Hollow Knight Review
Hollow Knight is an action-adventure 2D-side-scroller with the main emphasis on exploration and combat. Hollow Knight is not a game you should play if you need direction to enjoy a game, as it is a very non-linear experience allowing you to explore almost everywhere from the beginning.
Graphics: Hollow Knight has some of the best "hand-drawn" style graphics I have ever witnessed in a game. The art direction works very well and is consistent throughout the entire game. Several areas in Hollow Knight us a gray-blue color palette, however, there are also areas in Hollow Knight that do not follow that tendency have much different aesthetics. I will also say that the music in Hollow Knight is fantastic. There is one track in particular that really stuck with me long after I finished my playthrough (See below). Overall, the graphics/presentation of Hollow Knight are fantastic.
Story: The story in Hollow Knight is very complex with a lot left untold for the player to interpret. There are several story cutscenes/flashbacks throughout the game which actually caught me by surprise. I want to try to stay away from details, but at a very basic level the story is about a growing evil underneath the city of Dirtmouth that you must explore and find the source of. Hollow Knight is also chalk-full of interesting side characters who can either serve a massive role to the story, or just are there for a few inconsequential lines. Overall, I enjoyed the story and it kept me wanting to find out more.
Gameplay: Even with Hollow Knight's fantastic graphics/presentation and the good story, the actual gameplay of Hollow Knight outshines it all. At the beginning of Hollow Knight your move-set basically consists of a sword slash, a jump, and healing. However, as you progress through the game an acquire more and more upgrades/abilities your move-set become fairly complex. The pacing of finding upgrades/abilities is very well-implemented so you never feel overwhelmed by too much change at once. If you die in combat you will lose all your geo (money) and have to come back to near where you died and fight your soul to get them back (only takes a few hits to defeat).
As you find upgrades and abilities you will remember many instances where you couldn't access an area due to your lack of said ability. There is a lot of backtracking in Hollow Knight, but I never got to the point of being annoyed as there is the inclusion of a fast travel system. The fast travel points are also well spaced so that you can't just travel right to your destination, but near it.
Along with the upgrades, Hollow Knight has "charms" you can find and equip which all give unique attributes. These are limited by the number of "Charm Notches" you have so that you can't just equip them all. As you collect more charms, the number of charm notches can be increased by speaking to a specific vendor which will sell more notches. Charms can vary in terms of notch cost from one notch to up to five. You can only change your equipped charms at set areas, so once you leave that area you are stuck with what you have equipped for a while. Through the course of the game, I found myself often changing what charms I had depending on what boss I was facing/what area I was in. Almost every charm you find can be useful depending on the circumstances. Some charms also have interactions with each other making the effects even greater. Charms do a very good job at adding an additional layer of strategy and depth to the combat. Charms can be obtained through vendors found throughout the world.
Almost every area you will explore will have many secrets and collectibles to find. When you first enter an area, you will not have access to a map, until you find it. Some areas have the map right near where you are intended to first enter an area, others make you do a little searching. Once you get a map, you will be able to see a few points of interest and are able to place your own pins on places on the map you want to remember to come back to (both of which are bought from a vendor). The map is very useful to see where you have/haven't explored yet, where save points are, along with fast travel points. The map will also show you where your "soul" is located if you have died. Trust me, you will die many times as some of the bosses can be very difficult.
Hollow Knight has a very good enemy and boss variety. Most enemies you face are tied to the area you are in, however, some are seen through all areas. Most of the bosses in Hollow Knight are not required to beat the game. By my count only about 1/4 of the bosses in Hollow Knight are required to reach the end. You are not told/shown which bosses are required so it is almost guaranteed you will fight many bosses you do not actually need to. The optional bosses do serve a purpose and generally grant you charms, or other forms of rewards. The bosses have a pretty good difficulty curve that matches your upgrade progression. There are a few bosses which can be easily defeated and others that will take you many attempts and are borderline unfair. The great thing about Hollow Knight is that if you find you just can't beat a specific boss, you can still go make progress elsewhere so you never feel like your progression is stuck.
Overall, the gameplay of Hollow Knight is superb and is the highlight of the game. There is incredible depth to the combat, along with every area being filled with secrets and collectibles to find.
Verdict: Hollow Knight has become one of my favorite games I have played in 2018 and may be one of the best indie games I have ever played. It is a ~25-30 hour experience filled with great content. You owe it to yourself to play this game, and that is coming from someone who has not historically enjoyed this style of game.