Introduction to the Hollow Knight review
In this review, I will introduce you to the Hollow Knight game. I will tell you about the Hollow Knight story. The gameplay. I will give the pros and cons. A score and I will let you know if it is a game I would recommend.
What is Hollow Knight for a game? You are an insect. You are hoping to save the kingdom of Hallownest from an evil infection that has brought down the kingdom. The insects have come back to life as zombie insects. It is your job to put them the zombie insects to rest. You can grant them eternal rest by destroying the infection that controls them. Another option is to absorb the infection. This is depended on the road you are willing to take. One road leads to a good ending and the second road leads to a bad ending.
This review will contain spoilers.
The story, a short explanation
It turns out that I have to place two storylines in this review. The first storyline is how I have interpreted the story of Hollow Knight. The second is the actual story. It turns out those two storylines are extremely different! How that happened is a mystery to me but it did.
Most of the storyline in Hollow Knight will be hidden in talking with the non-playable characters and reading the minds of the insects that are still alive in Hallownest. The mindreading is an option you will unlock later in the game.
My interpretation of the Hollow Knight story
You start out with a small storyline and a cutscene. You are the Hollow Knight but you have no clue what it means. It may be confusing that the end game boss is also called the Hollow Knight. Because of the infection, weird and confusing things are happening all over the place. For example, a flying jellyfish that explodes. Hallownest was once a lively, lovely town. The biggest insect realm. But at one point things started to go wrong in a horrible way.
An infection came from the void. This infection made insects go insane. They became aggressive and they do not care if they die. They may even explode themself to hurt other insects.
At first, the infection was small, the king ordered a wizard to find a cure for it. The wizard slowly loses his mind in thinking that a soul is a cure to the infection. He is not able to make a cure.
The infection has brought down Hallownest and the corpses start to pile up. The king does not know what to do. He’s upset seeing his kingdom in ruins. The insects that are not yet infected want to flee even though they don’t know the void is in the sea. They’ll die too by the tentacles that come out of the sea. The tentacles will kill and eat insects. After that, the insects become shades of the void. The king finds a vessel with a pure soul in it. one like the wizard told him to be a possible cure, right before the wizard turned insane and was locked up in his tower. He wants to use the soul to absorb the infection but before the infection can be absorbed by the vessel, a living insect with no mind of its own. The king managed to get this vessel out of the void. After the absorption, the vessel remains alive, with a huge infection bump sticking out of his back. The vessel has been given the ability to live forever. Unfortunately, this did not rid the kingdom of the infection. You will face the vessel throughout your journey. He will be called, the broken vessel.
There are three wise insects that want to help the king to stop the infection. Meanwhile, they are all slowly losing their minds to the infection. The king wants his kingdom to live and flourish. Not knowing it is already too late to save his kingdom. The three wise insects decide to make a huge temple with an egg inside it to seal the infection and rebuild the kingdom. The infection is way too strong and the king decides that he will live forever. He absorbs the infection. The three wise insects are sealed away in a dream world as the guardians to ensure the safety of the egg. The king becomes the Hollow Knight. He perfects his vessel to hold the infection. At least, that is what he thinks.
Hallownest falls to the ground without their king. With so many dead insects Hallownest becomes a ruin for future insects to explore. Most insects are drawn to the ruin and want to explore. They die in the search of Hallownest. Over time the infection made the egg turn black. The egg is starting to leak infection. The king cannot prevent the leaking even though he is the vessel that should be able to do this. The dead insects arise as zombie insects. They are infected, their eyes turn orange when the infection is extreme. Some insects succumb to an even worse fate. In some cases of infection, they explode. A couple of insects are brought back to life with almost a full mind and not as zombies. They are drawn to Hallownest and slowly lose their minds on their path to Hallownest.
You are one of the insects that are drawn to Hallownest You might be the only one capable of holding the infection forever. You try to want to break the black egg and absorb the infection.
Or choose one of the other paths to destroy the infection and put the void to rest.
The actual Hollow Knight story
The pale king is the person who caused the infection, most likely by accident. The pale king was a ruler in a giant white palace. He was also called the wyrm. The pale king tried to match the form of the insects. He gave the insects a better life in the form of an expanded mind and them being able to think for themself. He had them believing that he created everything and they needed to worship him for all his creations.
This worshipping was to be done in the form of the king’s idol and seals found all over Hallownest. Soon everyone in Hallownest worshipped him. Even species who first worshipped someone else. The pale king did create most of all things in Hallownest, the buildings, and stagways, trams for traveling, etc. The pale king slowly started to fade from existence. When he disappeared he was been reborn and cast of his shell. He tried to come back as the Radiance but that was a no go. Then things started going wrong. The infection came and the insects he gave life started dying. He wanted to save his underlings and decided to create a vessel born of him and the white lady but the vessel came from the void.
