When people talk about games, that don’t rely on heavy exposition to tell their story, which have stood the test of time, Super Metroid is sure to come up. Even though the game is over 20 years old now, there still aren’t many games that can match it. With the advent of Symphony of the Night in 1997, the term Metroidvania was crowned. This entry in the Castlevania series heavily deviated from its predecessors, bringing more of Metroid into it, but it also added more of a story driven adventure. Many of the following games, in either series, lacked what made Super Metroid and Symphony of the Night tower atop the rest. Enter Hollow Knight! I absolutely encourage to play Hollow Knight with as little knowledge as possible and to avoid any types of guides and spoilers at all costs. If you like Metroidvania games, I can honestly assure you that you will love this game. So do yourself a favour, stop watching this video now and go buy the game. I will try to avoid spoilers as much as I can, but to be able to discuss certain aspects that elevated the game for me, will unfortunately make it impossible to keep everything under wraps. So once again I urge you, if you’re into this genre, just buy it now, you won’t be disappointed You’re starting your adventure inside some empty caverns of a yet to be named location, following the path ahead of you, you’ll end up in Dirtmouth, a desolate little town with just a single NPC in it. If you wish to, you can talk to him, to learn a little bit about Dirtmouth and the dangers below. He’ll also tell you to use benches! Very rarely are you ever required to interact with anyone in this game. If you ignore him, he even has a really cute animation, accompanied by a little vocal sound, to let you know that he isn’t just environmental decoration. I was barely 5 minutes into the game at this point and I was so damn impressed with how everything had been handled so far. Everything you can do up to this point is explained in a way, without requiring you to stop doing what you’re doing. For instance, in the beginning you can only go to the right, but there’s a door-wall kinda thing, that blocks you from making progress. You press all the buttons until you find the slash button, which breaks it. Now that you know where the attack button is, you’re now confronted with a small enemy to hack away at. Just with these two little, let’s call them “events”, you were made aware of two things: Number one, you can break things to create a path and two, hitting enemies has weight to it, as you’ll be bounced backwards. You’re not being told, you’re experiencing it, which makes it instantaneous knowledge. Further up, you’ll come across a small platforming section with a mosquito flying around it, this lets you know that climbing upwards can be a hassle, as enemies won’t be so kind as to leave you in peace while you’re doing that. Towards the end of this section you’ll even have the ground crumble away under your feet, letting you know that the terrain you traverse can be treacherous at times, as well as a small hidden section that is obscured and opens up once you enter, teaching you to really explore your surroundings. As a bonus, you’re even shown a not so hidden blue bug nest, which grants you a temporary health increase if slashed away at. For people like myself, who like to experiment with their controls a bit at first, before moving onwards, you’re also able to figure out a few other things here, namely what you can do while jumping. Normally you can slash horizontally in either direction, but in terms of verticality, you’re only able to slash upwards. This changes while in mid-air, where you’re also given the option to slash downwards. You’re already aware that slashing an enemy and even certain environmental decorations will push you back if you strike them… I had a big fat smile on my face, when I saw that enemies, and again, the environmental decorations, can be used as spring boards. What I am really trying to get at, the controls are superb, the way they’re explained to you, is even better. Because they really aren’t explained per se, you’re put in a situation, where you can experiment, because you’re not really given a directive as to what you’re supposed to be doing anyway. The current path only leads into one direction, so you know where you’re supposed to go, but on that path there’s enough room for experimentation. All your findings will aid you in your quest, but none of which are imperative to your success. As far as I am concerned, this is a perfect setup! Hollow Knight’s main form of keeping the player engaged is done via exploration. As with the original Metroid, you’re going from screen to screen, without a map. So you’re really just walking around, familiarising yourself with your environment. Eventually you’ll come across Cornifer, a cartographer, who will sell you a map, but telling you that the map isn’t really all that helpful without a compass. At least you have some form of knowledge what the environment looks like now. Going back to Dirtmouth you’re now able to buy a compass and a quill, the latter will add new areas that you explored to maps you already own. The way exploration is done is blissfully old-school and is the driving force in piquing your thirst for discovery as well as satiating it. Hallownest is a huge place, much bigger than a lot of other games in this