Hollow Knight is a beautiful game that takes the ideas put in place in the Dark Souls series and places them in a Metroidvania style world.
The game follows the story of a ‘Hollow Knight’ as he explores through a a world inhabited by bugs where something terrible ahs happened and very few living creatures remain.
The world itself is a beautiful array of colours and sounds, all used in different ways depending on the area you are in. Each area is able to feel uniquely different to the others while still being connected together in a rich tapestry of cities, caverns, caves, hollows and lakes. All with secrets tucked in the corners that provide clues as to what has caused the world to be this way.
Some game worlds tell a story through emptiness well, the souls series comes to mind directly, but one could also see ‘Shadow of the Colossus’ as another game where the world is as important to the story telling as anything else. The way the world is designed feels like a loving homage to Dark Souls one in my opinion, from the different styles of different areas, to the way they are interwoven to fit together. The opening of shortcuts that help you get from one rest area to another quicker and easier once it is unlocked does seem directly pulled from DS1, and the learning of this world like a real-life location fits here too. Depending on my location I can not need to use the map to find my way from one area across the map to another, just like in DS1 where you learnt the routes between areas that kept you safe the most.
Fun methods help the world feel connected and alive too, no more so than the wonderful deserted City of Tears, named such due to the always falling water like rain from the cave ceiling. A nice and beautiful area made even more stunning when you climb above the city and find the Blue Lake sat geographically above it. It is from here the water is seeping through the rock and falling on the city. It has reason and method to its connectivity that as mentioned helps the different areas feel connected in a real way.
Again, similar to DS1 is the way that other characters in the game move around depending on if you have met them in locations or not. The shopkeepers can set up shop above ground once rescued from down below. The map maker moves on once you have bought each map from him leaving a note behind apologising for missing you. Some NPC’s move between areas and you stumble across them looking forward to their pieces of dialogue they give you that provide clues to their motivations, are they friend? Foe? Or just another lonely wanderer.
In terms of gameplay, the biggest link to the Souls series is the mechanic of recovering your money (geo) after a death by returning to where you died. However, in Hollow Knight they changed this up a bit by introducing a shade of yourself that must be killed each time to recover your geo, the shade can and does attack you. This adds an extra difficulty to an area where you died as you now have an extra enemy to defeat no matter if you want your money back or not. This is a super addition to gameplay made even better by its own haunting music that begins when you get close to your shade. My only complaint is it can make a few boss fights exceedingly difficult if on top of the agile boss you also must fight your floating shade. Fortunately, this is only in a few cases as most boss arenas can be partially walked into and your shade baited so you can defeat it before the boss, just beware losing health after your run to the boss when fighting your shade.
Customisation exists in the use of ‘charms’, these items are perks that change the way you can play however at first you can only carry so many at a time and more powerful charms have a higher cost meaning the more powerful your charms the less of them you can use at a time. They range from extending your weapon range, increasing your ‘soul’ collection (the games version of Estus, recharged by getting hits in on enemies, but also can be used to cast spells), lowering the cost of spells and even launching tentacles of thorns from your body when hit by an enemy. These change your play style through the game. In my case I had exploration charms on such as a compass and flies that pick-up geo for me when I am exploring, but when fighting a boss, I change my charms to add extra defence or damage to my character. This dynamic mechanic helps to create your own stories within the game and many charms can only be found, not bought meaning you have to seek them out or find them by luck. One player may never find the charm that provides poison resist and therefore find one area increasingly more difficult than another all through organic gameplay and exploration again similar to Dark Souls.
The boss battles are a joy to encounter and while difficult, allow enjoyment through the discovery of attack patterns and weaknesses. If you enjoy the souls series take on bosses, then you will enjoy the bosses in Hollow Knight. Some are incredibly infuriatingly hard, and others telegraph attacks a lot allowing for easy victory. Despite this once beaten the feeling of accomplishment never diminishes. There are some optional bosses as well for those wanting a further challenge, one in particular had me abandon it vowing to come back later when I had gained more health and upgraded my nail (Hollow Knights main weapon).
The game is available on PC and Mac although I have been playing it on Nintendo Switch. While this lack achievements (a great way to show off what you have accomplished) I do think this is one of the best ways to play Hollow Knight. The ability to do a bit of exploration on the go with handheld mode and then return home and dock my switch allowing me to enjoy the diverse beautiful colours even more so in Full HD has been a wonderful gaming experience.
I have not yet completed Hollow Knights main story but look forward to continuing through it, while also excited to play through he 3 different DLC’s available with a fourth DLC due for release on August 23rd. The best part here is that all DLC is free and available as free updates to the game, no further purchases necessary. This is on top of the collecting options available if you feel so inclined to complete all aspects of the game. Collect all charms or save all the hidden Grubs if you want to extend your Hollow Knight experience further.
I truly think Hollow Knight is a special game and one that any lover of Dark Souls or Bloodborne should definitely try, especially for those like myself waiting for Dark Souls Remastered to release on Switch for your Souls on the go experience.
Edit- Now I’ve played a bit more and replayed some Dark Souls, Hollow Knight has demonstrated a true wonder in its own regard. In no way should this discussion sound like Hollow Knight is a Dark Souls copy, but instead a wonderful game based around implementing the same ideas that made the Gameplay of the souls series so enjoyable into a new and unique 2D world.
Have you played Hollow Knight or Dark Souls, what are your thoughts on them?, get in touch and let me know on Twitter, Facebook, e-mail or let me know in the comments below. 🙂
Thanks for reading.