A thoroughly enjoyable game
July 23, 2019
After hearing about this game off and on for the past 2 years I finally picked it up during the recent Steam sale. Now having beaten it (the first ending anyways) I certainly see why it is so highly praised. If you are a fan of the metroidvania genre, then Hollow Knight is a must play game.
In terms of exploration this is a huge game. In terms of map size Hollow Knight is at least twice as large as Super Metroid. In fact there are locations (like a bee hive) that I just never found during my 81% complete play through. The game makes a few design choices to really emphasize exploring. Often in games you end up paying more attention to the in game map than the actual area. This is particularly true when a game gives you a good portion of the map just for entering an area. Hollow Knight doesn’t work that way. When you enter a new area the map is not available. You explore the area blind and eventually you can come across a cartographer charting the area. You learn to listen for an audio cue the cartographer makes that lets you know he’s in the area. Well, except for Deepnest, but I don’t blame him for staying quiet there. The cartographer sells partially filled out maps. With an upgrade you can then fill out the area map with places you have visited. Except….you can only add visited places at game save spot benches. Over and over the game makes design decisions to force the player to focus on the area and not a map. It is easy to see why, the large game map has a great many visually interesting areas. From a raining city, to fungal waste area filled with mushrooms and acid, to a windy clifftop, the art style manages to be striking while maintaining a fairly muted color scheme.
The game places an emphasis on combat, particularly boss fights. Each of the bosses are visually unique. Best of all, most boss encounters are just more impressive versions of common enemies found in that particular area. When entering the crystal mines you encounter common enemies that fire laser beams at you. After some time getting used to dealing with these foes you encounter a boss fight that - you guessed it - fires lots of laser beams at you. Hollow Knight is great at introducing game mechanics at you early on and then building off it. In fact the game itself is a perfect example of teaching the player without bogging the game down with tutorial sections. The game introduces the healing mechanic at the start and a small bit of text when you acquire an upgrade - that’s it. It is so nice to encounter games that let the player play the game instead of constant hand holding.
I never did get into using a “summoner” combat style and I didn’t care for the “spellcasting” approach. No, I hacked and slashed my way through with the “sword.” But it is nice that the game has different approach options for people and for increasing game replayability. Speaking of replayability, beating the game unlocks a “perma death” mode. Yeah……….I’m not crazy enough to try that.
All in all, this is one high quality game that is available on just about every current platform available (including Linux!)