genre. With that, you obviously need some form of respite. Benches in Hollow Knight act as your bonfires, lanterns, Kodama shrines… they fully heal you, reset your environments and serve the purpose of checkpoints. Should you die or leave the game, this is where you’ll continue your adventure from. In that same vein, coming across a new bench, as well as finding ways that loop around to already discovered benches, always fills the player with a sense of relief and safety. Fast travel comes in two forms, one of which I don’t want to spoil, so I’ll just be focusing on the one you find very early on. Throughout the game you’ll find Stag stations, which, for the most part at least, come alongside a bench, so you’re basically given twice the incentive to seek them out. The Last Stag, which is your means of transportation, also doubles as a historian. Being around for so long he knows the stations and the areas they are in. Once again this is completely optional, no exposition is forced upon you, but if you’re interested, just hop off the station and interact with him to find out more. The other form of fast travel opens up to you much later and does NOT replace the Stag Stations, but as I just mentioned, I don’t want to spoil this, so please experience this for yourself. To close out on exploration, the environments are designed beautifully. Visually as well of course, but that’s not what I mean. Secrets and collectibles are hidden everywhere! Also, as stated in the beginning, I was extremely happy to see that I could use emies as springboards and a lot of the environment allows you to use shortcuts in this way. Most of them seem very much intended, so a lot of thought has definitely gone into which enemies are placed alongside ledges and so on. It’s an amazing feeling when you make progress in a way, that seems like breaking the norm. Again, you don’t need knowledge of these shortcuts, but figuring them out, is very gratifying! I really love exploration in Metroidvania games, but the true incentive that keeps you exploring is no doubt, wanting to slay some enemies and to power up your avatar. There’s no levelling system in Hollow Knight, so you can’t grind yourself into a god, neither will your defensive capabilities ever change. If an attack does 1 damage, it will still do 1 damage at the end of the game. If it does 2 damage, it will do that just that. So you might be wondering, isn’t this somewhat harsh, as you’re starting out with only five masks, masks being your HP, and only being able to recharge at benches? It sure looks that way at first, and when you consider that single usage items, such as healing potions, don’t exist in Hollow Knight, it does seem unfair at first. Your form of resource in this game is called Soul, which is the spherical element next to your health bar. Soul is gained by striking enemies and a third of your maximum soul can be used to heal yourself. With a full soul container, you’re thus able to heal a total of three masks. Focusing, which is what you do to utilise Soul to heal yourself, does take a bit of time though, so you want to choose the spots in which you heal, quite carefully. Of course, this would be a bit too simplistic of a setup, as there’s no real decision making involved. This is where spells come in! Spells, which are abilities you learn throughout your adventure, also utilise this very same pool of Soul. Spells are very powerful in Hollow Knight, if used correctly, both offensively, and offensively in a defensive manner. I know that sounds weird, but just believe me on this one. So especially during boss battles you’ll always have to ask yourself, do you want to attack, or do you want to heal? When you’re down to two masks, this decision could very well be the last you make, prior to waking up at your last bench, to track all the way back to the boss you just died to. Other than spells, you’ll be given abilities that don’t require any resources to use and are intended for you to reach places you couldn’t before, allowing you to explore even more of Hallownest. As I don’t want to take the feeling away that you get when you find out what these abilities do, I obviously don’t want discuss these any further and ruin the surprise. If you’ve played Metroidvania games before, you will no doubt be able to imagine what ‘types’ of abilities I am referring to. Some of them are standard fare, while one in particular really blew my mind! Once again, please experience this for yourself! On the topic of bosses, there’s a ton of them! The majority of them are fairly easy and honestly don’t have enough health in my opinion. I was able to beat the majority of them on my first try, without dying… in turn, I died to the very first boss about 6 times I think. You’ll also come across a few optional super bosses, which will kick your arse really hard until you’ve learned their patterns, to those I actually lost count how often I died. On one of them in particular I was sitting at for a solid three hours, trying over and over before I finally managed to beat them for the very first time! While I love the bosses, their movesets and how you are able to deal with them in a lot of different ways, my only complaint about them is that, the majority of them, don’t really pose much of a threat. In itself this is fine and highly subjective of course, some people will find some bosses harder than