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Shovel Knight: The Enchantress | Boss Design

Shovel Knight: The Enchantress | Boss Design
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As Shovel Knight’s journey comes to a close, the Tower of Fate and its Enchantress is the final obstacle between Shovel Knight and his beloved Shield Knight. So let’s take a look at The Enchantress and see if this last showdown made the journey worthwhile.

The first noteworthy point is the stage itself. It’s a 25×4 stage of destructible blocks, meaning Shovel Knight himself can destroy them. The player has to cancel downward shoveling before they hit the blocks. The stage leading up to The Enchantress contains two instances of this to familiarize the player with the concept before the boss fight. This is a great example of introducing or pushing boss mechanics or concepts beforehand.

The Stage’s Growth And Decay

The Enchantress’ boss battle is built around the concept of “Destroy and Rebuild”. Focusing on this one concept, the boss becomes not only a hazard within itself, but an environmental hazard as well. The Enchantress is challenging because positioning matters. If you fall or get knocked into the abyss below, it’s over.

The Stage’s Growth: Rebuilding

The game makes sure that the player is never without footing by being generous with its Rebuilding. To counter the possible easy difficulty that could stem from this generosity, the Rebuilding also doubles as an attack. The fact that this purple fire not only Rebuilds but also acts as an obstacle is the most ingenious mechanic of this boss.

If the Rebuilding is in a square or rectangle formation: the player can align it since it will follow the player, it’s active duration is long enough to jump straight up to avoid, and its size can range from 4×4 to 12×4. The Rebuilding can also come up in sporadic columns or just sporadically.

The Stage’s Decay: Destroying

The Enchantress’ only Destroying attack is her Purple Fireball. When she throws them upward, she throws four whilst moving. When she throws them downward, she throws three while fixed in place. It is possible for her to throw four downward whilst moving, but this is a rare occurrence for when she’s crazily floating around. I suspect that the upward attack differs (besides for variety reasons) because the player has enough time to dodge as the Purple Fireballs have to travel through the blocks before reaching the player. Since the downward attack doesn’t have the blocks to travel through, she stays fixed in place instead.

The Enchantress can throw Purple Fireballs diagonally as well, but only when she decides to fly around like a madman. As per my struggles (shown above), her propensity to fly around and annihilate you isn’t easy to deal with, and I would argue it was more frustrating than difficult at times. Even so, her diagonal Purple Fireball is the most fair out of all three simply because it doesn’t open the chasm directly below.

Horizontal Purple Fireballs And Zig-Zagging Women

The Enchantress uses her Purple Fireballs in an additional way, and that is to attack horizontally. Every match starts with some combination of two patterns:

The first pattern throws a simple, staggered pattern at the player that requires timing and ends up being rewarding. The game could have mixed it up throughout the boss fight, but instead the second pattern is inherently broken.

The second pattern throws two sets of three Purple Fireballs. They’re so close together that the game ultimately decides whether the player succeeds or fails in hitting them back. The player cannot downward shovel these, so jumping over them is not a safe option. The second pattern shown above contains eight clips showcasing this inconsistency.

The Enchantress’ other attack that does not affect the stage is her Zig-Zag. She Zig-Zags exactly five times per occurrence. If there’s enough room, the Zig-Zag will alternate directions; otherwise, her angle slightly changes (as shown above where I falsely predict her movement). Zig-Zagging is the only move that transitions her from above to below the stage and vice versa, which is why she Zig-Zags an odd number of times. It’s a weird animation to watch, but it ends up serving as a transitionary attack where the Enchantress has a clear pattern and the player can safely predict and get a hit or two in.

The Verdict

The horizontal Purple Fireballs could have been used in a more rewarding way by removing the second pattern and adding one or two more. The Zig-Zagging is alright but a second method of transitioning from above to below the stage and vice versa would have made transitioning less monotonous. A second transition could also have provided alternate follow-ups, such as integrating horizontal Purple Fireballs.

Despite this, The Enchantress manages to be an engaging fight whilst using only a few types of attacks in a variety of ways. Rebuilding was an especially refreshing and well-implemented mechanic that provided a dynamic stage to fight upon.

Being built around the “Destroy and Rebuild” concept, The Enchantress is a worthy opponent where the ground you stand upon feels like an ever-looming threat that changes underneath your very feet.

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