Friday, March 13, 2015

3RM @ PAX East 2015: Shovel Knight: Plague of Shadows (Yacht Club Games)

Over the last two trips to PAX East, Yacht Club Games has shown us the developing adventure of shovelry, Shovel Knight, and this PAX East, we got to try out a new take at the game, this time with a dash of mischievous alchemy.  We got to chat with Sean Velasco, Captain at Yacht Club Games, about this new adventure and Shovel Knight’s exploration onto Sony and Microsoft platforms.


Check our impressions after the bump:

Shovel Knight: Plague of Shadows is the first of three free DLC campaigns being created as a result of stretch goals during Shovel Knight’s Kickstarter campaign back in 2013.  In this campaign, players control Plague Knight, one of the Knights of the Order of No Quarter.  He has a desire to create the greatest potion ever, but to do so, he needs special essences from each of his comrades.  This leads to quite a stir, no doubt, and despite the darker tone, there is always love to be found…

The demo at PAX East contained only a small snippet of the gameplay expected in Plague of Shadows.  As Plague Knight, players trade a shovel in for explosive potions.  From the ground, these potions are tossed forward, but in the air, Plague Knight stays in the air while tossing potions in a angled toss.  While he cannot jump nearly as high as Shovel Knight, he does have a double-jump as well as an explosive launch ability.  It took some getting used to this explosive jump, but once it became more ingrained, I was able to make large leaps across the stage lickity-split.  If anything, Plague Knight’s abilities make for a great speedrun.

Sean Velasco said that Plague Knight’s abilities progress differently than Shovel Knight.  Whereas Shovel Knight goes to towns and purchases relics and upgrades from townspeople, Plague Knight is banned from the towns and has to improvise.  Every block and enemy defeated leave behind a number of items which, via Plague Knight’s alchemy, creates special upgrade potions to beef him up.  The trade-off, however, is that upon dying, these potions’ effects wear off.  With that, death has a potentially larger influence on players this time around.

There was only one level playable at the show, the intro stage which we know and love.  There were a few small changes to the level itself, mostly tied around Plague Knight’s abilities overriding Shovel Knight’s.  I would not expect too many major changes to this stage, but we can expect more changes to level layouts as the quest continues onward.  Besides the multiple alchemy items to collect, the stage contained 25 green coins to collect.  Other than for High Scores, there was no immediate benefit for collecting the coins at the demo, but there is a chance these will be more effective in the final product.

It took some time getting used to Plague Knight’s movement.  Attacking felt a little more methodical, as I had to ensure the attacks would connect while also not getting hit, myself.  The sleeping dragons, for instance, could not be defeated by using a down-attack, as Plague Knight lacks any physical attacks such as a down thrust.  As more abilities are learned, I suspect that weakness will not be as big a problem, but those who were massive players of Shovel Knight will need to do some retooling to get it right.

Other than those changes, the game remained the same. Sprites were the same, save for a slightly-redesigned Plague Knight as a Player Character, and the music was as good as always.  The adventure will have a number more elements added, but we will have to wait until Q2 2015 to find out what those are.

Shovel Knight’s PlayStation and Xbox One versions are expected for release late April, and Plague of Shadows will release afterward on all available platforms.

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