Hollow Knight Reviews

TSA Score for this game: 268
Posted on 26 February 18 at 23:04
This review has 2 positive votes and 0 negative votes. Please log in to vote.
Hollow Knight was on a number of rather prominent best of 2017 lists that I follow, so my interest was definitely piqued and so I finally wound up picking up a copy as I grabbed Sonic Mania and a Hat in Time.

And it’s lived up to that title and belongs in that list as long as you’re willing to accept a few caveats.

Hollow Knight is a Metroidvania, but more than that, it’s a true exploration game. In Metroidvania you often have one or two doors or hallways that need X weapon to get through, you get that weapon, and you are now able to explore a new area. That’s not how this works at all

Instead, skill tests all over the place. Some of them just are made easier by new abilities (a hard jump puzzle can be made easier with a double jump). But there are other moves that will allow players to explore new locations, the thing is, this doesn’t open a new area, but rather will usually open up entire new sections of old levels, new areas, and often new bosses. There are not just one or two doors that need double jump but rather vast and different areas of the game that was waiting for this move to open up and show you it’s secrets.

I love this feeling because this is a game that rewards exploration. It also can punish it, as in the time I accidentally went to a location too early and had to crawl out barely able to survive it, but overall the game continues to offer new locations and areas for players to explore and has a decent amount of hidden secrets. I used a map after a while and I kept finding a new location I didn’t know about before. That’s kind of great.

The graphics of the game are great, and the aesthetics of everything are a variety but pull together. Every so often you’ll see a new character, and each character has something to say. I was surprised at how many times I’d find someone and have very little to do with them. Just talk to them. There’s even this giant caterpillar that I found, he said nothing and just adds a bit to the story of the place.

Everything in this game really does work together, and give a specific experience. However the big divisive issue here is the bosses, and this is what finally ended up with the make or break part of the game. The Bosses in Hollow Knight are excellent, but at the same time, they are also very difficult at first. Every boss has three simple tactics to beat him. Pattern recognition, find a good opening, and survival.

There’s an old joke that to beat any enemy, you have to avoid getting hit, and hit them a lot, and that’s exactly what Hollow Knight believes. There are a few twists, every three attacks or so, hollow knight gets enough magic to heal one “life point” if they charge up their magic and don’t get hit at that time. They also can use that to cast a magical spell which is instantaneous. So successful attacks on an enemy can actually help hollow knight regain life if he can find the right timing for it. It’s an interesting tradeoff and adds to the risk vs reward system of the game.

Each boss and area is quite different and has unique enemies, and each fight is interesting. Much of the game boils down to pattern recognition, and that’s good. Yet the bosses are just a little more difficult than they really need to be at times, there’s a good number of bosses that are just a touch too hard.

I’ve tried to avoid saying Dark souls as I think that’s a reductive review tactic for almost any game. But there is some comparison to be had besides just hard bosses. The game uses a money system similar to dark souls. You get geos (similar to souls) for killing enemies and have to get your corpse back to get the money and restore your full magic bar which is reduced without corpse recovery.

However there’s no stat system, and only a few items are upgradable (mostly the main weapon, which upgrades but is not replaced). There’s also no multiplayer so a hard boss is not able to be learned by going to other people’s games, nor can you request help, and honestly that’s a bit of a shame, because there are a few bosses, I just don’t think I can pass, and I wouldn’t mind requesting some help. It’s the reason I finally put this game down because I didn’t think I had the skill to get past a few bosses, nor the desire to really spend the time to gain the skill. But that doesn’t mean it’s a bad game, It’s a good game because I put in 30 ish hours before hitting that wall and a good challenge is welcome. I just wish there was a way to get past some of the required fights if a player was unable to beat them, even if it puts an asterisk on my game because I’d love to see more of what this game has.

Yet the thing that kept me going is the exploration system, there was always a new room or area I hadn’t seen, there’s always another secret or a hidden wall to go through and so many optional bosses fights that I was having a blast even if I kept getting beat by the hardest of them. The joy I felt when I found a boss I could almost tackle as great because I kept going back to it. Yet without a life bar, I couldn’t be sure how far I got, however being able to play near flawless on some bosses made me feel like a boss.

Ultimately though the game is a challenging battle and is unapologetic for it, and that’s fine, I actually like it quite a bit, so I can recommend this, with the understanding that this is a brutally hard exploration game more than a story-driven game. Overall though it’s a fantastic game and does deserve to be on many best of 2017 lists.

If you enjoy this review and want to see my opinion on other games you can find my curator page at this link. http://store.steampowered.com/curator/31803828-Kinglink-Revi...
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Titanium Dragon
Titanium Dragon
TSA Score for this game: 975
Posted on 09 January 18 at 09:08
This review has 1 positive vote and 0 negative votes. Please log in to vote.
Ever since Hollow Knight was released, I’ve heard from a number of its acolytes about how it is one of their favorite video games, if not their single favorite video game, of all time. So when I got the game for Christmas and installed it to try it out, I have to admit to being rather disappointed by the slow start.

The game starts off with you just having a rather lackluster weapon and the ability to jump. You don’t move terribly fast (though not terribly slow either) and early on, your abilities are sharply limited.

This slow start, I suspect, puts off a lot of people; an awful lot of people seem to start this game and then give up on it. Which is too bad, because once you unlock a few of the movement abilities, the game goes from slow and kind of awkward to very fluid. But for the first couple hours, the lack of movement abilities and your slow maneuvering through a pretty large environment can be rather boring. It was only after beating the second boss and unlocking the dash that the game really felt like it was starting to open up, and only after I got the wall jump in the third area I explored that things really started feeling fluid.

