Of Bugs and Men: My Hollow Knight Journey & Review

9min
tn Hollow Knight Review of Bugs and Men

Controversial BOILING Hottake incoming, but Hollow Knight is a great game! Yeah, an indie darling that got good reviews definitely needed the input of a random Breadtube Leftist 5 years after release.

Jokes aside, I’m glad to be writing about this game. If I had to sum up Hollow Knight in one sentence: Complex without being complicated.

A Beginner-Friendly Soulslike? In my humble opinion, Hollow Knight is a great combination of Dark Souls difficulty and user-friendly introductions to mechanics. You still have to use a healthy dash (literally and figuratively) of creative thinking with the mechanics to progress at times, but every basic skill you learn is tutorialised in a fun way. The only thing the game doesn’t explicitly tell you is holding down the jump button longer or shorter is extremely useful for dodging many boss attacks.

As you explore the world, movement throughout it also becomes more viscerally enjoyable. Discovering dashes, wall-climbing and more skills drastically influences your gameplay style, like adding a new topping to the proverbial digital pizza!

First learn stand, then learn fly: You start off with nothing but a sword and ‘soul’ gauge. Hitting most non-boss enemies pushes you away from them slightly in a way that encourages a pattern of forward-moving rhythmic slashes at first before paying more attention to attack patterns as time goes on. Every time you slash some unfortunate chibi bug-creature, your soul gauge fills up a little. On a full tank (upgrades notwithstanding), you can heal up to three ‘masks’ (your healthbar system). I like this system because although you won’t be able to get through parts of the game without hitting a certain skill ceiling, it encourages exploration of the vast world. Exploration leads to finding useful items or skills. Useful items and skills lead to you becoming more powerful. Let’s talk about those items, shall we?

Your masks, soul gauge and geo (in-game currency).

Charmed to make your acquaintance: Throughout the game, you can buy or unlock charms. You can only use a limited number of them depending how many notches you have (which can be increased with future unlocks). Alternatively, you can ‘overcharm’ yourself by turning yourself into a charmed Everything Burger to use all the skills at once with the added risk of taking extra damage.

Different charm combinations offer different powers and advantages in gameplay, so I highly recommend experimenting with them. In addition, some bonus areas in-game can be unlocked by wearing a specific charm to a location, usually one that matches the aesthetic of your charm. Among my favorite charm combinations is the Defender’s Crest and Glowing Womb, which gradually drains some of your soul in exchange for a… Mutually beneficial explosion, let’s say.

I play for the plot… Wait- NO, not that one! Which is to say, most of the Soulslike games I play don’t have the best story delivery. Reading item descriptions can unfortunately feel like homework at times and needing that baseline knowledge to understand what the NPC locals are on about can be a pain, which is a shame because I really like story-based games. I imagine my mild story-based gripe with Bloodborne is because reading item descriptions can feel like busywork that’s cutting into your gameplay time, rather than a diegetic moment of exposition… So why on God’s green earth do I think Hollow Knight does that in a way that’s fun!?

Hard to articulate in a way, but I can’t express enough how much the world of Hollow Knight evokes a sense of wonder and curiosity. You have one brief opening crawl at the beginning, a hauntingly ominous cutscene where your character looks like a traumatized soldier, then boom. The music kicks in, you talk to the local (soon to be locals), and off you trot throughout the world. Finding a new character out in the wild really feels like an oddly wholesome affair, even when some interactions leave you dreading whatever’s being foreshadowed.

My last two brain cells waiting on Silksong like:

Product Poems:

There was once a lass so tiny, Tina. Who wonders land, borders, Tsushima? Excuse me miss, but I must dismiss your credentials from… Shujin Academia.

There was once a young woman called Aloy, who’s south-end faced west like McCoys! Surely forbidden, so purely well-hidden, till coming under Lottie‘s employ.

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