What’s up everybody, hope you’re having an amazing day today! Welcome to BoringTrousers. I want to make a series where I talk about the indie games. I think they deserve some more recognition. Today, we are talking about an indie game that was just released on the Nintendo Switch: Hollow Knight. Even though Hollow Knight released in February 2017 on PC, as with most games releasing on the Nintendo Switch, Hollow Knight has received a second-wind of sorts. While it was highly reviewed even upon original release, the Nintendo Switch seems like the perfect platform for Hollow Knight. It’s hard to describe what genre of game Hollow Knight is, but I think the easiest way would be to call it a Metroid Vania souls-like.
It’s a game with quick, difficult combat, a sprawling world you can explore in any direction. But will need certain abilities to access certain areas, and dozens of bosses. The graphics are stunning and atmospheric. The soundtrack is haunting and beautiful. The world has a history, lore, and story that are vague; like the Souls games while being complex and full of depth. When you first enter the world of Hollownest, it becomes apparent that you are in an ancient, foreign land. It makes me think of what a hostile, much darker Undertale would be like. A world of monsters, seemingly untouched for eons for everything except for its inhabitants. However, it quickly becomes apparent that there is a good in these subterranean crypts. And before long you start to understand a bit of what’s going on. Much like the Souls games, the lore of Hollow Knight is vague and given to you in small amounts, requiring you as the player to piece together what is going on. The thing Hollow Knight does better than the Souls games though is that it not only has more content story-wise but also goes a lot deeper with context.
You will be able to understand most of what Hollow Knight is trying to tell you after playing for 30 hours. You shouldn’t need to go online reading forums to figure out the more intricate details. Hollow Knight is a full experience, and the story and lore are a key player in that. The characters of Hollow Knight, both ally, and the enemy are all interesting and have varied personalities. You will learn a lot about the world through their perspectives. They also quickly send you on your journey that is much more than I expected from the plot. The actual land of Hollownest is just as essential to the story being told.
Every area of the game has a distinct, living feel to it. As you travel through Greenpath, the grass will move beneath your feet, and you will feel torn between the lush land and the dark, horrid enemies you face. When you enter the capital city of Hollownest, the City of Tears, you will be immersed in a giant cavern with rain constantly falling. The art style plays a significant role in the atmosphere of each area; some areas being incredibly colorful while others are mute and dull.
On top of the art lies Hollow Knight’s fantastic soundtrack. Part beautiful, part haunting, and part mystery, the music and sound effects of Hollow Knight are incredibly immersing. Each sound effect sounds excellent, and everything from swinging a weapon and cutting the grass or whatever it is that’s on the ground. The sounds all the enemies make, or the sound of your nail crushing your foe, all of it is well-executed. The music makes each area, battle, and the scene that much more impactful, with certain areas making me surprisingly emotional, when I don’t think they should have. But you know, music and emotion can do that to a person. Now I mentioned the game is also part Metroid Vania at the beginning, and this is the first half of Hollow Knight’s gameplay that makes it such an exceptional game.
The world of Hollow Knight is basically free to explore. But much like previous games in the genre, there are areas you will need certain abilities to surpass, such as a wall climb or dash ability. Much like other Metroid Vania games, exploration is thoroughly rewarded with tons of bosses, secrets all over the place, and loot like charms and Geo that allow you to become more powerful and find other, new areas.
Also, there is a substantial amount of optional content in Hollow Knight, and much of it is the best content in the game. You could spend under ten hours in the game skipping most of the content and beating the game. However, you would be missing out on most of what makes the Hollow night special. Also, the game has multiple endings depending on the items you get, places you explore, and the actions you take. That means meaning you can spend easily over 30 hours exploring and finding all the game has to offer. All of this leads to a sense of discovery that is almost never-ending.
I always found myself wanting to go on to the next area and couldn’t put down my Switch even into the wee hours of the morning because I knew there were more areas to see. There is also a lot of the lore to be found through optional content; so it will not only be more enjoyable, but the game actually makes more sense the more you explore. But of course, the core of Hollow Knight is it’s smooth, difficult, and unforgiving gameplay. You can’t block in the game, but your nail serves as a powerful weapon, and you can jump as well as quickly move to dodge and strategically strike. However, the real key of the combat is that every enemy has different attacks, and it will require patience and a willingness to learn enemy attack patterns to beat some of the more difficult bosses.
This makes each new encounter one filled with tension but also excitement. Oh, and gives you the knowledge that you will probably die. And that is something else to note regarding relation to the Souls series. In Hollow Knight, you must prepare to die. You will die many, many times, but to the game’s credit this will always feel like your fault, and something you will correct the next time, and never feel like a cheap death because of an issue with the game. When you die, you will be able to chase down your corpse and fight your spirit to be able to gain back all of your currency and souls, but more on that later.
Also, when you die, your soul’s vessel is cracked, meaning you can’t carry as many souls, which is similar to the living or undead mechanic when you die in the Dark Souls series. Also, can we talk about the boss battles in this game? I’m going, to be honest, some of these bosses are the best I have seen since Cuphead. Incredible designs, increasingly difficult, changes in forms and attack patterns, everything you want from bosses is present in Hollow Knight. What I love about this is that there are so many bosses in the game. They are all unique and require different tactics from the player. On top of that, there are tons of mini-bosses as well, and they are also full of variety and offer a ton of loot. Bosses feel like a great payoff for long periods of exploring, and they change up the pacing well and keep things fresh.
The beauty of the combat in Hollow Knight is that it never makes you feel like you were unfairly treated, and it makes you a better player with every fight you are in. While the first couple hours may seem daunting and even too difficult if you stick with it, Hollow Knight becomes exceptionally rewarding, and you begin to have a certain flow in battles as well as an ability to understand enemies quicker, thus making your deaths more infrequent and your successes more enjoyable.
When you kill an enemy, you will probably gain the game’s currency but more importantly, you will be able to take their soul and use it to heal. As I mentioned earlier, you have a soul vessel in which you keep these souls, and you can use them to heal as soon as you have them or store them for later when you get into more difficult battles. You also gain towards your souls when you hit enemies, meaning even with no health you will feel encouraged to try and keep hitting your target while also not being hit yourself, creating some high tension-filled moments.
Along with souls, you gain Geo from enemies, which is the currency in Hollow Knight. Geo is used to buying useful items in the shops, open gateways, and buy charms. You will buy items that will help you know where to go and understand the map, as well as revealing secrets and benches so you can save and select your charms. Those charms are an intriguing way to customize your character during your playtime. Whether they are adding passive bonuses like gathering more soul or being able to heal more effectively, firing a blast of maggots at enemies, or even more simple and basic buffs, charms are how you can change your playstyle and adapt to each situation. Whether you ate trying to grind for loot or go after a difficult boss, charms can help you have the upper hand.
However, there is a downside to using charms, and if you use too many, you will become more vulnerable and will have to make up for that extra weakness with the charms you choose. Charms can be changed at the benches throughout the game, which is also used as save points. Oh, and did I mention Hollow Knight on Nintendo Switch comes with all three content packs released so far, and the final content pack releasing in August? Yeah, there is a lot more than 30 hours of content in this game, and even if you beat the core game, you will have so much more to do.
Hollow Knight is currently $15 on the Nintendo Switch, and it is worth that price tag and honestly worth at least double that. If you haven’t played Hollow Knight yet, pick it up. You won’t regret it.