Shovel Knight: Specter of Torment

A game expansion for Shovel Knight by Yacht Club Games, originally released in 2017.
In 2017, Yacht Club Games released a DLC expansion for Shovel Knight, entitled Specter of Torment. The game stars Specter Knight as its lead character – who appeared as one of the bosses in the original game – in a prequel that details the establishment of the Order of No Quarter (the eight knights faced by Shovel Knight). Specter Knight is tasked by the Enchantress to round up eight knights, which act as the game’s boss encounters, consisting of the bosses faced in the original game. Along the way, the player takes on several flashback levels that provide additional insight into Specter Knight’s character when he was a mortal man. The game also provides some additional background on several of the major characters from the main game, including the Enchantress herself.

Specter Knight controls very differently than Shovel Knight or Plague Knight, who had his own standalone adventure in Plague of Shadows. His main environmental navigation tool is the ability to run straight up vertical surfaces, which he can do for a short while before falling back down. Players must frequently run up walls to grab ledges, jump back and forth between platforms, and perform aerial acrobatics to make it from one side of the room to the other… although certain walls cannot be climbed.

Additionally, some of his movement abilities are tied to his combat tactics. Specter Knight carries a scythe, which he can use to attack enemies and break blocks at close range. However, when jumping, this technique can be used to dash toward enemies and objects and fling the knight through the air, similar to the dash attacks employed by Sonic the Hedgehog in his 3D outings.

In close proximity to enemies or certain objects, a slash mark appears at a 45 degree angle, indicating Specter Knight’s potential direction of travel. By attacking again in midair, he slashes through and continues on that trajectory, allowing players to cross gaps by slashing hanging lanterns, flying enemies, or certain projectiles, and they can also slam down on enemies from above.

Many of the game’s challenges center around navigating over hazards or insta-death bottomless pits while keeping Specter Knight from falling, and many of the boss battles consist of repeated midair attacks. Even though these are the same bosses you’ve faced twice before, the way you engage them is very different, and some have new attacks as well.

The game’s environments and enemies will be very familiar to players who already experienced the earlier Shovel Knight adventures, but the level layouts have changed and they are tackled very differently given Specter Knight’s abilities, which is meant to challenge expert players. There are some new enemies and gameplay elements as well, such as attacking popup enemies to create opportunities to leap into the air, or using the scythe to grind along rails. Most of the challenge comes from successfully navigating environments with these somewhat unusual controls that leave little room for error.

After completing the opening level, the player arrives at a hub area where he may freely select between any of the other eight levels, and return to them at will. Each level also contains 10 red skulls, most of which are hidden or placed off the beaten path, and these may be traded to a skeleton to unlock one of many secondary abilities in the form of special curios.

These secondary abilities pull from a darkness meter that can only be refilled by collecting drops from destroyed objects and enemies. Among these are several projectile-based attacks, the ability to slow down time, a shield, a healing ability, and even the ability to float in the air for a short time. The player may cycle between these abilities at will to take advantage of their various properties. Each level also contains either a permanent health upgrade or a permanent darkness upgrade – always in a hidden area (or purchasable if they are missed) – allowing players to use curios more often and sustain additional damage.

Also available in the hub area are purchasable armor sets which may be equipped for various effects. These armor sets may only be swapped at the hub and include the ability to grind along spikes, avoid instant death from pits and spikes, perform a strong scythe attack, or regenerate darkness. The hub also includes a special tower to challenge skilled players with a lengthy vertical ascent. As Specter Knight recruits other knights, they show up alongside NPC’s in the hub and deliver short quips when speaking with them. A New Game+ mode opens when the game is completed, along with additional platforming challenges, alternate boss encounters, and a music player.

Specter of Torment is an expansion for Shovel Knight by Yacht Club Games. Our full coverage of the game and its expansions may be found here.