it comes to combat, but jumping abilities really make up for that in terms of being a fun character to control I think
    • Grungy777 2021-09-24 18:05:26.160453+00
      "sometimes he feels a little weaker than the other guys when it comes to combat" lol what? Plague Knight's offensive power is insane. Whirl Casing + Spark Powder + Remote Fuse in particular is hilariously OP against bosses.
    • RyanTheDrummer1 2024-04-15 09:29:54.464935+00
      It's not as punitive if you buy the armor that causes you to lose half of the gems that you would normally use
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  • zazztheboy 2021-08-22 16:50:54.086005+00
    the potion mixing to create different weapons for different situations is super fun to experiment with and once you get a few really good setups going you can absolutely blast through these levels. also easily my favorite story of the 4
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  • RyanTheDrummer1 2024-04-15 09:28:07.391833+00
    I liked Plague Knight's movement and gameplay, but it is a little disappointing that his levels are just remixed Shovel of Hope levels instead of original levels built around him
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