hol­low knight: void heart edi­tion

This brave litt le knight will cap­ture your heart and soul

XBox: The Official Magazine (US) - - START - Adam Bryant

On the face of it, Hol­low Knight seems like just an­other Metroid­va­nia game. Sprawl­ing cav­ernous play­ground? Check. Se­crets to dis­cover? Check. Un­reach­able lo­ca­tions that are only ac­ces­si­ble once you’ve ob­tained the cor­rect equip­ment or abil­ity? Check. It con­tains all the sta­ple el­e­ments of the genre but if you peek be­low its sur­face it re­veals it­self to be much, much more.

This en­chant­ing and sur­real 2D ad­ven­ture places you in the tiny boots of an un­named in­sect knight in a world full of strange and won­der­ful crea­tures. Your in­tro­duc­tion to the game comes from the first non-player char­ac­ter, the Elder­bug, who you meet in the des­o­late town of Dirt­mouth. He sheds some brief de­tails about the king­dom of Hal­lownest that re­sides be­neath the town and how this once pros­per­ous place has fallen into ruin and is now crawl­ing with mon­sters and re­an­i­mated in­sect husks. Be­yond this you’re told lit­tle to noth­ing about who you are or what you’re sup­posed to be do­ing in this dark and sor­row­ful place. But that’s pre­cisely where the game shines. The drip-fed nar­ra­tive en­cour­ages you to ex­plore and dis­cover these an­swers for your­self. Nailed it Nav­i­gat­ing the world is such a joy. Ev­ery area you visit is dis­tinctly dif­fer­ent from the last in its ter­rain, mood and at­mos­phere, and they’re so densely pop­u­lated with se­crets to find, in­ter­est­ing NPCs to con­verse with that flesh-out the nar­ra­tive, as well as crea­tures and en­vi­ron­men­tal chal­lenges to face, that ev­ery di­rec­tion hides some­thing of value. And thanks to the beau­ti­ful art style it’s al­ways vis­ually stun­ning.

Wield­ing your Nail, an up­grade­able bladed weapon, you’ll cut down a huge col­lec­tion of en­e­mies and bosses as you ex­plore. Do­ing so re­wards you with Geo, an in-game cur­rency used to pur­chase items and up­grades, but also Soul. Each hit on an en­emy pro­duces a wispy essence, which you ab­sorb, and is cru­cial to your sur­vival. Fill­ing up your Soul me­ter will al­low you to do two things: you can ei­ther con­sume it to heal a por­tion of your health, or spend it on any of the spells or abil­i­ties that you’ve ac­quired. This adds an in­ter­est­ing tac­tic dur­ing com­bat. Do you back off to re­cover your health, or do you make a gam­bit and at­tack with a pow­er­ful blast with the risk that you could die from the next blow? Heal­ing takes a mo­ment to charge which adds fur­ther risk if poorly timed and the en­e­mies do not have health bars, so it’s dif­fi­cult to know how many more times you need to at­tack. This makes it im­per­a­tive to learn each of the en­emy’s at­tacks and abil­i­ties as you come across them. Learn­ing their rou­tines through trial and er­ror is re­ward­ing in it­self. You’ll grad­u­ally gain more skill and con­fi­dence and be­fore you know it you’ll be danc­ing around large pow­er­ful foes with an el­e­gance and grace that make you feel like David ver­sus Go­liath. The sim­i­lar­i­ties

with FromSoft­ware’s Dark Souls se­ries are ap­par­ent, so it’s no sur­prise that you’ll die a lot.

Rest cure

You’ll see no game-over screen dur­ing play. In­stead, when you die you’re trans­ported back to one of the benches scat­tered through­out the world that al­low you to rest, re­cover and save your progress. Any col­lected Geo will be lost but thank­fully you have an op­por­tu­nity to re­claim it. Upon death you leave a ghostly ap­pari­tion of your­self, known as a Shade, be­hind. You’ll need to re­trace your steps to the lo­ca­tion of your death, avoid­ing all the dan­gers lead­ing up to it and do bat­tle with your shad­owy self. The more pow­er­ful you be­come, the more pow­er­ful your Shade will be. Any abil­ity that you’ve ac­quired will nat­u­rally be­come part of your Shade’s reper­toire. These con­fronta­tions aren’t the most chal­leng­ing, but if you hap­pen to die be­fore de­feat­ing the Shade your col­lec­tion of Geo will be lost for­ever.

The sound­track, com­posed by Christo­pher Larkin, is a beau­ti­ful and fit­ting touch that el­e­vates the game’s mood and tone. The som­bre score adds an ex­tra layer of melan­choly to pro­ceed­ings and you may find your­self lin­ger­ing in cer­tain ar­eas just to en­joy the sights and sounds.

Through its com­bat, ex­plo­ration and nar­ra­tive, Hol­low Knight re­spects the in­tel­li­gence of the player. When you ini­tially gain con­trol of the knight there are no in­struc­tions as to how to play. Only when you ac­quire new abil­i­ties will it tell you how to use them and let you move on. The nar­ra­tive is re­vealed over time and you’re re­quired to piece in­for­ma­tion to­gether to gain a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of the story.

To dis­miss Hol­low Knight as just an­other Metroid­va­nia game would be to rob your­self of one of the finest ex­am­ples of a 2D ad­ven­ture game. It’s proof that when done right it’s pos­si­ble to breathe life into the most worn-out gen­res. Hol­low Knight may be any­thing but orig­i­nal, bor­row­ing heav­ily from many dif­fer­ent games, but it’s how it com­bines these in­flu­ences within a mys­te­ri­ous alchemy of game de­sign that makes it thor­oughly en­ter­tain­ing and re­ward­ing.

“You may linger in cer­tain ar­eas just to en­joy the sights and sounds”

Far Left Many of the bosses you go up against will have a sec­ond com­bat phase.

right Some of the stange crea­tures you meet will of­fer you re­wards for your deeds.

Left Ev­ery lo­ca­tion has a beau­ti­ful art style. A real feast for the eyes.

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