Hollow Knight is a 2D Metroidvania; that is to say, it is a game where you explore an environment and unlock various abilities which allow you to explore new portions of the environment. Unlike many such games, Hollow Knight is not very linear; many portions of the game can be completed out of order, and indeed, after getting the wall jump upgrade and the first upgrade to your sword, the “correct” order likely doesn’t exist at all – you can complete a number of different pieces of content in a variety of different orders.

This is perhaps the game’s greatest strength – Metroidvanias are about exploration, and unlike many Metroidvania games, the growth of the area you can explore over the course of Hollow Knight feels very natural, with only a few “black barriers” that feel overly like they were inserted just to force you to get an upgrade to pass. Otherwise, the movement abilities combine in natural-feeling ways to allow you to explore more of the world.

The game also does a pretty good job of rewarding your “gamer sense” – that is to say, the sense that, if you were to try to explore in a certain way, that you think that a secret might be in a certain direction, there often is one. I was happy with how often this paid off; many modern games don’t feel like they insert their secrets very well, so when this game allowed me to find many secrets in natural-feeling ways by following what I thought might be right, it felt good.

The game has quite excellent enemy variety as well – while the game boasts a theoretical 150-odd enemies, it is probably closer to 100 plus some tougher repeats. This is still a pretty high number, and the game boasts literally dozens of bosses – a very respectable number. Not only that, but almost all of the bosses possess unique attack patterns, and while some of these are a bit on the simple side, in many cases they work quite well, and it feels good to master some of the bosses and be able to beat them without sustaining significant damage.

The aesthetic of the game is a bit hit and miss – at first, it felt sort of “generic cutesy indie game” to me, with the mask faces. But as the game went on, I felt better about the aesthetic, and some of the later areas look really pretty. There’s a great deal of environmental variety across the game, and a lot of areas look really good and have neat artistic ideas around them. This carries over to the bosses and characters, who all look quite distinctive and unique.

While all of this sounds very glowing, it should be noted that there are some caveats to this game.

I haven’t mentioned the story at all, and that is because there hardly is one. This game clearly took a lot of inspiration from Dark Souls, not only in mostly telling the story via snippets in your inventory and short dialogue scenes with very spread-out NPCs, but also in the central plot feeling in some ways a bit reminiscent of the first Dark Souls. The story is extremely lightweight and there isn’t really all that much to it in the end; there were really only three characters who I at all cared about, and one of them was a comedy relief character who mostly was just there to be silly. While the two other NPCs that appeared periodically (and eventually helped me in boss fights) were neat, every other NPC in the game, despite having a neat appearance, had no interesting personality, and even the NPCs that I did care about had at most two dimensions rather than just one.

The game also suffers from a lot of very easily missed secrets. There were a lot of secrets which basically were found by hitting the wall in random places with your sword and hoping it broke; while there was often some visual indication of where this could be done, there wasn’t always, and while some of these appeared in places where it felt natural for there to be a tunnel, others were just on random patches of wall. Worse, these weren’t always consistent – there was one “cracked” wall that you couldn’t break with your sword and had to break with an environmental enemy, which, while not too hard to figure out, took me a bit because the visual indication was basically the same.

The openness also makes it easy to overlook some important things – I didn’t find the shop NPC until I was in the third area of the game and ended up looking it up, and it turned out they were in the first area of the game, but I had simply missed them. Because of the way the game is structured, it isn’t always obvious that you’re missing something like that.

The mapping in the game was also somewhat questionable. While the minimap worked okay, you had to find a NPC in each area to give you a part of the map, which you could then fill in the rest of yourself. In some areas, this was really easy to do, but in others, it was easy to go the wrong way and not find the map NPC for quite some time. Navigating the areas blindly is rather annoying. Adding to that, you also don’t actually fill in new rooms on your map until you sit down at a bench (which also double as save points/checkpoints/healing points) – and while I get the concept of actually physically filling out your map, it was annoying in practice. After I got every area of the game mapped out, I almost forgot about this nuisance, but it was annoying while it lasted.

The final thing that bothered me was the backtracking. Metroidvanias often involve a lot of backtracking, but this game involved a huge amount of it. The reason is that the quick travel system is presented in-game as some trams and a stag beetle that carries you down a network of tunnels specifically built for it. Both of these systems only come out at certain spots, meaning that you must travel to these points to fast travel to somewhere near where you actually want to go, and then go from there.

This means that if you end up getting somewhere and then realizing you can’t progress further in that direction due to the lack of an ability or because it is too hard or whatever, you have to backtrack a bunch and then go out another way, possibly backtracking again to get there. Some areas of the game are particularly far from the fast travel points, including one crucial shop NPC who fixes broken charms (equippable items that give you passive upgrades), which was obnoxious every time I had to go back to fix one. While backtracking can be interesting when you are hunting for secrets, oftentimes it was just boring, and at the end of the game, when you unlock the last few abilities, you often have to do a significant amount of backtracking to get out to where they’re useful – and sometimes, you might not realize that you need to go to a certain location at all due to a lack of in-game direction to do so.

All of this niggled at me, and in the end, this game felt like it took me much longer than it should have due to these issues.

I did enjoy this game, and when this game is good, it was quite fun. But the game starts off kind of slow, and there’s moments in the middle where you have to do a bunch of boring backtracking which weren’t all that fun. On the whole, I’d recommend this, albeit with the caveat that this game isn’t perfect and starts off kind of slow. On the other hand, if you are a big fan of Metroidvanias, this is one of the better ones I’ve played.
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