Dark Souls-inspired Metroidvania: Hollow Knight (the thread)


#1

I’ve only seen a few stray mentions of Hollow Knight on this forum, so I thought I’d start a standalone thread for it. I’m about 8 hours into my playthrough of this game and I AM IN LOVE WITH IT. I’m really surprised I haven’t seen/heard much discussion about this top-notch game. It’s easily one of my favorites of the year so far.

Short description: Hollow Knight is a Dark Souls-inspired, 2-D Metroidvania with impeccable style. From the traditionally hand-animated artwork, to the immersive and labrynthine world, to the gorgeous soundtrack, to the apparent depth of story and characters, everything about this game oozes atmosphere. In a way similar to, say, Hyperlight Drifter, this is a game that feels lived in and alive. And I want to live in it, too! This is to say nothing of the game’s mechanics, which are simple and yet I feel like I’ve barely breached the surface.

But the moment I fell in love with Hollow Knight came after my initial infatuation with its world and appearance. It was one of those moments that any Dark Souls player will recognize. After banging my head against a boss for what felt like forever, watching myself make mistake after mistake, dying over and over, restarting from my checkpoint time and again, learning to adapt and focus my movements, I finally broke through the wall, improving my play style and my character in a major way. Any game that can do that for me in a way that feels wholly earned gets my highest praise, and Hollow Knight is such a game.

Anyone else playing Hollow Knight?? Loving it? Hating it? Meh? I can’t be the only one who has fallen in love with this game.


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#2

Love it, definitely. I played it on release, as a backer of the Kickstarter, and I’m super happy I got to have a tiny part in making that thing real. It’s sitting pretty at #2 on my list for this year so far.

Hollow Knight is an incredible accomplishment, and the less you know about it, the better.


#3

Totally feel you on the “less you know the better” point. I’ve cautiously gone looking around online for more about what went into the game, and I’ve found out that I really don’t want to spoil any of the upcoming NPCs or new areas I haven’t seen yet. There’s a depth to this game that the surprise of organic discovery can only enrich. Have a feeling the praise will totally take off once it comes out on Switch.

Out of curiosity, what’s beating out Hollow Knight for your #1?


#4

Rather unfairly, it’s Hyper Light Drifter, which you mentioned. I’m a member over at gamerswithjobs.com, and our community GOTY allows games played for the first time, regardless of release date, which made more sense to me.

Being fair and proper, Hollow Knight is technically #1. But, really, top 3 is usually such a mess no matter the rules. Last year was Dishonored 2, Dark Souls 3, and DOOM, which are all personally contenders for game of the decade. How do you rank something like that?

Anyway, point being, Hollow Knight is dope as hell.
I think that’s my point.


#5

Man, I really want to play this but I don’t particularly want it on PC - I wanna be able to relax while get I get my cute little head beat in.

Is there any word on it coming to consoles? I know it’s coming to the switch, but I don’t have one yet and afaik there’s still no definite date on when that’s coming anyway.


#6

SWITCH VERSION WHEN

But seriously, waiting on the Switch release is getting real damn hard. This is so much my jam it hurts.


#7

I’ve been playing this between Persona 5 sessions. I like it and I think it’s probably one of the closest facsimiles to the old Super Metroid style I’ve played. It actually feels like I’m exploring a space instead of just moving through tile sets. I think it fuses the correct elements from Dark Souls and Metroid to make a challenging but fun experience.


#8

If it’s any help, I’m playing this on a wimpy MacBook Air. It’s certainly not perfect, but it works sufficiently (aside from very slight lag on occasion) and certainly doesn’t crash. I really hope they release on more consoles than Switch. I’d love to play it on my PS4. In any case, for all the great work they put into this game, everyone should have a chance to play!


#9

https://steamcommunity.com/app/367520/discussions/0/135513549091561365/

FUCK

6-12 months for the Switch release, so I guess I’ll end up picking up the PC version soon-ish and having a replay on Switch.


#10

I took me a while to get attached to this game. I wanted to watch a few youtube first impression videos etc before deciding if I’d like it and I kept bouncing off of it. It looked a bit samey, the art was meh, but I’m glad I kept giving it more and more shots because everything started slowly growing on me (art included). The environments get more diverse and complex, enemies more interesting and once I got the idea of the scale of the world and how many hidden collectibles/upgrades there were I bought the game and surprised how even more I fell in love with it. The music (which couldn’t really be heard over the videos I was watching) can’t be understated. Great soundtrack.

Going back to the art there was a surprising amount of depth and detail to the background, middleground, foreground, and ambient effects that I couldn’t recognize because of how focused I was on the simplistic combat, straightforward platforming, minimalistic design of the first area and enemies… Also I didn’t get to the Dark Souls-inspired points of comparison which are more prominent the more you play.


#11

I’ve only played 30 minutes myself (near the summit of the mountain that is my pile of shame) but one of the editors for our site is head over heels for it. You can read him loving on it here if you’re interested.


#12

It’s a great game. Shame it hasn’t gotten more attention. But I guess that’s an unavoidable side-effect of it being released among so many other big games.

My favorite thing about Hollow Knight is how easy it is to get lost. I feel like most Metroidvania games, despite creating vast, intricate worlds, always prescribe a very deliberate path to follow, whereas Hollow Knight lets you make your own path to some degree. I can’t count the number of times early on that I ended up somewhere that felt geared toward the late-game, or at least once I’d found a certain item or two because I kept finding multiple pathways that seemed to lead onward. I never had any idea which way was the right one, especially since I rarely could find maps for new areas quickly. Made me feel well and truly lost when I ended up somewhere I wasn’t prepared to tackle.

It was great. It made the world feel large and open instead of a bunch of discrete zones locked off by ability gates like so many others. I wrote a small piece about this, actually, for anyone interested. Really hope more games like this learn from Hollow Knight’s example.


