Aimed at gamers who have yet to embark on the journey through the game’s world, Hallownest. It has been nearly three years since Hollow Knight’s release. Although it is an indie title that has aged, it still feels fluid and impressive to compete with games of 2020. The game is a diamond in the rough among the many metroidvania releases. Throughout this article, I will list the 5 reasons why you should play Hollow Knight, demonstrating why gamers looking for something new can enjoy the game’s insect-infested caverns in 2020. Spoilers will be avoided where possible. It is an indie game produced by the small but talented Team Cherry and is available on Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4, Xbox One, and PC on Steam.
Hollow Knight is not just any metroidvania 2D platformer; it is a piece of art. The game is set in a grim underworld of dangerous, humorous and strange insect characters. Team Cherry have impressively merged various elements of story, art style, combat, balance, progression systems, and environments. I have yet to encounter a single bug… technical bugs that is!
This is one of the most unique feeling games I have encountered, and it is personally one of the best games I have played in years. I actually put off this game for years thinking to myself “Huh. Neat art style, but the gameplay will be basic”. Oh, I was very wrong, and my only regret about playing through Hollow Knight is that I didn’t do it earlier! Nothing can really compare to Hollow Knight’s art style. Its gameplay, although similar to many metroidvania, feels more fluid and precise. I don’t particularly enjoy metroidvania or platformer games, however this title plays different, like a hack and slash adventure.
Hollow Knight manages to strike the balance of casual/veteran-friendly difficulty that many games lack. The game presents challenge in a perfect balance of various jumping puzzles, enemies, punishing roguelike death mechanics as well as checkpoints. Powerful unique bosses drive the player to learn how to tackle each battle effectively. For the most formidable completionist, Steel Soul mode is an end game mode with permadeath. The death mechanic is similar to Dark Souls, but with a twist in that if you die, you have to hunt down your deathpoint and slay your shadow to get your geo (currency) back.
The game is not just challenging in the aspects of jumping, climbing, dodging and fighting, but also in navigation. Players must navigate their way through twisted caverns and trap-filled pits. Navigation is not for everyone, however in Hollow Knight, it does deliver an adrenaline-filled experience when weighing up paths. One wrong turn could lead to death since the map develops as the game progresses, often traveling mapless and blind to what lies ahead. The excitement within Hollow Knight is most felt when you are absolutely lost.
Hollow Knight’s progression system has a level of freedom where players can tackle bosses and new zones without sequential order. Locations can be reached via multiple paths, providing a feeling of non-linear freedom through the interweaving world. Areas can always be returned to when new gear is found and stats enhanced. The level of difficulty is familiar to Dark Souls in the aspect of learning patterns and adapting to various enemies. A good sense of challenge is what makes and breaks a game and gives you those “Wow, I finally did it!?” moments of achievement and that is exactly what players will find throughout Hollow Knight. However, it does come with a challenge of patience when exploring, as Hallownest is vast, which may deter some gamers looking for constant action.
The major draw to the world is felt within the first hour of gameplay, which is the level of immersion. The player’s actions drive the story and have influence on the world of Hallownest. Each area feels completely different to traverse and explore. The map is gigantic and the music in each zone is produced by musician Christopher Larkin. The music is beautifully orchestrated and gives each zone auditory character.
Each zone is distinct by new enemies, music, traps and layouts with previous explored zones changing as the story progresses. Hollow Knight’s metroidvania-esque approach excludes the usual pixel art style. The artstyle feels more immersive and distinct due to the lack of pixelation. The style of Hollow Knight is dark, creepy and desolate, although contrarily always feels lively.
The various characters and dialogues are humorous, creepy, rude, mysterious and full of character that ensures the world does not feel barren, even in the darkest and most dangerous depths. Each enemy is uniquely different, having barely any issue of reskins or similar movesets, so each new combatant has surprises. It is not obvious at first what the story is about until players start searching. There is not a significant push to learn the story until the player begins decoding the cryptic messages presented around Hallownest.
Hollow Knight has distinct progression through certain zones, abilities, charms, and stats being unlocked or improved. Hollow Knight allows your character to grow more powerful through new abilities such as double jumps or dashing. New abilities provide access to new obstacles, zones and improved fluidity of travel. There are many charms to find with buffs and passives, such as extending weapon range or powerful magical abilities. You can also grow your mask count (health) and soul (mana). Accounting for all of the elements of character enhancement leads to a sense of having more impact on Hallownest and stronger capabilities to take down bosses.
The freedom to play different styles of builds through combinations of charms leads to different play styles and can roughly translate to mage, warrior or tank. Despite gear needed to progress to some areas, there is freedom to take on new areas and bosses in different order and pace. Because of the freedom in progression, Hollow Knight can appeal to completionist and casual gamers.
Whilst looking for new areas, gear and adventures, the progression system feels fine tuned. The weapon system, which only holds a single weapon known as a nail, is very basic at first glance. However, the nail is very interesting in how the developers have implemented the weapon and its mastery. You can upgrade and extend the reach of your nail leading to faster, stronger combat, however the real technique of the nail is learning new nail arts (attack moves). There is also the technique the community has referred to as “pogo-ing” characterized by bouncing on objects through downward nail strikes. Once learned, it certainly improves your combat prowess and offensive/defensive capabilities.
The late game is also bolstered by an additional four free DLC’s that Team Cherry has added over time. The free DLC includes God Master, Lifeblood, The Grimm Troupe and Hidden Dreams.
The most important reason to play Hollow Knight is so that you’re ready to play the sequel! Hollow Knight: Silksong is the next title in the works. The protagonist is Hornet, using a needle and thread with acrobatic style of movement. The game features a new kingdom that looks incredible, although more colourful and serene than the desolate feel of the original, which is a great contrast. Hollow Knight: Silksong boasts over 150 new enemies to learn and battle! The epic music by Christopher Larkin is also making its return. The sequel looks very ambitious and ought to be great if the developers include what Hollow Knight did right. The release date is currently unknown, however we can look forward to it sometime in-between 2020 and 2021.
There appears to be a large community eagerly waiting for Silksong‘s release. This hype can only be understood once you have tried the legendary Hollow Knight. Check out the trailer below.
Overall, an incredibly well polished title that you may have missed! If these reasons to play Hollow Knight have not convinced you, be sure to check out our Hollow Knight review.