JC Reviews HollowKnight!

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Jenna Claire Armstrong

Hollow Knight is an indie game released by Team Cherry Studios in 2017. With over 3 million copies sold in December 2020, it has shown to be a big hit by Team Cherry. Hollow Knight is a metroidvania and has all the exploring that entails. Does Hollow Knight deserve all the praise it has gotten? Well yes; but I’m going to explain why!

 

Story

In Hollow Knight, players explore the fallen kingdom of Hollownest. Once a great underground kingdom, it has fallen into ruin due to an illness that caused the bugs living inside to become murderous. Oh yeah, Hollow Knight is a world of bugs such as dung beetles and spiders. So someone with entomophobia might not be a fan of this world of creepy-crawlies.

 

The story of Hollow Knight could best be described as ambiguous. The main things are told to you directly but the rest of it you need to find yourself from exploring. The story is also told in the environments and fans have even managed to translate the language of Hollownest. There are few NPCs to interact with and only one main town, the others having fallen long ago. This is a game that shows and doesn’t tell much.

 

Overall, there is a story and lore here but it’s not the reason why you should play this game. It is told with visual clues and inference which trusts the player to figure it out themselves. However, you do learn enough to know what you need to do and why you’re doing it. Hollownest itself also has a good atmosphere and it feels like a place with a rich history. It’s sad in a way just how far it’s fallen with its broken tram system and homes overtaken with infected bugs.

 

Art Style

Even though it’s a ruin, Hollownest is still a beautiful place. It is a 2-d style with most of the color being in the gorgeous background. The world of Hollownest has many places to explore and each one looks unique. From the overgrown fauna of Greenpath to the shimmering crystals in the mines of Crystal Peaks– each place has a unique look. Despite all the characters being bugs they also can look cute. However they can also look terrifying if they’re a particularly threatening boss. The art style is good at making each place feel unique so that you always know which area you are in.

 

Gameplay

Hollow Knight is a metroidvania, which is a type of game focused on exploration, combat, and upgrading your abilities by exploring. Since it’s focused on exploring, the world of Hollownest is massive with thirteen areas in the map to explore. Each area has bosses and hidden paths to explore in order to get weapon upgrades and geo, the currency used in Hollow Knight. Hollownest is packed with things to do and places to explore, such as The Colosseum of Fools, where you can fight many enemies for rewards. However, there can be quite a bit of backtracking to areas even if the fast travel does help with this.

 

The Knight fights by swinging a nail, which is essentially a short sword. The nail can be upgraded four times and new attacks can be unlocked for it such as Great Slash, which is done by holding down the attack button and then releasing with a powerful strike. The Knight also has health in the form of masks and more masks can be unlocked. The Knight can restore health and use magic by soul and you can get soul back by hitting enemies. The amount of Soul you have can also be increased by upgrades as can the spells you unlock. The Knight also unlocked basic abilities for expiration, such as a wall jump. The combat is smooth and easy to do, even if the range on the nail starts a bit short. 

 

The most unique thing about Hollow Knight is the charms system. The Knight can find many unique charms with different designs and effects, such as giving more soul per hit. Charms can be equipped on a bench and each one takes up a certain amount of charm notches. Some charms take up only one notch and some take up three! The player must carefully balance how many charms you have and which ones you use. Do you want to have extra health? Or maybe you want stronger physical attacks? Or you’d rather focus on magic? Each player will have a different set of charms they use based on playstyle which leads to all playthroughs being different depending on charms used. This adds uniqueness to each playthrough and gives players more incentive to explore in order to find more charms.

 

Bosses

Hollow Knight’s most well known feature is it’s many unique bosses, each at varying levels of difficulty. There are thirty five total bosses and twelve bosses that are harder variations of other bosses. Each boss is a decent challenge along with unique music for each one.

 

One of the most popular bosses is The Mantis Lords. The Mantis Lords are the leaders of a tribe of mantises, a tribe that highly values strength and isolation. There are three lords and when you fight them at first only one is attacking you. At first only one lord is attacking you but when you defeat that one something surprising happens. The last two attack you at the same time! However, all three use the same attack pattern so the battle is only more difficult when there are two of them. That means that it’s testing your memorization and it isn’t unfair since you already know the attack patterns. After the battle is over you get a great reward, access to a whole new area and the mantises of the tribe now bw to you out of respect instead of attacking you.

 

This is how many of the bosses work and why they’re so memorable. All of them have a reason to be where they are and the main test of most of them is figuring out attack patterns. The bosses help build the world around them, along with being a fun challenge! Each boss is also uniquely designed so that they look more intimidating and unique from regular enemies.

 

Overall, the bosses of Hollow Knight are fun and challenging, along with being fair. While it’s unlikely you’ll like all of them, there are enough that everyone has a favorite! I’m a fan of Soul Master myself.

 

Extras

There are four expansions to Hollow Knight which adds an almost overwhelming amount of things to do! Even better, they’re all free!

 

The first expansion was released on August 3rd, 2017 and is called Hidden Dreams. It added two new bosses along with a new method of fast travel called Dreamgating. 

 

The second expansion was released on October 26th, 2017 and is called The Grimm Troupe. It added a whole new side quest with many new characters with the most memorable one being the new boss, Headmaster Grimm. Headmaster Grimm is considered to be a very good boss and a good addition to the foes that can be fought.

 

The third expansion was released on April 20, 2018 and is called Lifeblood. It focused mainly on optimization of the game and adding small new features, such as the ability to add your own markers to your map.

 

The final expansion was released on August 23, 2018 and was called Godmaster. It added a new area for a boss rush challenge, where players could challenge multiple bosses at a time and fight harder versions of them.

 

All of these expansions are free and improve the game in some way. Whether it be new bosses or a new area, each one adds even more to do! At times Hollow Knight can feel a bit too overwhelming with all you can do which is why I recommend just going after what you want to do at your own pace!

 

Conclusion

Overall, Hollow Knight is a great game with its easy to pick up combat, beautiful world, and having hours of content. There’s nothing quite like going into a new area and just taking in the wonder of it. The bosses are challenging but fair and have memorable designs and attacks. Even though you have to backtrack and sometimes it can feel like there’s too much to do, these are minor issues that are very overshadowed by all the other fantastic things about Hollow Knight. So, feel free to dive into Hollownest and explore every nook and cranny. Just watch out for the spiders!