#13

That feeling of getting lost in a big open world is one of my favourite parts of Dark Souls. I’m totally earmarking this for a switch purchase down the line.


#14

I can confidently say that you won’t regret it. If you’ve got a decent-sized monitor, you’ll get sucked in immediately.


#15

Woah, this is a great article! Appreciate you sharing the link. I think your point about discovery is another reason why the Dark Souls comparison really rings true of Hollow Knight. DS is all about that “A-HA!” or “WUH??” moment that comes from exploration, as well as having many circuitous paths branching out and convening to make shortcuts or tricky dead-ends. One of my favorite things to do in Hollow Knight is take off my Compass Charm and try to figure my way through the map based on landmarks and the shape of each room. It usually ensures I’ll find something interesting along the way.

Also, how cool is it that largely the entire world is “underground” and yet all of the areas feel distinct and offer unique challenges. Of course this comes down to the environmental design, but I think a huge part of it is about the creature design as well. Every area has at least few creatures native that section alone, and it makes each place feel like a standalone ecosystem. I can’t stress how perfectly Team Cherry has pulled this off.


#16

During my time with Hollow Knight before bed last night, I had a couple more realizations about what makes this game so good. Here comes some more gushing…

In all of the articles I’ve read about HK so far (including the links in this thread—thanks for those!), I’ve seen a lot of talk about the soundtrack. And indeed, it’s an incredible piece of work. Being someone whose livelihood is based around music, I’m what you might call hypercritical about what I listen to, especially if I’m going to be sitting with a game for hours. I feel like game music has only grown exponentially better over the years, but there’s still plenty of bad, or what I might call lazy, soundtracks out there. Christopher Larkin’s score for Hollow Knight isn’t just great in and of itself, it’s great because it perfectly FITS the game and it flows seamlessly from scene to scene. You can literally hear the music transition without interruption as you trek between worlds. He scored special tracks just for the single rooms that separates two zones, making sure the music synced to your experience.

While playing last night, I got this sensation of playing inside of an old animated film, complete with the soundtrack composed for my every move. I’ve seen this thrown around for other games before, but I think Hollow Knight is the closest I’ve felt to actually living inside a Studio Ghibli universe. From the character designs, to the adorable voices, to the vibrant music, to the classic animation style, it’s all so whimsical, otherworldly, and dynamic.

But what stands out to me perhaps even more than the soundtrack, and what I haven’t yet seen talked about, is the game’s incredible sound design. I think this is what really brings the world of Hollow Knight alive. This hit me once I made it into the zone called Fungal Wastes. That place is just brimming with handmade sound effects! There’s the burbling background noises in every room, the squeak of each mushroom as you walk by them, the rubbery boing of the bouncy plants, the light hiss of spores being released into the atmosphere, the satisfying crunch of you cutting down the scenery, and of course each creature’s own special sounds. I was reminded of Botanicula by Amanita Design, largely in the way each sound seemed to be created in simple ways yet sounded so alien.

The sound design isn’t just set dressing, though. Much like Dark Souls, it’s also there to warn you of certain enemies or encounters. (Spoiler-ish story ahead.) While in the Fungal Wastes I entered a room that had a large snoring sound coming from somewhere. Having already encountered some powerful enemies that I awoke with my presence, and not being ready for a big fight at the time, I went back the way I came and looked for a different path. Later on, I reentered the room and steeled myself for a big fight. Out of the ground a big ol’ bug with a club popped up and I immediately started swiping at it with my weapon. He didn’t fight back. It was a friendly NPC and we had a little chat, ending with him wishing me well and hoping we’ll see each other later on my journey. Now, I don’t know if this was intentional, but it felt like a nice little joke from the devs. They had taught me that sleeping creatures were going to be big enemy encounters, and then used that expectation to psych me out and subvert my ideas about the game world. This was all done with the sound of snoring. Precise, intentional sound design—yet another reason to love Hollow Knight.


#17

I fell off this game after I got killed in a place I didn’t have the map for yet, couldn’t find my ghost (which is a dumb mechanic and a really bad idea in a game like this but whatever) so I quit to come back later. When I did come back I found out that the ghost had disappeared entirely, along with all my money.
I really should get back to it sometime, since other than that one experience it was fantastic, and is one of the few games where “inspired by Dark Souls” doesn’t just mean “trash-mob enemies do tons of damage and have lots of health” but that it’s actually inspired by Dark Souls.


#18

I’m curious what makes you feel this way. I’ve found it to be a largely fair and smart way of penalizing death, especially if my most recent checkpoint is suuuper far from where I died and left my ghost. Not sure how they could have done that element better, and FWIW, I recently uncovered something that I think helps you recover your ghost without having to track it down. So, yeah, there are options. In any case, I’d love to hear why the mechanic doesn’t work for you in this game.


#19

Metroidvanias are largely about exploration and finding alternative paths, etc. when you hit a roadblock. This is a mechanic that punishes that; if I die against a boss, for example, rather than going and finding more upgrades, etc. to be more prepared, I need to throw myself against it until I win because otherwise I can’t get my ghost back and I’m severely crippled.


#20

I see what you’re saying. I agree with you in one sense, but for the most part I’m glad that it asks more of me. And I think that because it offers various ways to help circumvent parts of that punishment—you can easily track down your ghost with a map (if you don’t die again), you can stash your currency in a bank if you’re saving for something, you can rebuild your soul orb with a shop item, you can have an NPC help recover your ghost (these are just the ones I’ve personally seen)—it allows you to make choices based on your needs. Basically, for me, it makes the experience feel more considered, and not just a penalty that I have no agency over. It also makes me a more cautious player! I like that.