For years I’ve heard from friends I trust that Hollow Knight is a great game. I had tried multiple times before but always bowed out after a few hours. I’m happy that after finally getting through it all, they were right that the game, at least the latter half, is one of the most brilliant Metroidvanias ever. The issue for most though is just how long it takes before it hits those lofty heights. The complete edition of the game is on Game Pass, so let’s break it down and see if it’s worth your time.
A Bug’s Life
Hollow Knight was originally released back in 2017 by Team Cherry out of Australia. It joined Game Pass in 2021 and has had four expansions since its launch. The story takes place in a decrypt kingdom known as Hollownest. You are the knight, and slowly but surely you’ll restore the town of Dirtmouth and the surrounding kingdom to some semblance of its past. With multiple endings available, and all of the expansion content included the Voidheart Edition is one heck of a package to play through. Completing everything across Xbox and later PC took me over 35 hours, and let’s get into the nitty-gritty of it all because boy was it hard to stick with for the first half of that time.
The controls are as tight as a drum, with A being your jump, X being your attack, B using your focus for either healing or later an attack, and the rest of your buttons being incredibly slowly introduced to use for the 25 or so hours the main campaign took me. You’ll gain a dash, more and more spells to use, wall jumps, and more but it takes a very long time. Once you have your full package the game goes from ok but bland to truly fantastic. Compared to something later like Ori and the Will of the Wisps the lack of convenient fast travel options, and the forced amount of backtracking makes this one of the worst games I’ve ever played when it comes to respecting your time.
Fast travel hubs are few and far between, and the best movement ability comes near the end of everything. Quite often progression is just you blindly flailing in the dark as you try to remember “have I been here before?” because the map system is atrocious. Area maps must be purchased from an NPC you find in each area for a small amount of the game’s only currency, Geo. To update said map you must travel around the area and then sit on a checkpoint bench, which is also few and far between. This leads to an experience where every time you get enough of a map you’re most likely “done” with that area and the entire time you were learning it you had no map to reference. It’s the biggest and most talked-about issue with the game, and it’s a shame because as negative as this has all sounded once you get all your abilities and have unlocked the majority of the map and fast travel points this game is freaking awesome thanks to some of the best boss fights I’ve ever played and there are a lot of them.
The overall number for bosses (some who repeat multiple times) is forty-seven in the base game, and they’re all good while many are truly great. The combat and gameplay in the title are precise and rarely feel cheap. One issue that crops up again though are the corpse runs after dying, which can be quite long and full of respawned enemies. It’s like they took every bad part of Dark Souls and made sure it was a “highlight” of the game. Thankfully it’s so well balanced, and the controls feel so good that it rarely took me more than 2 or 3 tries to defeat a boss, and it is what kept me pushing ahead despite all the other issues I was having with the early game.
Graphically it’s damned pretty, with a moody style that fits the story well and is accompanied by stellar animations. The soundtrack is excellent as well. It’s not particularly memorable but it keeps that somber mood and is complemented with a small amount of humorous voice work. It’s not a language we understand, but it’s a tone that we do.
There are no real accessibility/difficulty options on hand, but the upgrade and pin system can help tailor the gameplay to your preferences. That Geo which I mentioned before drops from every enemy and can be used at various shops to unlock pins, these are buffs with various costs that you’ll either find or buy throughout the game. There are some solid and powerful “builds” out there I’m sure, but I ended up sticking with a few that made it easier to gain back focus and pick up geo by having it float towards me. The main pin I used though was gaining more focus when I hit enemies, as holding down B can use that focus to heal yourself. Figuring out the timing of this during boss fights and exploration is one of the biggest keys to never dying because dying in this game sucks due to those long runbacks (and you lose all your geo, Dark Souls style).
Hollow Knight: Voidheart Edition is an eventually great game. It requires a ton of patience to see through, so even though it’s on Game Pass you need to make sure you’re willing to commit that much time because boy does it both start slow and make some head-scratching decisions when it comes to the map and exploration. If you can hold on for a solid 10 or 15 hours though you’ll end up finishing up one of the best 2nd halves of a game in the past generation.
|Reviewed on||Xbox Series X & Windows PC|
|Available on||Xbox One, Playstation 4, Nintendo Switch, and Windows PC|
|Release Date||September 25th, 2018 on Xbox|
|Rated||E for Everyone|