The Shovel Knight saga has expanded so much since the base game’s initial launch in 2014. Multiple free updates, as well as additional paid campaigns starring new characters have been added to what has now come to be known as the Treasure Trove, an all-inclusive package that bundles all of the campaigns and updates together. Developer Yacht Club Games is gearing up to put a bow on the Treasure Trove with King of Cards, the final campaign to be included in the saga.
King of Cards shifts the focus to King Knight in a prequel story tell how he traveled the world to defeat the other kings and become the one true ruler. The game contains around 30 new levels that feature a mix of new locales and familiar backdrops. Much like Plague Knight and Specter Knight before him, King Knight has a distinct moveset. King Knight’s most basic move is a shoulder bash that deals damage, but also allows him to propel upwards if he rams into a wall. When that happens, he spins rapidly and can deal damage from above or even bounce off of normally hazardous objects.
In addition to the creatures we’ve seen in past campaigns, King Knight also faces off against new foes along the way. A rat king is is big ball of propeller rats stuck together. Rat kings act more aggressive until you pick them apart one rat at a time to the point that they just become run-of-the-mill propeller rats. There are also bigger versions of iron knights that will attempt to block your progress. To get past these hulking tanks, you need to get a little creative. In the two times we encountered iron knights, we defeated one by shoulder bashing a wall then drilling him with a spin-jump from above, while the second time provided no walls, so we just shoulder bashed him until we sumoed him right into a pit.
The boss fight I witnessed featured King Pridemoor. Yacht Club struggled with how to depict a boss fight with a much smaller and less imposing character like King Pridemoor, so they gave him giant golden armor that pretty much serves as a mech. During the boss fight, Pridemoor summons griffins, jumps and smashes, throws spiked balls, bashes against walls, and even guards against your attacks. As with many games in the genre, learning the boss’ pattern is crucial for success.
If you don’t feel much like adventuring, King of Cards also included a new card game for players to master. A typical game features a 2×2 or 3×3 grid, with players placing their cards with the hopes of covering up the most gems on the board with their cards. Each card has directional arrows on them, which lets you push an opposing card in that way. This adds a layer of strategy as you try and not only push your opponent’s cards off of the table and away from the gems, but also position your cards so that they can remain on the gems until the match is over. The square grids seem challenging enough, but while it isn’t finalized, Yacht Club tells me that they’ve been experimenting with more unique shapes, such as a u-shaped grid. That could certainly add multiple new folds into the mix if the studio can make it fun and not frustrating.
Shovel Knight: King of Cards is shaping up nicely. With new levels, moves, enemies, and even a new card game, King of Cards looks to wrap up the Treasure Trove package in effective and fitting fashion. Shovel Knight: King of Cards launches on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, PS3, Wii U, PC, Mac, Linux, 3DS, Vita, and Amazon FireTV in early 2018.