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Hollow Knight (PC) Review
~By Manhalt (August 2022)
Trailer: Hollow Knight
Hollow Knight is a metroidvania at its core and while it doesn’t do anything new per se for the genre, it perfects a lot of already established gameplay mechanics. I’m personally a little late to this game, but I’ve recently played Metroid Dread, Ori, and the Will of Wisps, and I still think there is reason to play Hollow Knight. I don’t want to necessarily compare the three because I loved them all.
The gameplay is the standard metroidvania mechanics. You have some platforming mixed in with combat. Your main weapon is a nail that you can upgrade through various means including spending geo, which is the in game money. To upgrade it further you need ore. The platforming side includes a dash power, wall jump, and being able to “bounce” off of indestructible enemies and objects with a downward swing. The combination of these three play really well in area and make for some sweaty palms sections. An example below:
At first, I found myself struggling with the wall jump mechanic because it felt that the controls were off and it took some time to accumulate. I think this is more of a personal opinion, but I’m not a fan of the character sticking to a wall without user input. In Hollow Knight, Knight sticks to the wall you hit without directional input so when you jump off the wall, you push away, but I would always keep my thumb against the direction of the wall. This would cause Knight to jump a way from the wall and start facing that same wall direction before I changed the direction. This is such a small complaint against a great game, but for some reason this detail bothered me and it “felt” wrong.
Knight also has some attack spells for range combat besides the melee attack. It allows some moves to be charged for a soul blast. You fill your souls by killing enemies and your magic consumes souls that allow for ranged attacks or for you to gain health. I’m a fan of this mechanic because it allows you to manage your own play style and to decide in close moments if you want to try to heal real quick or go for the killing blow. You will be in this spot multiple times through your play and I feel like it is perfectly balanced.
The Knight also gains charms throughout the game and depending on which charms you equip, you get different bonuses. It allows you to customize and focus on different strategies for bosses. I personally found myself favoring the nail charms for example, longer range to attack and more damage, but there are enough charms to have several different play styles. You gain notches as you play which will allow you to equip more charms.
Gameplay Grade: A+
The gameplay really shines throughout this game non stop. It is obvious that a lot of thought went into how to play this game and all the styles of play available to the player. The gameplay really excels and masters a lot of what metroidvania’s did in the past. I would say that it doesn’t innovate the genre though. It doesn’t add something to the genre that hasn’t been done before. I don’t mind though, because it masters everything else.
There are a lot of 2d metroidvanias in the market so how do you distinguish yourself visually? I think the artists of Hollow Knight asked themselves that question and had the perfect answer. The art in the game brings to life a world of insects from the background environments, npcs, and bosses. The different sections of the game have their own feel to them and you can instantly know where you are by the backgrounds themselves. The areas that lead to new areas also have key arts to suggest to the player, you are about to enter into a different area. Those kinds of touches show great thought and care went into the background art and appreciated every scene.
Boss designs also felt like they were designed with the purpose to inform the player what kind of attacks you should expect when you first encounter them. That didn’t stop the designs themselves from having a unique feel to them either.
Visual Grade: A
This game has one of the best soundtracks and I continue listening to it even after completing the game. The soundtracks all fit the areas where they belong and well as endearing music while you fight bosses. I particularly enjoyed the Dung Beetles boss theme while fighting him. The character itself, the music, and the background just all fit well together and was probably one of my favorite boss fights.
I see myself listening to this soundtrack while working like I do with any of the Final Fantasy soundtracks. That is how memorable some of the tracks are in this game.
Music Grade: A+
The way the story is structured reminds me a lot of Dark Souls, but maybe a little bit more upfront. The story is woven in several different ways, the npcs, the interactive elements, and the art. At the start, you arrive at Dirtmouth, a small town that is above Hollownest. You learn that Hollownest was once a thriving kingdom but has since fallen into ruin by an infection. It drove the citizens of the Hollownest mad and now are your enemies. The King of Hollownest tried to seal the infection away in a Black Egg but it still managed to escape and infect the kingdom.
The overall goal is to unlock the black egg by finding the three Dreamers who keep the black egg sealed and defeat them so you can go into the black egg to remove the infection yourself. Hollownest itself is rather large and there is a lot to do and the story takes that into consideration with several different possible endings. The ending depends on what the character accomplished in the world before entering and fighting the last boss in the black egg. Some of these objectives were rather obscure and I needed to google what exactly I missed to receive the “good” ending. The story really sets the player up for some great exploration and world building using everything the game has at its disposal. I really enjoyed reading dialogue or descriptions to flesh out the world before me even though some of it felt a little too obscure to understand what to do next.