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The map of Hallownest is gigantic, but designed intelligently. Each room feels distinct enough, whether because of the room’s contents or being visually distinctive, where navigation feels natural and intuitive. Each area feels balanced with map layouts that rarely feel empty or lackluster, and there’s almost always something to be found in each direction you can take. Secrets can be found everywhere in the map, and while the rewards for your search can be anticlimactic at times, there’s an added intrigue to your adventure as you might stumble into a hidden area. Hollow Knight’s ability to have a massive map that feels extremely well-planned out, filled with secrets, and consistently manages to keep each room visually distinct is extremely impressive.
Combat is simple yet satisfying, with fights rarely feeling luck-based. The Knight’s toolkit is small (your nail (+ nail arts), spells, healing, and movement tools), which makes it easy to pick up the basics of combat mechanics. However, mastering Hollow Knight’s mechanics requires a lot of skill and game knowledge, leading to boss victories feeling triumphant and satisfying. Hell, many fights feel similar to a dance as you learn how to dodge attacks, further aiding in the fantastic feel of combat. The game’s charm system allows for customizability in how you play, with some charms even being designed to synergize with each other and give added benefits (such as defender’s crest and spore shroom improving the damage of spore shroom’s damage cloud). There’s not one strict way to play Hollow Knight, and that’s a fantastic quality to have.
Hollow Knight’s combat system shines the most when up against the game’s bosses. And there’s a lot, 39 to be specific. Most bosses have interesting mechanics that make them fun to fight, and the majority of the bosses that don’t are designed for the beginning of the game and are purposefully simplistic. And while bosses are difficult, they never feel insurmountable and it always feels like you have the tools to succeed. Being able to have so many bosses and have the majority be fun, challenging, and well-designed is a major fear.
Artistically, Hollow Knight is stunning. Hallownest is incredibly atmospheric, with a world that feels alive and inhabited while also selling the feeling of being a ruined kingdom. The use of color further accentuates the world’s setting, with most of Hallownest being cool colors (primarily blue, but featuring a lot of greens, purples, greys, and earthy yellow), with the Infection contrasting the natural Hallownest by being jarringly orange. The use of color allows for the Infection to pop as something foreign, dangerous, and hostile. Hollow Knight’s soundtrack is iconic, with exciting boss music and soothing overworld themes. The game’s music subtly assists in making the world much better to explore and boss fights more engaging to fight.
And on top of all of that, Hollow Knight is $15 USD with 4 free DLC. Hollow Knight goes above and beyond, especially with its price tag and small development team. And it takes genuine passion to make a game as thoroughly designed as Hollow Knight is.
There’s a lot to say and love with Hollow Knight, a lot more than I can say here. Hollow Knight has had a major impact in the gaming sphere, both for players and for game developers. And for good reason, because Hollow Knight manages to nail so many of its mechanics and design choices and offers players so many directions and places to explore and interact with.
Hollow Knight is my favorite game of all time. And it has truly earned that title. It is a phenomenal game in so many ways