He asked three insects to become dreamers to contain the vessel with infection. Only one of them, Herrah wanted to do this but only if they had intercourse. A child was born! A hornet who will play a great role in your adventure. The Radiance had bonded with the vessel and made the vessel ready to be sealed away with the infection forever. This was likely his biggest mistake. Due to the bond, he had with the vessel he was tarnished because he became unpure because of the bond with the Radiance. The vessel was sealed away but cracks already started to show soon after it had been sealed away. Then the Radiance and his palace disappeared. The Radiance is also your father. You are the only pure vessel that can contain the infection because he did not raise you. *
* I’m unsure if I got the full extent of the story, I’d love to hear your version in the forums.
The gameplay in Hollow Knight works like a platforming game. With tough combat and difficult terrains to maneuver through.
Hollow Knight starts with a nice tutorial where you get the gist of the game quickly. They don’t explain in the tutorial that you can bounce on spikes, called the pogo. Move when you jump above spikes and hit them downward with your weapon, called the nail, you can bounce on the spikes. You can use this to reach areas before you are able to normally access them. Good timing is required. Some places also require you to do this to get to a caterpillar or a secret area. Before you know it, you will be in Dirtmouth.
The first city, it acts as a hub since you can access multiple places from Dirthmouth. You will find out that not many people live here but there is an elderly insect waiting for you to explain what kind of city Dirtmouth is. Dirtmouth is the only real city you will encounter that is still functioning. There are different tribes in Hollow Knight who most likely have been infected. With the exception of the mantis tribe. The mantis tribe has found a way to resist the infection. It’s never explained how. You will also encounter a mantis tribe that is infected but they have become very powerful. In the Hollow Knight, you can gather upgrades for your character. For example, a mantis claw that will let you climb the walls and reach new areas. Even though the way may seem clear, at some times you will most likely get lost. In Hollow Knight are a lot of secrets, including secret bosses. it’s just like in other Metroidvania games. Keep smashing walls to find secrets or a hidden quest. Beyond a secret wall might be another secret wall. The second secret wall includes relics that can be sold in a relic shop for loads of geo. The relics will be stored on your item page. You will not lose relics when you die.
You can collect geo and use the geo to buy charms, map upgrades, and other useful items in Hollow Knight. If you die, you will leave a shade form, that is from the void. The shade holds all the geo. If you die again before reconnecting with your shade, you will lose the geo. When you are having trouble getting back to your shade, there is the option to buy a simple key for 800 geo from Sly. To unlock this option you have to rescue Sly. When you bought the key, you can use the key on a house on the left in the city. In the house, you will meet an insect that looks like he is from Agrabah. If you have a rancid egg (can be found at random spots or bought for a few geo by Sly) He will teleport your shade to the house, you will have to fight the shade and win to get your geo back,
All over the game, there are caterpillars, you need to rescue then. They are stuck in glass jars. When you rescue one of them you can tell the Grubfather and he will give you a big geo reward. The caterpillars are also called grubs. If you collect them all, you will unlock a secret scene.
The best idea is to buy the map and a quill after you buy the compass charm. With this, you can find your way in the game. Other pins for important locations can be bought. For example, you buy a bench pin and you are able to see where all the benches are to draw a new part of your map. Some pins can not be purchased, you will have to find them.
I got lost many times, The world is part of an open world, you can go many ways at the beginning of the game. Other areas are for when you have an upgrade, you’ll need to revisit areas. In each new area, you’ll need to find Connifer. He will sell you the map for the area with a small piece unlocked of the map. With your map and quill, bought in the beginning you can map the whole area.
The bosses in Hollow Knight can be hard. You need to learn their pattern. Usually, you will get rewarded with important items or characters. For example, after defeating the Gruz mother, you can find Sly, the shopkeeper for new items. Another shop will open around the time you learn to dash. This second shop contains charms and equipment slots, called charm notches. You start with three charm notches. The maximum charm notches you can have are eleven. Some charm notches can be bought and other charm notches need to be found.
The Hollow Knight game works very smoothly but can be very hard and challenging. Other times you feel the click and you see the pattern of a boss. Sometimes you don’t and you will have to keep trying.
