Hol­low Knight

Ex­plore a beau­ti­ful dead world in Hol­low Knight.

PC GAMER (UK) - - CONTENTS - By Tom Marks

I’m in the mid­dle of ex­plor­ing a lush cav­ern called the Queen’s Gar­den when the ground gives way be­neath my feet. In­stead of hit­ting spikes and re­set­ting back to safety to try again, I just keep fall­ing. If I had found the dou­ble jump abil­ity by this point, I could hop up to an exit path and con­tinue ex­plor­ing in the rel­a­tive safety of the Gar­den. But I haven’t, so I can’t. In­stead, I have to fight my way through a spi­der-filled hell for hours. Hal­lownest is an un­for­giv­ing place.

It’s also ridicu­lously huge. Hol­low Knight is a 2D ac­tion plat­former cen­tred on ex­plor­ing an open map, hunt­ing for se­crets and find­ing abil­i­ties that let you reach pre­vi­ously in­ac­ces­si­ble ar­eas. What makes it stand out, above all else, is how ex­pan­sive and de­tailed the sub­ter­ranean king­dom of Hal­lownest is.

The themed ar­eas in­ter­lock with a logic that only re­veals it­self through ex­plo­ration – ev­ery­thing is built on fad­ing his­tory. Hol­low Knight’s world is long past its prime. There’s noth­ing but a des­o­late and dark land­scape on the sur­face and a wind­ing cat­a­comb filled with the stink of death be­low. You con­trol an emo­tion­less knight, your pur­pose not en­tirely clear at the out­set, and delve into that land to ward off the evil within.

Fight­ing is sim­ple: I dance around en­e­mies, try­ing to slash them with my nail while dodg­ing their at­tacks. But the hits feel chunky and real, bounc­ing me back a lit­tle ev­ery time I

con­nect. Like­wise, when an en­emy hits me, I feel it. The game pauses for a split sec­ond as a crack flashes over my char­ac­ter be­fore I go fly­ing back. Those hits hurt, even if heal­ing is as sim­ple as find­ing a safe mo­ment and chan­nelling a re­source called Soul to fill my­self back up.

Hol­low Knight’s com­bat never did much to sur­prise me over the course of the game. You fight with the same weapon and es­sen­tially the same moveset the en­tire time – while at­tack pat­terns, strate­gies and stats will change, nearly ev­ery en­emy is de­feated with a sim­i­lar rhythm. Va­ri­ety in­stead comes more from nav­i­gat­ing the lev­els and the bril­liant charm sys­tem. Charms im­bue the player with spe­cial abil­i­ties, but you only have a lim­ited num­ber of ‘notches’ in which to equip them. They can do sim­ple things, such as im­prove your at­tack range, as well as ap­ply more com­plex mod­i­fi­ca­tions, such as giv­ing you a ranged at­tack while at full health. The stronger the ef­fect, the more notches they take.

charm­ful sub­stance

Beat­ing dif­fi­cult bosses is of­ten a process of find­ing a new charm com­bi­na­tion to give me an edge. At one point I bested a par­tic­u­larly fast boss by equip­ping all my charms that did in­di­rect dam­age – one that emits a poi­son cloud, an­other that strikes back when I take dam­age, and so on. It’s not a build that was strong for gen­eral use, but it was ex­actly what I needed against that spe­cific en­emy.

The charms come along­side per­ma­nent abil­ity un­locks, most of which are move­ment abil­i­ties. There are a few op­tional com­bat abil­i­ties, such as a sword spin, but I rarely use them due to the long charge-up time they re­quire. Even if Hol­low Knight’s com­bat didn’t change much as I played, my ap­proach con­stantly evolved as its move­ment abil­i­ties opened up new op­tions. A dou­ble jump makes larger en­e­mies eas­ier to get around, while a wall climb makes fight­ing fly­ing en­e­mies less stress­ful. I en­joy how in­ter­twined the plat­form­ing and the bat­tling is.

The sheer amount of stuff to do in Hol­low Knight is stag­ger­ing. At around the five-hour mark, the map opens up and I started los­ing track of all the things I could be do­ing – to the point where I be­gan keep­ing notes on a cus­tom map of my own. It’s a bit over­whelm­ing. The more ef­fort I put into it, the more Hol­low Knight re­warded me with thrilling chal­lenges and beau­ti­ful, sto­ried cav­erns to dis­cover. I reached 100% com­ple­tion prac­ti­cally by ac­ci­dent. I just wanted to keep ex­plor­ing all the mys­ter­ies the world had to of­fer me. I can con­fi­dently say Hol­low Knight is one of the best games I’ve played.

The sheer amount of stuff to do in Hol­low Knight is stag­ger­ing

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