One Knight, Two Knight, Three Knight, Four Knight…

One of the greater questions posed by Shovel Knight is, how far can you truly go with a Shovel as your trusted weapon? Putting aside game mechanics and a simple item animation swap, the shovel is what keeps this fantasy world from collapsing. The thought of a knight in shiny metal armor rescuing a fair maiden […]

One of the greater questions posed by Shovel Knight is, how far can you truly go with a Shovel as your trusted weapon? Putting aside game mechanics and a simple item animation swap, the shovel is what keeps this fantasy world from collapsing. The thought of a knight in shiny metal armor rescuing a fair maiden is a commonly reused medieval trope. This game challenges this trope by really pushing a duo rather than woman needing assistance. What is more interesting is that we never see Shovel Knight’s true identity, his armor is dull and not in a shiny metallic color and he is not revered by mostly everyone. He is just a common warrior with a shovel looking for his love interest.

Spoilers

Spoilers

When Shield Knight is finally revealed she comes to the aid of Shovel Knight. The battle with The Enchantress requires synchronization with Shield Knight’s attack pattern which is not as easy as it seemed. Shield Knight turns out to not be a damsel in distress but rather a lost comrade who is really powerful and ends up saving Shovel Knight? (the ending is rather confusing).

This fantasy world is heavily built on medievalism. The Village and the various domains that are inhabited by the Order of No Quarter are all created with bricks and straw and even the mechanical “Clockwork Tower” is perfect for the technology of that time. Actually, flying ships and large robots are not technology of the medieval era, but combined with potions, dragons and magic they are all part of medieval fantasy. Ursula LeGuin writes fantasy is “a game played for very high stakes…an alternative technique for apprehending and coping with existence… surrealistic…a heightening of reality…nearer to mysticism…and those who go there should not feel too safe.” [1] The amount of deaths that were tallied up in the gameplay were high due to the uniqueness of the game’s enemies and mechanics. The constant use of ominous sequences, mystic and dreamy environments, and key soundtrack, ultimately secured the rare quality of reimagining the medieval fantasy world.  

1. David M. Sandner, Fantastic Literature: A Critical Reader (Praeger: Santa Barbara, 2004), 145.

The Anti First-Person Shooter

When playing Portal, the most interesting aspect to me was Portal’s status as a first-person shooter game. As a first-person shooter, Portal, therefore, is a game that belongs in a category with fellow shooters such as Call of Duty, Halo, and any game featuring James Bond. However, my experience playing Portal was vastly different than … Continue reading “The Anti First-Person Shooter”

When playing Portal, the most interesting aspect to me was Portal’s status as a first-person shooter game. As a first-person shooter, Portal, therefore, is a game that belongs in a category with fellow shooters such as Call of Duty, Halo, and any game featuring James Bond. However, my experience playing Portal was vastly different than my experience playing these games.

The majority of first-person shooters are action games. The player controls the main character as they battle his/her way through numerous enemies armed with various guns. Throughout the game, the player tries to shoot the majority of the non-player characters (NPCs) before they shoot the protagonist. The game boils down to a test of the player’s reaction time—can you pull the trigger/press the button before the NPCs?

Portal takes this trope and flips it on its head. For starters, the “weapon” that Chell—the main character—is armed with, the Aperture Portal Gun is not even a true weapon. The portal gun does not fire bullets or ammunition, but instead fires non-damaging portals at walls. In a battle, this gun would be worthless, except as a means of escape.

In Portal, Chell uses her gun to create portals rather than kill enemies.
In Portal, Chell uses her gun to create portals rather than kill enemies.

Firing portals is useful to Chell, however, as in this game she is not truly battling. Yes, Chell does take damage periodically from robots controlled by the antagonist GLaDOS, and she does battle GLaDOS at the end of the game, but this “battling” is more about avoidance and relocation than combat. In another break away from the genre, Portal is less of an action game and more of a puzzle game. Instead of trying to shoot first, Portal encourages the player to think strategically. The game is about finding your way out of a predicament rather than simply battling through it. While many first-person shooters are about destroying, Portal is more about creating. The player must use their weapon to create a solution to their problem, as opposed to most first-person shooters which require their players to destroy their problem.