Specter Knight could probably use a hug. Among Shovel Knight’s line-up of colourful and goofy bosses, Specter Knight comes off as that stereotypical highschool kid who hangs around the graveyard and contemplates how much everyone else sucks. As it turns out that’s not entirely without reason, as we discover in the aptly titled Shovel Knight: Specter of Torment which was released last week. The second DLC campaign for Shovel Knight, it was released alongside the body swap mode, which allows players to choose the gender and pronouns for several characters in the game.
Specter of Torment serves as a prologue to the main campaign and examines the origins of the macabre knight, as well as the establishment of the Order of no Quarter. It’s a departure from the previous instalments in tone as well as setting, and is much darker overall. That’s not to say that it’s all doom and gloom, it still has it’s share of funny moments (see the video below) and some new NPC’s who provide an altogether more evil alternative to the usual cheery villagers.
In terms of the gameplay, the titular knight comes armed with a scythe that also functions as both surfboard and grappling hook, which highlights the focus being shifted more towards platforming than combat. The combat is still present and as enjoyable as ever, but the game is at it’s most engaging when you’re chaining grapples and wallruns across gaping chasms or pits of lava. The fact that you’re often relying on moving enemies to provide a point to grapple to ensures that things are in a constant state of flux, and the result is a fluidity that feels incredibly satisfying. The soundtrack remains excellent, with Jake Kaufman reprising tracks from the original game that are familiar but remain frantic and fresh.
Released alongside Specter of Torment is the Body Swap feature. Originally included as a Kickstarter stretch goal, body swap allows players to separately choose the gender and pronouns of each of the knights in the original Shovel Knight campaign. Each have had new sprites added, and while this doesn’t affect the gameplay, it’s a nice extra layer of customisation and a welcome feature in terms of inclusivity for the community at large. I’ll be speaking more about that in an upcoming article, so keep watch or check out Opinion Loading’s Facebook for more.