Released in 2017 by Team Cherry, Hollow Knight opened the gates to a sprawling labyrinthine world of two-dimensional adventure. Somewhere between darkly grim and stunningly beautiful, this Metroidvania game envelops players in an immersive cavern of survival tactics and strategic gameplay.
Players tune into an illuminated world of captivating illustrations and memorable narrative, piecing together an elaborate plot through lore tablets, visual storytelling, journal entries, and dialogue.
Hollow Knight is a classically-styled, 2D, side-scrolling action-adventure that spans across an extensive, interconnected world. As you battle and befriend strange creatures, solve ancient mysteries, and explore deserted cities, the decisions you make push you closer and closer to one of the three possible endings.
Inspired by the Metroid and Castlevania series, Hollow Knight surprises and impresses in the most brilliantly elaborate ways. Read on for our detailed Hollow Knight review.
Hollow Knight: The Basics
Before we dive into the nitty-gritty specs, storyline, and gameplay of Hollow Knight, let’s first tackle the basic need-to-know questions that will give you a comprehensive understanding of this immersive universe.
What genre is Hollow Knight?
Metroidvania: a subgenre of action-adventure that combines elements from the Metroid and Castlevania game series. The genre focuses on guided non-linearity and utility-based exploration, and is characterized by features like progressive minimaps, boss battles, and backtracking. While the vast majority of Metroidvania games are two-dimensional sidescrollers, they are not limited to one gameplay format.
What platforms is Hollow Knight on?
Since it’s 2017 release, Hollow Knight has become available on the following gaming platforms:
- Windows OS
- Nintendo Switch
- PlayStation 4
- Xbox One
How long does it take to beat Hollow Knight?
The time required to complete Hollow Knight from start to finish will vary by user, though on average it will take 30 to 40 hours to reach one of the three endings.
Long before the starting point of the game, a creature known as Wyrm dies just outside of Hallownest, but later returns as the Pale King. Before the Pale King’s arrival into Hallownest, the bug residents of the dark city worshipped a great higher being known as the Radiance. With the Pale King’s entrance into Hallownest came the great departure away from glorifying the Radiance. The Pale King quickly convinces the bugs of Hallownest to forget the Radiance and accept him as their new ruler by promising eternal prosperity for the entire kingdom.
The Pale King begins to make good on his promise, but before long, the bugs of Hallownest begin to hear whispers of the Radiance in their dreams. In an attempt to resurrect her fading memory, the Radiance invades the minds of her former subjects, causing a kingdom-wide madness called the Infection.
In hopes of eradicating the Infection and saving Hallownest from a sickly downfall, the Pale King attempts to seal away the Radiance in a Vessel: a genderless being of the Void containing the soul of two beings. The Pale King searched far and wide before finding the purest Vessel fit for the Radiance. This Vessel was known as the Hollow Knight. The Hollow Knight was locked away in the Black Egg Temple by three powerful bugs known as the Dreamers.
Upon your arrival into the game as the Knight, you enter Dirtmouth - a tiny town located just above Hallownest’s ruins. As you venture into the forgotten kingdom, you come face to face with the possessed remains of Hallownest’s infected residents. You also meet Hornet, the needle-wielding, self-proclaimed protector of Hallownest.
Through learning the history of Hallownest on the ever twisting and evolving journey through Greenpath, Crystal Peak, Kingdom’s Edge and elsewhere, you begin to piece together that the Knight is a Vessel itself. It also becomes glaringly apparent that the Pale King’s attempt at sealing away the Infection was a failure, posing a deadly threat to all of the remaining inhabitants of Hallownest.
It becomes the Knight’s responsibility to absorb the Infection, defeat the Hollow Knight, and liberate the kingdom of Hallownest from the looming wrath of the Radiance’s haunting.
How to play Hollow Knight
Diving into a game for the first time is usually met with a reasonable amount of user hand-holding by the initial plot unfolding and directed decision-making. Hollow Knight strays away from this game-entry trope by letting you do the majority of figuring out. For a game so enshrouded in mystery, Hollow Knight does not disappoint from the outset.
Calling all first-time venturers! These tips will help get your game off to a great start.
1. Stock up
As you begin your journey, you’ll have a limited number of tools and resources to guide your way, so your first plan of action will be to earn enough Geos to add a map, a compass, and a quilt to your inventory. Each of these key purchases will advance your campaign.
Your next important investment will be the map pins. Not only will they allow you to mark locations for future reference, but they’ll save you plenty of time and energy down the road.
2. Talk to strangers
The lore and overarching narrative of Hollow Knight is impressively extensive and much of it lies inside of dialogue with strangers. Talk to as many non-playable characters as you encounter. You’ll quickly discover the ways in which characters move through mini-narratives, making the game that much more engaging and richer.
3. Learn the battle controls
The Knight is able to attack in four directions; up, down, left, and right. The down-stroke attack is undoubtedly the most effective attack, but it’s important to familiarize yourself with the Knight’s other offensive mechanisms before facing your first boss.
Like many other games that feature combat modes, there is a certain rhythm and pace to attacking and defending in battle. The more you battle, the better acquainted you’ll be with the 1,2...1,2,3 cadence.
4. Explore and uncover
Don’t let your thirst for victory cloud your adventurous spirit. Rather than button-holing yourself into a one-track-mind mentality toward finishing the game, entangle yourself in the elusive game scape. There are a number of secret areas and surface breaks that are totally worth uncovering. For your first go at Hollow Knight, take your time, take it in, and enjoy the story.
