Hollow Knight is one of those games that I have always been meaning to get to, described to me as a mix of “Metroidvania with a splash of Dark Souls” it was always something I knew I needed to pick up and now that I have played it – I can confirm that description sums it up perfectly.
When the version for the Nintendo Switch was announced I knew it was finally time to begin my journey, So when I finally got my hands on it, my expectations were high as I hoped to be absolutely blown away due to all the reviews I had read and after sinking 35+ hours into the game (I am far from stopping) it has become clear to me that my expectations for the game were dead on.
You start the game off as the cute little dude (pictured below) who simply goes by the moniker of: The Knight. You are a vessel to seal some ancient evil kinda deal and that’s all I’m gonna tell ya!
It’s your job as the player to uncover what’s been going on. I’m not gonna lie the story is a little confusing but I sincerely love it for that, it’s with this vague storytelling, lore and characters told through the visual storytelling that the Dark Souls inspiration really shines through, in fact I felt even more compelled to discover everything about this world than I did with even the Soulsborne series themselves and lord knows how much I love my Dark Souls Lore.
When it comes to gameplay in Hollow Knight the player is treated with some fluid and simple combat. All the player needs to do is swing The Knights little needle sword around to kill enemies, collect money and explore. You are given a Soul gauge that fills up whenever you attack an enemy which is used for The Knights multiple powers with the main one being the ability to focus your own Soul and heal up. This mechanic is really interesting because it encourages different play styles for the different types of player, for example: I for one, play very aggressively in the initial instance before I need to heal, But that’s not gonna fly in some situations and boss fights so the gameplay makes it so the player really needs to up play styles the deeper you get into the game.
“But Salman, What’s the best way to change things up?” I hear you cry! The best way to do this is with Charms.
Charms are Hollow Knight little power-ups that you can stack onto each other to give you some special effects (think Runes from Bloodborne for example) such as having a kind of horrible stench that follows you and damages the enemies, Or one that actually tells you where you are on the games often confusing map. Each charm takes up a notch slot though (like Runes) so you better choose carefully as you can only change them in the games minimal rest areas and as there are a ton of charms with a whole bunch of unique properties, Hollow Knight forces the player to experiment to their hearts desire in order to get past the next troublesome boss.
Alongside all of this Dark Souls-esque stuff, the real Metroidvania feeling comes when you are figuring out where to go next and more importantly: how to get there. The game puts the special new power-ups at every important point which will allow you to open up a new area and rinse and repeat. It’s simple, it’s effective and it’s fun. You get stuff that helps your overall platforming or some kind of unique story item but all of them are used often. Later in the game, you are treated to some really challenging and fun platforming areas as well. (Which I’m always a fan of).
Every single skill you utilize in Hollow Knight is put to the test with some amazing boss fights which can vary from: platforming heavy, timing based, or just straight up intense combat one on ones. Either way, they are not a walk in the park.
Hollow Knight (particularly the boss fights) is accompanied by some of the most beautiful music I’ve ever heard. With such a wide variety of music, I found that it would go from really cheery and fun exploration type music to melancholic and downright sad string and piano arrangements whenever the situation deemed it necessary. The use of music in Hollow Knight is key and becomes a real standout point for the whole experience.
The visuals of the game are also something to behold. Whilst the hand-drawn animations are not as fluid as something such as Cuphead, it makes up for it with stunning background visuals and character design with the use of colours that are somewhat dreamlike. Some of the games few set piece moments elevate the experience to another level with the use of the music and visuals.
As I side note I also consider Hollow Knight to be one of those games that I consider podcast or show binging games as I can easily just pop a show on in the background and still pay like 50% of my attention to the game. So I watched the entirety of The Office (US) as I played this game and I had an absolute blast. Time well spent I’d say.
I don’t consider this game perfect but it’s pretty damn near it. And I’ve started to rate a lot of games based off of how much I’ve enjoyed them overall while still trying to be fair with overall game design and all that so that being said:
I give Hollow Knight (and The Office) a 10/10