Shovel Knight was one of my favorite games to release last year, and since then I have played it many more times across every platform other than PC. Everything about the game is pretty much flawless; from its excellent and difficult level design all the way to its simple-yet-fantastic story and characters. So, more of that can only be a good thing, and it certainly is that and more with Yacht Club Games’ free DLC for the game called Plague of Shadows.
What Plague of Shadows brings to the table is a new campaign where you control not Shovel Knight, but Plague Knight. Plague Knight is attempting to concoct an all-powerful potion that will make him better than anyone else in the land, which takes him on a similar journey to Shovel Knight’s as he must battle the other knights throughout the game’s levels. However, Plague Knight’s story and him as a character become much more likable and sympathetic as the game goes on, resulting in a conclusion that hits nearly the same emotional wallop that the original did last year.
While Plague Knight’s overall adventure is similar to Shovel Knight’s, the experience feels entirely unique due to Plague Knight controlling completely different and the levels being remixed to accommodate that. Where Shovel Knight was a melee fighter that uses his shovel, Plague Knight is a ranged fighter that uses his exploding potions. These potions can be customized a lot by equipping a new case, powder or fuse to them, which allows you to change things like how quickly your potions explode, the trajectory of your throws and bonus effects that happen after the explosion. This results in a lot more attack options than Shovel Knight had, which is a nice change of pace.
Apart from customizing potions you can also customize your burst, which is something you can do by releasing your charge to jump higher in the air. Mixed with the fact that Plague Knight can also double jump you have a character that feels much more nimble. This results in some sections of the game that were hard with Shovel Knight now becoming easy with Plague Knight, but also vice versa. There are some enemies in the game that never game me a hard time before, but due to Plague Knight’s different moves I had to figure out different ways to take them down. I loved that shift in the gameplay as it made a game that was largely the same feel new regardless.
For you collectors out there, Plague of Shadows has even more reasons for you to search every nook and cranny than the first game did. The game still has the music sheets, but there are also dozens of Cipher Coins in each level that amount to over 400 in the whole game. These coins are far more useful that the music sheets are, as after getting a certain amount you can trade them in to add more items to buy in the shop. This made me want to go after them more than the music sheets did, as I knew I was getting something worthwhile for the extra effort.
If an awesome new campaign wasn’t enough for everyone, Yacht Club Games also added an all-new Challenge mode to the game. This mode is for both Shovel Knight and Plague Knight, with each character having 30 challenges to complete. As you would imagine, these are basically little chunks of a level that require you to do things like survive a wave of enemies for a certain amount of time or make it through a section of a level without attacking. These a blast to play through and are great when you just want to pick up the game quick and play for 5-10 minutes. Just as the core campaigns are very challenging, the challenge that this mode brings is no joke and is a great new addition to the overall package.
Plague of Shadows is one of the best DLC expansions that I have ever played, which is made all the more sweet due to the fact that it is completely free. There are so many other devs out there that charge ridiculous amounts of money for usually mediocre-at-best content, but expansions like this restore my faith in DLC. You can tell that Yacht Club Games put just as much love and care into this as they did the core game, and their efforts have not gone unnoticed. Plague of Shadows matches the admiration that I have for the core game, and if you know me then you know that’s as high of a praise as I can possibly give.