Metroidvania Fans Need to Check Out Hollow Knight
Releasing in an unfortunate time-frame alongside AAA titles like Horizon: Zero Dawn and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Hollow Knight is a quirky indie title that is looking to make a caveat in the Metroidvania genre. The game checks off all the boxes of a classic Metroidvania game while taking influences from games like Dark Souls. With a creepy-yet-cute art style, branching pathways, and a myriad of upgrades that help your progress through the game, Hollow Knight is crafted to scratch the itch Metroidvania fans have.
The game doesn’t necessarily bring anything new to the table. Even its theme and setting resembles that of Ori and the Blind Forest. However, everything it does do, it does right. The game starts you off with very limited abilities, and as you progress through the levels you gain new skills and can buy upgrades from various merchants. These newly acquired skills make previously locked areas explorable. The game lacks a sense of direction, which to many is a good thing, and promotes exploration of new areas without knowing whether you’ll reach a dead end or not -- just like any good Metroidvania.
The map system in the game is very interesting, and fans of old-school games will actually appreciate the challenge. When you enter a new area, you won’t be able to use a map until you purchase one, and afterward, you can see where you’ve been and where you still need to explore. Some reviewers on Steam recommend grabbing a pen and paper to remember where secret items are. The world itself is one of the biggest seen in the genre.
Hollow Knight’s combat is smooth, fast paced, and requires a lot of memorization on the player's part. Enemies will have certain patterns that can be taken advantage of, but the game does not hold your hand. Similarly to Dark Souls, dying is a common occurrence in the game, and the penalty for death is not a simple respawn. The soul power in the game is used to cast magic or heal yourself, but death means you will lose some of it along with your money unless you go back to where you died and pick it back up. The enemy variety is great, and the boss fights are guaranteed to give you a hard time the first time around.
What stands out the most, however, is the presentation of the game. Like Ori and the Blind Forest the color palette, art direction, and soundtrack are all beautifully presented in an ominous, gothic fashion. All the characters in Hollow Knight are bugs, and while that may be a turnoff for many, the way they are presented is irresistible. Watching enemy bugs get smacked with a sword is extremely satisfying, and running through the levels is almost mesmerizing.
Overall, Hollow Knight may not be the most unique Metroidvania game -- or even the best out right now. However, it’s a solid title that is guaranteed to satisfy fans of those types of games. The game takes the best from several titles (in and out of the genre) and meshes it all together to make its own creative world. With a massive world and over 130 different enemies, the game can easily take up 30+ hours of your time.
After completing it, Steel Soul Mode is unlocked for even more replayability. If you’re looking for a new Metroidvania game, look no further, because Hollow Knight is right under your nose.