You start with five health points. The health points are in the form of masks. You can upgrade this to a maximum of nine masks while questing and with finding secrets in Hollow Knight. You can use mana points to restore health points. You can also use mana points for spells. The mana points are called soul. The soul can be upgraded three times. You can use your weapon, called the nail, to destroy the infected bugs that are attacking you. Your weapon can be upgraded with geo and pale ore into a stronger weapon. With the meeting certain insects, they each will learn you a special skill that you can use in combination with your nail. The pale ore is scattered all over, mainly in hard to reach places.
The quests in Hollow Knight are very short or very long (and hard). One quest has you tracking through all kinds of different areas without ever getting hit once! This is not an optional quest because this quest will give you a mask shard to increase your max health points.
You can complete Hollow Knight for 112%. At this time I have managed to get 106%. The things you need to do for the last percentages are hard. I think I could get to this 112% eventually but I might lose my sanity along the way. It’s not recommended for the casual players.
In the free expansion pack called “God home”, they expect you to beat various bosses in a row. These are stronger than in the boss rush mode. You have to defeat 40 bosses in a row. If you get that far you will have to defeat a beefed-up version of the endgame boss. If you fail to do so., you will need to start over. If there was a checkpoint or two it may be possible to get to this secret ending.
Later in the game, you will unlock the dream nail that will allow you to read the minds of the friendly insects. You also need te dream nail to unlock a secret final boss and another secret ending.
In Hollow Knight, there is fast travel available. It is in the form of the last Stag. I have recorded footage of traveling with the Stag and a little gameplay for you see to get a feel of Hollow Knight.
The Charms are the most important items in the Hollow knight. They let you create a build. A unique build to you. Every charm has a different equipment slot requirement. Some of the charms are low and the other charms are high. The higher the requirement, the better the charm. They are fragile charms that can be upgraded to unbreakable charms. This is an endgame goal because it costs loads of geo. In the picture above you can see my unbreakable strength charm. This cost me 15.000 geo. To upgrade the charm you need to summon the Grimm troupe in Howling Cliff by lighting the bonfire. You need the mantis claw to reach this area for the first time. After the lighting of the bonfire, you need to head back to Dirtmouth. You will find new tents. In one of these tents, you can find a large insect called Divine. When you talk to her, while you have one of the fragile charms equipped, she will eat the charm. To get the charms back, you need to pay her 15.000 geo. When you pay her the geo she will defecate the charm and when you pick it up the fragile charm has become unbreakable.
I am going to list the charms with a short explanation of their function and with my advice. But feel free to experiment for yourself.
This compass will show you where you are on the map, it is easy to use and wonderful for the first playthrough.I have used this until the end. This charm costs one slot.
You gather all the geo, even from big distances. It is pretty useful in the beginning when you need a lot of geo. I did not use this charm. This charm cost one slot
Extremely useful. I used this for my tank build and it grants you a little more time when hit to keep hitting your enemy, since it takes more time before you can get hit again. I have used this charm all the time This charm costs two slots
Hitting enemies gives you more soul, meaning more healing or using spell attacks. I have used the charm a few times This charm costs 2 slots
Use this charm when you want to make a spell build, with this your spells will do more attack damage. I have used this a few times to try it out. This charm costs three slots
Gain even more soul when hitting enemies. Not very useful in my opinion since it takes a lot of equipment slots. I did not use it. This charm costs four slots
When you have obtained the right equipment, you can dash using this charm. It reduces the cooldown for when you can dash again. I have used it a bit but found it useless. This charm costs two slots
It makes you move faster. I have used this charm for platforming or puzzles. This charm cost one slot
When equipped you will gain soul by being hit by enemy attacks. Extremely useful, I have had this equipped all the time. This charm cost one slot
It makes you shoot beams when you are at full health. I did not use it a lot since I tend to run into enemies and hit them up close. This charm costs three slots
Fragile heart/ unbreakable heart:
Increases your health by a certain amount but breaks when you die unless you have upgraded. I have used this a few times for platforming This charm cost two slots
Fragile greed/ unbreakable greed:
Makes more geo appear from all sources. can be upgraded, the fragile charms. Will break upon death if not upgraded. I have never used this or felt like I needed to use this charm. This charm cost two slot
Fragile strength/ unbreakable strength):
A wonderful charm! Upgrades strength with 50%. Since I found this charm, I’ve always had it on. I had to repair it a bunch of times since I did die with it equipped, that is why I upgraded it as seen in the picture. This charm cost three slots
Reduces the soul used to cast your attacks with soul. It is very useful in a spell build. I have used this sometimes when I varied to a spell build. This charm cost two slots.
