Heads up, this review assumes that you’ve read my previous review about Shovel Knight so click here to check that out.
The Order of No Quarter isn’t exactly as united as we were lead to believe in the events of Shovel Knight. The eccentric alchemist, Plague Knight, has hatched a scheme to create the Ultimate Potion. With it, anything could be his — and I do mean anything. Unfortunately he’s missing nine vital ingredients, which happen to be nothing less than a portion of each of the essences of the other knights in the Order, the Enchantress, and Shovel Knight himself — that’s right, this game takes place during his adventure. With the Ultimate Potion nearly within his grasp you take control of the masked maniac himself, Plague Knight, as he journeys across the land to defeat his so called ‘comrades’. The real question though, is what he means to do with the mighty concoction once it’s made.
If you want a fuller story of Yacht Club Games and the creation of Shovel Knight then check out the Shovel Knight Review. That being said, Yacht Club expected to make DLC campaigns but they didn’t know which characters to use… so they asked the fans. There was a giant poll for which members of the Order they wanted to play as and Plague Knight, Spectre Knight, and King Knight were the top three. As such, Plague Knight’s expansion was the first to be released. It and all other additional chunks of content are FREE so if you purchase Shovel Knight expect a ghostly present and a crowned present arriving in your future.
Plague of Shadows was released on September 17th, 2015. It’s competition was Undertale (Mac and PC), Armikrog (PC, Mac, and Linux), and Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One.)
Do you remember when I said Shovel Knight was the platformer I was most emotionally invested in? I may have fibbed a bit because it’s Plague of Shadows that really had me following characters and reading really deep into minute pieces of dialogue. Every little interaction reveals more about what sort of person Plague Knight is, why he joined the Order, and what he means to do with the Ultimate Potion. He’s not just a stock villain. In an Undertale-Esque fashion it’s plain to see how he got caught up in all this and what sort of person he is. And — it makes no sense saying it here but trust me — it’s a delight to watch him dance.
This game plays unshockingly just like Shovel Knight. It’s the same levels and enemies but Plague Knight’s new abilities and play-style make it a unique experience. Unlike Shovel Knight, Plague’s jump is much shorter but he makes up for this with a little double jump and his ability to blast-jump. Plague Knight also differs from his spade wielding foe because he has a ranged attack. This small change makes combat completely different, it turns into a game of keep away where you cascade explosives on your enemies.
Our dear alchemy obsessed friend also has unique secret areas and collectibles. If you see any shining green coins floating around then try to collect them. This bizarre currency is used to unlock more upgrades that Plague can purchase with treasure — alchemy ain’t cheap, y’know. This includes blast effects, bomb fuses, and bomb explosion types — mix and match to destroy your enemies. Speaking of all this, Plague Knight doesn’t actually make all this stuff. His assistant, Mona — she’s the dour woman who lives in the basement by the juice bar — will be doing all this crafting from within Plague Knight’s secret under-village lab.
I loved all the upgrades. There wasn’t one that I never used. For each component there is a situation for which it is the tool for the job.
Did you ever wonder where Chester got all those relics? Well let’s just say Plague can acquire an arsenal of his own and that he’s got no problem with the barter system. In short, Plague has got a series of very special items at his disposal that have a variety of uses such as mega bombs or a potion that makes HIM deal contact damage to enemies. I recommend finding them all.
Throughout the course of Plague Knight’s adventures he can go anywhere Shovel Knight could go. It’s really interesting to return to these locations and approach them differently. I can tell the designers had a field day thinking of all the ways to get Plague Knight through a Shovel Knight shaped hole…
Jumping jackrabbits, Plague Knight is incredibly mobile. Instead of taking attacks to the face like Shovel could you can dodge with all the grace and acrobatics of an explosion. There’s something great about jumping way high up and raining chaos and pain from above. I love how the guy has so much utility and yet lacks a basic melee attack — it really suits his style.
The Secret Lab is anything but solitary. It’s filled with goons to chat with and blast away — Plague Knight is not a kind boss– Magicist returns from the town above, there’s a goat-man performing mathematical feats, Mona, and a giant oboe creature. It’s really fun to see how they all bounce off each other.
The Final Boss is a real treat in this one. It’s mechanically and thematically satisfying as well as presenting a marvelous challenge.
I described Plague as being incredibly mobile and sometimes this works against him. It’s incredibly easy to blast-jump into obstacles or into a pit. Between jumping, double jumping, blast jumping, and the Surging Staff’s uppercut it can be a little bewildering to coordinate. It took me a lot of practice to get all this stuff straight and it’s almost required for you to master all this junk to get Plague Knight where he needs to go.
This is a must-have piece of DLC for Shovel Knight and the best part is that IT COMES FREE WITH SHOVEL KNIGHT! That’s 15 dollars for basically two games. To top it all off the game’s got co-op on the WiiU so now you can play with your friends. I cannot recommend it enough and loved it so much I thought I would spontaneously combust.
Next Week: Dishonored