others, while others people might breeze through those and struggle at the first boss for a bit, like myself. The super bosses, of which there are three, four maybe *clears throat*, are really cool additions and I wish there were more of them to add a bit of an optional challenge to the game. This should be optional of course, which means, I don’t find any real fault with the current setup, since the difficulty is rather subjective and depends on how you play the game. Lastly there are two more things which will help you survive the dangers that lurk within Hallownest. The first one are upgrades; as is always the case with these types of games, you can permanently increase your Health and Soul, by finding Mask and Vessel fragments. This is done Zelda style, find X amount of pieces and you get 1 upgrade. The same goes for your weapon, throughout your adventure you’ll be able to upgrade that. You’ll know that you found all the upgrades once you’ve unlocked the achievement for it. The second one being Charms. Charms are essentially equippable modifiers, that require notches. These can strengthen your damage output under certain conditions, allow you to receive more soul from enemies, make your spells stronger, give your nail longer reach and so on. You’ll be able to find a lot of charms throughout your adventure and you’ll be able to equip more charms, allowing you to combine certain effects, which stack, to really let your playstyle shine! I’ve absolute fallen in love with this game! There are so many secrets and collectibles, that keep your exploration of Hallownest going, that I never got bored of backtracking even once. I am so enthralled by Hollow Knight, that I’m currently practicing the 100% Speedrun route in Steel Soul Mode, which is the permadeath option, that opens up after you clear the game for the first time. I don’t consider this much of a spoiler, so I am ok with putting that out there. I am not really following the indie development scene, so this game flew under my radar for a very long time. I wasn’t aware of the kickstarter campaign in 2014, I didn’t see any trailers, nothing. The reason I am not following Indie titles, is that whenever I get play one 99 times out of a 100 it feels more like I am playing a tech demo, rather than a full fledged game. There are of course exceptions, Hollow Knight being one of them of course, but also games such as Shovel Knight, which I also loved to death, Super Meat Boy, The Binding Isaac Rebirth, Axiom Verge and Salt and Sanctuary, just to name a few. It just so happened that I was specifically looking for a good Metroidvania game in May of 2017 and Hollow Knight popped up, only having released a mere two months prior, to raving reviews on Steam. Since I was looking for a Metroidvania game, I didn’t want to watch trailers and the likes, to make sure that I don’t get spoiled, essentially expecting certain things to happen from the moment I started the game, because I saw them in the trailer. So I just bought it and started playing, and I am very happy that I did it this way. I intentionally neglected to talk about the story aspects of the game in this video. I can honestly say that I enjoyed both the plot and the lore behind it a lot. As is the case with Soulsborne games though, for the most part, you will have to want to know about it and go out of your way to consume it. The game rarely forces any sort of long monologue upon you. Going into the game blind, you will no doubt have questions though and most of them are answered if you so choose to talk to the NPCs in Hallownest. Graphics are another point I ignored, while I think the game looks absolutely stunning and is animated to that same high standard, the two sides of this coin go a bit like this: On one side graphics are always a highly subjective point of view, while on the flipside they don’t really add much in a discussion about gameplay. “Hold up!” I hear you say “You act like this is the first game in 20 plus years to do all this! Why are you ignoring great games such as Axiom Verge or Salt and Sanctuary?” I am not actually I just mentioned them! Both are great games in their own rights, but I feel that they lack the kind of unique personality that Hollow Knight brought. Axiom Verge is for all intents and purposes a straight up Metroid clone, whereas Salt and Sanctuary just is a 2D Dark Souls rather than its own entity. Again, I think both are stellar games and extremely fun to play, just not to the degree of what I experienced with Hollow Knight! What I am guilty of, is not having played Ori and the Blind Forest yet, which is an error, that I will remedy in the very near future! Hollow Knight has earned a spot in my personal Top 5 games of all time and with that, I feel rather confident in recommending it, if you like Metroidvanias that is! It doesn’t reinvent the genre, but it sure polished it to perfection! I’d love to hear what you thought of Hollow Knight, or if my video on it made you consider giving the game a shot. Please let me know in the comments below. Also, make sure to hit either the like or dislike button, I don’t really care which one, just hit one of em, they’re both helping me out. If you’d like to see more, make sure to hit that subscribe button and turn on notifications. Thanks for sticking through with me all the way to the end. I have been Sasa and I’ll see you next time!