No knockback when hitting an enemy with your nail. It is very cheap in slot use. I have used this in certain fights and it saved my life in those fights This charm cost one slot.
Totally not useful. It makes the game harder since you give the enemy more time to recover since they have more knockback. I recommend not to use this under any circumstances. This charm cost two slots.
Quick slash: I always had this charm equipped, from the moment it was possible. It makes you attack much quicker with your nail. This charm cost three slots.
It makes your nail have the reach of a longsword, the attacks reaches farther away. Extremely useful for hitting ranged enemies. This charm cost two slots.
Mark of pride:
It gives your nail the reach of a greatsword (even farther as a long nail charm) a very good upgrade from the long nail charm. I have used this when I got it, instead of the long nail charm. Unless I needed the extra slot for another charm. This charm cost three slots.
Fury of the fallen:
It will increase your strength when you are close to death. It will most likely be one of the first charms you will equip. You can find the charm before going to Dirtmouth by using pogo on the spikes in a secret wall. I have used this in the beginning and sometimes with a tough boss fight. This charm cost three slots.
Thorns of agony:
It will reflect the damage you took back towards the attacker. It can be useful in a tank build. This charm cost one slot.
This will protect you from damage when you are using focus to heal health points. I have used this now and then. This charm cost two slots.
It changes the appearance of the vengeful spirit attack and makes it stronger. Use it and you will most likely laugh! I have used this a few times. This charm cost three slots.
You emit a heroic odor (stink) and it will damage enemies. I have used this only once. This charm cost one slot.
This is useful if you want a minion build. It summons some minions for you. The minions charge at the enemies and sacrifice themself. I have used this a couple of times for a minion build. This charm cost two slots.
It makes you able to heal two times faster when using focus. This is an amazing charm use it when you need to heal much. This charm cost three slots.
It makes the focused progress go slower but heals two masks. Use it with a quick focus to have normal speed and have two masks healed. This charm cost four slots.
This gives two bonus mask, that you can not heal. It is very useful, I have used this many times to increase my maximum health points. This charm cost two slots.
Gives four bonus masks that you can not heal. It is very useful, I have used this many times to increase my maximum health points. This charm costs three slots.
This increases your maximum health point by a lot but the healing is no longer possible. Combine this charm with fragile heart, lifeblood heart, lifeblood core for an insane amount of health. When all combined you will have a total of twenty-two masks that you can not heal. You won’t have any slots left for other upgrades. This charm costs four slots.
You will be able to regenerate health points when not getting hit for a while after taking damage. I have used this in the white palace. This charm costs four slots.
Release a toxic cloud to damage enemies near you. I have used this a lot in the beginning of Hollow Knight. This charm cost one slot.
When you get the shadow cloak and equip this charm you will be able to damage enemies with your dashing. I have not used this charm. This charm costs two slots.
The shape of unn:
You change shape when focusing to heal, you are able to move away from danger. I have never really used this. This charm costs two slots.
It makes the nail techniques charge faster. I have never used this. This charm cost one slot.
This charm summons a few minions which help you fight. This charm is used for a minion build. I have also used this for my minion build. This charm cost two slots.
This charm charges the dream nail faster. I have not used this charm. This charm costs one slot.
It makes a shield that protects you from taking damage. It sounds awesome but it did not work for me at all. I have tried using this one time, never again after that. This charm cost three slots.
This is the DLC charm needed for the quest progress for the Grimm troupe. I did not get access to the last form since I have not infested time yet to beat nightmare king Grimm. I might do this later when I have time for this challenge. This charm costs two slots.
The main quest charm is the only thing it is useful for. Changes into the void heart when completing an objective for a secret ending. Luckily you need this only once and then it disappears. This charm cost five slots.
- Good gameplay.
- The grubs are very cute!
- Boss fights are good.
- Exploring is fun to do.
- Character upgrade feels smooth.
- Charms are good to make different builds and switch on the go.
- It gives me a challenge.
- No bugs found (pun intended).
- Getting lost, a lot!
- Grub secret scene.
- The secret ending is hidden behind content that is impossible to get to for the casual players *
- Steep learning curve.
- I did not understand the full story (I’m still not sure).
*You will need to defeat 40+ bosses and a beefed-up secret boss which is doable for a small group of skilled people. I think I can complete this but I cannot find the time to do this or even practice for nightmare king Grimm at this moment. I will let you know in the forums when I finally succeed.
The final number I will give to Hollow Knight is……… Drumroll……..
I have played Hollow Knight on a gaming laptop through steam. It took me around 30 hours to reach 106 % completion. I am planning to play a hardcore mode run, when I have the time.