5. Find the Hunter’s Journal in Greenpath
The Hunter’s Journal is an all-encompassing compendium of each and every enemy living within the realm of Hollow Knight. For every enemy you defeat, a locked entry becomes available, detailing the ancient Hunter’s notes on enemy defeat techniques, and the lore behind the specified enemy and the Hunter himself.
6. Stockpile charms
Charms are special, colorful items that endow the Knight with a variety of bonuses. Charms require Notches when equipped, and only become usable when the Knight is resting on a bench. There are 45 different charms that become unlocked with increased gameplay. Some grant sizable advantages while others alter your playstyle.
Quick Focus is one of the most crucial charms to have onboard when facing boss fights. It allows you to recharge your health at an accelerated pace and even grants you the ability to heal twice in situations where only one heal would be warranted.
7. Know your PC controls
Before you dive into Hollow Knight’s adventure, you’ll need a firm grasp on how to navigate through Hallownest. Use the following keys to make your way through this side-scrolling crusade:
D: Dream nail
E: Quick cast
S: Super dash
Tab: Quick map
Up and down keys: Look up/down
Up, down, left, and right keys: Move, menu navigation, change spell, activate/warp a Dreamgate
There are three possible endings to Hollow Knight. Your particular ending depends on your in-game decisions and accomplishments. Let’s break down each ending.
Warning: spoilers ahead!
Ending 1: The Hollow Knight
- Failure to acquire the Void Heart
- Defeat the Hollow Knight
The Hollow Knight ending is regarded as the easiest ending to achieve. After killing each of the three Dreamers and venturing into the Temple of the Black Egg, you’ll meet the Hollow Knight - your final boss battle. Winning the boss battle allows you to absorb the Infection, reseal the temple, and become a new Vessel.
Achievement: Defeat the Hollow Knight and become the Vessel
Ending 2: Sealed Siblings
- Acquire the Void Heart
- Defeat The Hollow Knight
Once you’ve slain the three Dreamers and obtained the Void Heart, you head into the Temple of the Black Egg and go toe-to-toe with the Hollow Knight with Hornet by your side. During battle, Hornet will manage to capture the Hollow Knight.
Should you decide to continue with regular attacks rather than using your Dream Nail, you become the new Hollow Knight with Hornet sealed away beside you. Hornet’s mask becomes the new Dreamer seal donned on the Temple door.
The Sealed Siblings ending is considered the “bad” ending because while it ends the Hollow Knight cycle, it allows the Infection to poison the rest of the kingdom.
Achievement: Defeat the Hollow Knight with Hornet
Ending 3: Dream No More
- Acquire Void Heart
- Defeat The Radiance
The Dream No More ending is regarded as the true Hollow Knight ending. The tactic for this ending is the same as the Sealed Siblings ending, but instead of using regular attack methods, you must use the Dream Nail when the Hollow Knight is apprehended.
Upon infiltrating the Hollow Knight’s dreams, you unleash the Radiance, launching an ultra-challenging three-round boss battle. Once defeated, the Infection magically disappears and the Hollow Knights rest eternally.
Achievement: Defeat the Radiance and consume the light
The expansion packs
Since Hollow Knight’s release, Team Cherry has issued four additional expansion packs; Hidden Dreams, The Grimm Troupe, Lifeblood, and Godmaster. Each comes with a slew of new bosses, challenging gameplay, and extra hours of animated, side-scrolling adventure. Let’s take a look at each of the content packs available today.
1. Hollow Hidden Dreams
Released in August of 2017, Hollow Knight: Hidden Dreams continues the Hallownest story by bringing together two of Hallownest’s greatest warriors. Hidden Dreams also introduces a new Stag Station and an ultra-fast travel mechanic into the mix that enliven gameplay.
- White Defender
- Grey Prince Zote
2. The Grimm Troupe
The Grimm Troupe is the second expansion pack released in October of 2017, just months after Hidden Dreams’ release. Bringing a new boss, custom map markers, and several extras to the table, The Grimm Troupe lives up to the pre-release hype.
Upon the Grimm Troupe’s arrival to Dirtmouth, Troupe Master Grimm challenges the Knight to a flame-collecting quest. It becomes your job as the Knight to either help the Troupe Master carry-out his ritual or defeat the Troupe altogether and banish them from Hallownest.
As the third content expansion pack, Hollow Knight: Lifeblood was originally intended to serve as a major update to the technical elements of the game including gameplay upgrades and optimizations. Lifeblood introduced one new boss and allowed users to change the background of the title screen in the Extras section.
Hollow Knight: Godmaster is the fourth content pack released in August of 2018. It serves as the final chapter to the Knight’s story with two possible endings. Players can battle harder versions of the game’s many bosses in a series of challenges instituted by the Godseeker.
- Nailmasters Oro and Mato
- Paintmaster Sheo
- Great Nailsage Sly
- Pure Vessel
- Absolute Radiance
- Winged Nosk
- Sisters of Battle
Is Hollow Knight worth buying?
In a word, yes. If you’re considering adding Hollow Knight to your Steam inventory after reading through our Hollow Knight review, rest assured that once you start to play, you’re in for a world of darkly illuminated surprise. Hollow Knight’s atmospheric visuals and entrancing soundtrack are seamlessly complemented by the richness of the lore.
Without being a completely new video game concept, Hollow Knight still feels fresh. Every scene, character, and setting is brought to sprawling life with painstaking care. Hollow Knight is worth every penny, immersing you into a detailed subterranean world you’ve never seen before. Team Cherry has more than outdone themselves with Hollow Knight, showing the gaming sphere just what it takes to create a modern, timeless classic.
About the Author
Tulie Finley-Moise is a contributing writer for HP® Tech Takes. Tulie is a digital content creation specialist based in San Diego, California with a passion for the latest tech and digital media news.