Aria Reviews: Hollow Knight

Hello all Nasties! Mod Aria’s back! I’m doing our review this month, and today I’ll be talking about a game that I literally just finished and absolutely fell in love with: Hollow Knight.

This is an indie game developed and published by Team Cherry and it came out earlier this year. I saw some footage of the game itself floating around and thought it looked cute, so I decided to give it a try. And I’m really glad I made that effort.

So let’s get started!

Story and Characters:

So the story of Hollow Knight is presented in a way that’s incredibly similar to Dark Souls. There is no character customization in Hollow Knight, but you play as this cute little…person…who travels to the town of Dirtmouth in order to explore and underground cavern called Hallownest. It was once a sprawling kingdom, but has now been destroyed by an silent evil. Within Hallownest, you discover the truth as to why the world around you has collapsed and what it takes in order to help revive it. The inhabitants of this world are all different kinds of bugs, so there is a lot of bug and nature imagery throughout the entire game.

Though the lore of the game is very vague and much of it has to be discovered through exploring, it’s certainly interesting to see what kind of truths you can uncover. This is where the game starts comparing to Dark Souls, as the lore of the Souls series is uncovered in a similar fashion. I myself prefer more direct stories, but a game whose lore is uncovered by actually playing the game instead of just a story experience can be fun in its own right.

The characters of this game are also incredibly cute and complex. Aside from the silent and unnamed protagonist, the different kind of bugs you run into in every new area. Some are characters that you only really need to interact with once, while others pop up occasionally and act as kind of companions to you. The most interesting characters that Hollow Knight produces are definitely Hornet and Quirrel. But other funny characters like Willoh, Zote and Cloth are also cute and entertaining, too.

I also feel like this is a decently feminist game. The protagonists gender is mostly vague, and there are many wonderful female characters that steal the show, particularly Hornet. I would really love to see a game staring her at some point.

What’s really interesting about Hollow Knight is that the game itself has multiple endings depending on a handful of actions you during the course of the game. I won’t spoil anything, but the “true end” of the game can be completed easily if you put in the effort to explore and 100% the entire thing. While I normally don’t find that to be player friendly (particularly in lengthy, story-driven games), it’s much easier to do in Hollow Knight because it isn’t dreadfully long or overly expansive. You don’t necessarily have to 100% complete the game to get it, but you’re going to need to try (or look up a walkthrough).

Overall, I give Hollow Knight’s story and characters a 7/10.

Gameplay: 

Hollow Knight’s gameplay is incredibly familiar if you’ve been playing video games long enough. Most people call the style “Metroidvania”, which means it’s an action platfomer with an expansive map to explore. The term comes from the fusion of Metroid and Castlevania, as those games were pioneers of the style way back in the early years of gaming.

Hollow Knight compliments the Metroidvania style well, and it makes it challenging and fun at the same time. A unique mechanic to the game is the Soul gauge. This gauge fills with “Soul” when you kill and defeat enemies, and you can use the Soul to restore your health after being hurt. However, if you die in the game, you lose your all your Soul and money (called Geo) and have to go reclaim it. You start out from the last “bench” you saved at. Sound familiar? Hollow Knight’s gameplay is like a Metroidvania Dark Souls.

So if you enjoy platforming and Dark Souls and wouldn’t mind seeing them mixed, I definitely suggest you check out this game. I myself struggled with the game as I am not the best at platforming nor was I a stellar Dark Souls player. Often, I called my husband in to help get me through the toughest parts of the game; particularly the final boss fights. He was trained on Mega Man Zero as a youth; naturally, he had a much easier time.

Because of this, I had to take breaks from playing the game. I normally don’t like games that frustrate me like that; it was the only real downside of Hollow Knight. If your skill with Metroidvania games is not up to par, I would practice before jumping into Hollow Knight. It isn’t friendly to newcomers of the genre.

You can also find various items to help the game feel a bit less challenging for you to play. There are upgrades to your health, abilities and a map maker to help you better navigate Hallownest and a smithy for improving the damage and power of your weapon. There are also charms that give you various stat increases as well as possible temporary hit points and armor. Some of these are completely optional, so it really helps the player set the difficulty for themselves. I will say that a lot of the new abilities and ability upgrades are mandatory; certain area’s cannot be accessed without them.

I give Hollow Knight’s Gameplay a 7/10. 

Visuals and Audio: 

Visually, Hollow Knight is stunning for an indie game. The art style is cutesy and dark; my title for it was Kawaii Goth. It has a dark color palate, but it does not lack for variety like some mainstream games (looking at you, Skyrim). The character models themselves are cryptid-esque, but also small and adorable. This makes the darker theme of the game more approachable to a younger audience. There is also humor laced within many different dialogues with kind characters. You just have to be careful. Some want to be your friend, some want to eat you.

The different area’s of the map also have a lot of variety to them, but they don’t follow too many specific themes (like ice, fire, jungle, etc). There are greener areas as well as mines and caverns with horrors. I felt like the creators really tried to mix up the Metroidvania formula, and they did a terrific job of doing just that. I will say that my favorite areas were definitely Greenpath, The Hive and Crystal Peak. The names of all the area’s certainly give away the visual theme of the specific map.

Musically, this game is top notch. I love the atmospheric sound track, and it fits with the game. I’m playing Ori and The Blind Forest right now, and I’m a bit frustrated with the soundtrack as it sounds a bit out of place with the forest/nature theme. But I never feel that way about Hollow Knight. The music changes in every new area, and it really helps the player feel the shift from a green garden to a regal city. I really want to pick up the soundtrack at some point. It’s really that amazing.

I give the Visuals and Audio for Hollow Knight a 8/10. 

In conclusion, I give Hollow Knight an 8/10. This game really adds some great changes to an outdated style of gameplay. It’s very hard to sell a platformer these days, but I think Hollow Knight is an exception to the rule. It has really refreshed a stale genre. It’s beautiful for the senses, and the lore of the game is really interesting once you put an effort into exploring it.

My only gripe with games like this is that the new trend of giving games the bare minimum amount of lore in order to make it just good enough to draw people in is a bit frustrating. I have this problem not only with Dark Souls, but with Overwatch as well. I understand that the draw of both games (and Hollow Knight itself) is not the story or background info. But the fact that only clues are left there with no ability to learn more really makes me feel like it was something that was just tacked on to the game just to get players attached to the world.

Regardless, that’s just my personal opinion. Other than that I don’t feel like Hollow Knight is friendly to new Metroidvania players, that was my only real gripe.

If you want to try something familiar yet refreshing, definitely check out Hollow Knight. It’s not too expensive, and it’s a great experience. I believe it is coming to Nintendo Switch soon, so keep an eye out!


Thanks for reading this, and please continue to support NWG. Until we meet again!

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