Yacht Club Games’ Shovel Knight is the poster boy for overpromising in one’s Kickstarter campaign. Due to Yacht Club’s exuberance, they were left on the hook to produce three free DLC campaigns for the game, of which number Specter of Torment is the second. Indeed, it’s mostly free: all owners of Shovel Knight get Specter of Torment at no additional charge, though the price has increased for those who don’t already own it.
What should one expect from a free DLC campaign? Yacht Club, to its credit, is not phoning this in; Specter of Torment features ten entirely new levels, completely new play mechanics, boss fights that have changed in substantial (and sometimes surprising) ways, and an all-new tale of shovelry. Unlike Plague of Shadows, which was set contemporaneously with the original game, Specter of Torment is a prequel, telling the tale of how Specter Knight came to serve the Enchantress, and why he recruited the Order of No Quarter. There is a rather darker tone to the story this time around, full of melancholy and angst and all those other things you kids like, but not so dreary and lifeless as it could be. The main storyline is pretty bleak, but the supporting cast is still colorful and fun, and the incidental dialogue is lively. Worth noting is that Specter of Torment is not a good jumping-off point into the world of Shovel Knight; it definitely assumes that the player is familiar with the characters and events of the original game, and isn’t going to make much sense otherwise.