Hollow Knight Review – Written by Jose Vega
Purchased product for the sake of review.
Last February, a little game called Hollow Knight was released on Steam to critical acclaim. It actually started as a Kickstarter campaign that raised $57,000 AUD (or $42,054 US) in 2014 and took three years to develop. Team Cherry Games would also announce that the game would come to the Nintendo Switch. After a year of waiting, it came to Nintendo’s new console complete with all the expansions that were released as well as whatever yet to come. Now that it has reached the Switch, is this game worth the wait?
The plot focuses on a knight who goes on a journey to uncover the truth about Hallownest, an insect kingdom that has long been abandoned. But it’s depths brought many adventurers who wish to seek out its treasures and mysteries. But as this knight journeys through these depths, he will uncover many secrets and obstacles that dare to get in the way. All of this culminates in a battle to save Hallownest from a deadly plague that is consuming and corrupting the kingdom and its inhabitants.
Most of the story is told as you play through the game along with interacting with the world’s inhabitants. It’s similar like Metroid Prime in some ways. I kind of like it. As you play, you learn what happens in the world and what you can do. Not only that but the game delivers on its atmosphere and you can feel the sense of dread and loneliness that exists. This gives players a drive to see what happens in the end. It’s good stuff.
Hollow Knight is a Metroidvania-style game, emphasizing on exploration, discovery and challenge. It has many features that have it stand out from the rest while providing a good amount of challenge. You play as a small Knight who starts off weak and as you explore Hallownest in its many areas, you find a variety of items & abilities that can make the experience easier. The game has currency in the form of Geo and you use it for a variety of things such as buying charms and upgrades for your character, getting new attacks, expanding the world map, etc. It’s a double edged sword however since this game also has a bit of Souls mentality meaning that when you die, you lose your Geo and you need to recover your shadow to get it back. If you succeed, you get your stuff but fail again and it’s gone. It can be gutwrenching to see all the Geo you earned be lost but it should let players know to be wary and not be careless.
Equipping charms can customize the Knight itself to your liking. Charms provide a variety of buffs depending on their effects and how much they require equipping. This I feel is what makes Hollow Knight stand out since you can pretty much have him any way you like. He can have more health, consume less Soul to unleash attacks, have the range of his weapon, the Nail extend its range, etc. How you have him depends on the player and it’s pretty awesome. It also has access of Soul, the MP of the game. You get Soul by attacking enemies. Soul can be used either to restore your health or to unleash magic based attacks and there are many it can use to defend itself from enemies & players will need to use everything the Knight has at its disposal. In addition there is Essence you can collect that can upgrade the nail as a Dream Nail of sorts. Finding them requires a lot of exploring. There are boss battles aplenty with some requiring a lot of careful timing and skill & all of them are good.
Since the game follows the Metroidvania-style formula, it also reflects on its length. The game can be completed at around 8-10 hours but those who wish to 100% it expect it to rise up by about 5-6 hours. Replay value is strong since after beating the game, unlocks a tougher difficulty called Steel Soul. Plus there are achievements with some requiring players to beat the game at a faster time. Yep. Speedrunners will have a field day with a game like this. It’s also a collectathon, so expect to spend time trying to find everything too. As someone who has spent over 20 hours with this game, it says a lot since the game is just that enjoyable.
From a presentation standpoint, it’s well done. Hollow Knight has a presentation that delivers. Each area you visit is different and they all stand out whether it is the Crossroads you start traveling in or other places like the Abyss. They all feel different, each with their own gimmick and challenge. It all builds itself on atmosphere, the feeling that you are traveling deep within a forgotten kingdom and all you can do is to survive against whatever comes your way. It’s also in 2D and it’s the way it should be. The music is good with some pretty good tracks. Intense moments like the boss battles change things to one of tension and the feeling that you will be up against an impossible obstacle is amazing. Even the feeling of taking down said challenge makes it rewarding too.
Hollow Knight has additional content in the form of free updates. The updates add features such as new boss battles, items, quests and even balance fixes. The Switch version thankfully has all of this included from the get-go & with the next update coming in the form of Gods & Glory, it’s all the more reason to go in for another round.
As far as any flaws go, the game is a challenging one. The Souls mentality is there but it doesn’t hinder you as much. Thankfully the map tells you where you last died and after a few hits you regain what you lost. My only negative that I have found from my experience is that some boss battles can be a pain unless you are more prepared. They emphasize on strategy as well as trial and error. Though having the right gear can help, most of the time it’s all trial & error. Also save points are few and far between and sometimes not having enough places to save can be a bother especially if you are deep into an area. Fortunately you do get the option to teleport and if used right can lead you somewhere safe. Though expect a while to travel back to where you were.
For a game that has now reached Nintendo’s newest and successful console, Hollow Knight is great. Hollow Knight delivers in its challenge while offering a game that is heavy on its atmosphere, strategy and replayability. It does have a little bit of Dark Souls in some cases but it’s more Metroidvania than anything else. At only $15, you can’t go wrong with a game like this. Team Cherry Games made the right move in bringing it to the Switch & with Gods and Glory coming, it’ll convince me to give the game one more go around. I recommend Hollow Knight. It’s worth it.
I give Hollow Knight a solid 9 out of 10. It earns my personal Seal of Approval & I highly recommend this game.