So it’s pretty much known now that I do not shut the hell up about Hollow Knight. This game grabbed me by the balls and never let go and I’m completely fine in it doing so. If you wanna know how much I love it you can check out my review here!
Hollow Knight’s story is elevated through great but vague dialogue that leaves a sense of mystery throughout. I think the story is fantastic though it is literally just Dark Souls’ story at times… Okay, most of the time. But either way, I think it’s great.
Now one thing that makes this game’s story one of my favorites is a certain mechanic in this game that I just adore. This mechanic is called the Dream Nail.
Eventually, as you progress through the game you come across a cool ass moth dude who is kind of the last of his kind. He blesses your cute bug ass with a Dream Nail what the Dream Nail does is that you can hit almost any enemy, NPC, or any background NPC of note with it and it will tell you it’s thoughts. And if you’re hitting enemies that can actually hurt you then you also get Soul which is what you use for spells and healing. So it’s both a story mechanic and a gameplay mechanic. Later on, you get further upgrades for it such as the Dream Gate which is another exploration/gameplay mechanic and finally once you meet the requirements you awaken your Dream Nail.
Awakening your Dream Nail is basically a way of saying, “Okay now go get the true ending.”
But the one thing that makes the Dream Nail such an amazing mechanic for me is like I said earlier, the dialogue you get through hitting enemies and other NPC’s etc.
One of the lamest boss fights, in my opinion, is the White Defender who is just a tougher Dream Version of Dung Defender. Now his story is pretty interesting as was part of The Five Great Knights which is one of my favorite tidbits of lore. The only two Knights left alive are Ogrim (The Dung Defender) and Ze’mer (The Grey Mourner)
The rest have died, one of the first bosses in the game is The False Knight which is Hegemol’s armour being taken over by a maggot. You then have Isma who is guarded by Ogrim and only after you’ve beaten him can you go see her body and get Isma’s Tear. And finally, we have Dryya who died defending the White Lady who is the queen of Hallownest from the Traitor Mantis.
Now the reason why I love this bit of lore so much is not only because you get to see these characters and where they tragically end up but because Ogrim is still protecting their honour and constantly thinking about them.
So if you are to Dream Nail The Dung Defender during his fight he say’s these three things:
“…For the honour of the King!..”
“…For the honour of the Five!..”
“…For the honour of Hallownest!”
You get to know that he is still protecting Hallownest however which way he can.
When you catch him sleeping and Dream Nail him for the White Defender boss fight you see him in white armor and with 5 silhouettes in the background. Four of them being the rest of the Knights and the final one being the Pale King. Now that is already some great boss room design but what makes it better is that if you manage to Dream Nail him during the fight a bunch of times you get some dialogue that just hits you right in the feels.
“Hegemol… I miss your humour…”
“Ze’mer… I miss your stories…”
“Dryya… I miss your wisdom…”
“Isma… I miss.. I miss you…”
“Your Majesty… Have faith in me!”
Now when I first saw that this lame-ish boss fight became one of my favourites. Just a small amount of information you get through these thoughts tells you so much about the characters. Hegemol has always been described as someone who towers over everyone and scares people but through other dialogue and this you find out that he’s actually a soft-spoken sweetheart. And it’s sad to see we don’t get to know what happens to him.
And the dialogue about Isma tells us that there could have possibly been some kind of romance between the two or at the very least some special relationship. This is also told to us indirectly because of the fact that Ogrim is guarding Isma’s Grove so actively.
And hell this article is about the Dream Nail but just have a look at the dialogue after you beat him multiple times as well.
“My friends… I will protect our dear Kingdom. Have faith in me!
We will all meet again. I promise it…”
“My King… I believe in you. I believe in Hallownest! My devotion will never falter…”
“My King… Hallownest will be reborn! Glorious and bright! Just as it always was…”
“My King… We will all be together once more…”
“How funny that I see you in my dreams too, little one. Your noble bearing reminds me of our dear King. When he returns, I’ll ask him if you can become a Knight! What jolly adventures we will have…”
Now, ain’t that just the sweetest shit.
But it’s not only the story of The Five Great Knights and Ogrim that is made better with the Dream Nail.
I find the stories of the Three Nailmasters Brothers so compelling due to the Dream Nail as smacking them with it will not only give you a hint on where else to find the others but also just tell you how they feel about each other.
If you Dream Nail the mad lads you get these tidbits of dialogue from each of em:
“My brother, Sheo… how fare you in that green kingdom of thorns you call home? I think of you every time I raise my nail…
Do you ever close your eyes and remember the years we spent together with Oro and our master? I like to think you do…”
“Brother Mato, in your lonely home at the top of the world… do you still think of me as an enemy?
In the future, if you will listen… I will tell you why I chose to tread this path.”
“My brother, Oro… what drove you to hide away deep down at the very edge of that ash swept grave?
Was it pride, or fear, or shame? Perhaps you should lay down your nail if it haunts you so, and find a new calling that eases your soul.”
This stuff really gets to me as it’s just such an effective way to present a sort of open-ended storyline like, why exactly did Oro become so antagonistic towards Mato and so on. It’s just a really neat addition in this already amazing game.
And one of my favorite things regarding the brothers is that they talk about their master The Great Nailsage.
And after learning all three Nail Arts it’s revealed to you that the Nailsage was actually none other than our friendly little shopkeeper Sly
Who if you actually Dream Nail while he’s in the shop has this to say:
“…Wherever you are… Whatever it is you do now… I hope you three are looking after yourselves…”
Now if that isn’t the sweetest thing.
Well, I think that’s enough of me rambling on about this sweet little mechanic and the story and characters of Hollow Knight. This article is mainly for the people who already are at a certain point in the game and hell if you don’t care about spoilers maybe this’ll get you interested in the game. There’s still so many NPC’s, stories, character relationships I haven’t talked about so I highly recommend you check out the game for yourself!
Also a big shout out to the Hollow Knight wiki for being the real MVP during the writing of this article. It’s really the best place you can go if you wanna freshen up on lore tidbits.