Hollow Knight launched last year on PC and took its sweet time in securing a release on consoles. It was first revealed as a timed exclusive to Nintendo Switch early this year but now it is finally available on platforms like the PS4 and Xbox One, providing more users a chance to check out this masterpiece. Voidheart Edition is an official subtitle for this late release on the PS4 and Xbox One, but the advantage of such release is that you will get all the post-launch content for Hollow Knight that is out so far. This includes four substantial expansions to the game: Hidden Dreams, The Grimm Troupe, Godmaster and Lifeblood.
The first thing to instantly notice with Hollow Knight is it is absolutely gorgeous. One of the reasons why it feels this way is because of the art style, which is hand-drawn and animated in a way making it appear smooth, like a computer animation. Hollow Knight also explores a completely new setting by establishing its source material on the world of ‘bugs’ and as weird as it might sound, this works magnificently and conveys a creepy vibe as you explore the depths of this dark and twisted world.
Hollow Knight is a Metroidvania game first that places a clear emphasis on the combat. It is easy enough to explore around and confront the enemies, which are various kind of bugs, but the tricky part is figuring out where to go next. This is why the game includes a rather cryptic beginning where the main character is just aimlessly wandering around, and you have to figure out the next goal without any help. There is no UI or map accessible at this point, making it all the more mysterious.
This is the real test of the game, and if you can pass this prologue, the game is definitely for you. There is no traditional hand-holding elements or map markers to guide your way in Hollow Knight and the prologue makes sure you grasp this very well. Once you make a little progress, it is possible to locate maps and then draw them on your own. Indeed, Hollow Knight never gives you the opportunity to use shortcuts that are so common in most games and relies on your skills and patience to make progress in the story.
The basic combat elements are simple to understand. Your knight carries a nail as a weapon which feels like a sword. It has the basic hack and slash elements imbued with the directional controls, but other abilities are lacking in the beginning. You will start to unlock more of them as you progress through the story but in the initial section, it is an exhilarating experience because of the simple but precise controls. The boss fights are where the difficulty rises suddenly forcing you to understand their attack patterns and learn their weakness, hoping you make it through the fight without dying.
I know there are comparisons made to how Hollow Knight takes inspiration from Dark Souls for its design, but I don’t agree. I never felt this way for the game. It actually always looked like a Metroidvania game with a focus on combat and exploration, and this is essentially how it has turned out for me. The boss fights are the only aspect where I think Dark Souls inspiration is clear. Until then, you are primarily encountering easy enemies and gain access to rapid recovery for health from the start.
To begin with, you won’t see any objectives, so it is challenging to try to grasp what to do next. However, once you get some shops unlocked in the main hub — an abandoned town — you can buy maps or other equipment that comes in handy during exploration. The currency acquired in Hollow Knight is typically by killing enemies or discovering it hidden around the map, but the quantity gained is mostly limited so you will have to grind at times just to get some of the decent upgrades for your character. If you die, a shadow clone emerges in that spot and carries all your belongings, so to get them back, you will have to retreat to that spot and execute it.
Hollow Knight is fun as long as you know where to go, but if you get lost, which happens a lot, the fun can quickly turn into frustration. There are various ways to avoid getting lost, like updating the map by buying it from a shop, or by maintaining track of the level layout. This is not a bad thing per se, but it is a difficult hill to climb for those who get used to the easy guided nature of current games. Thankfully the ability to replenish health is generous and there are plenty of checkpoints in the form of benches that you can sit to rest and update the map.
Fast travel is available but requires you to find a station first, and needs a decent chunk of in-game currency to unlock it for use. The fast travel can enable you to swiftly move from one place to the next, while also giving a shortcut to the main hub for all your shopping requirements. As a Metroidvania game, you will get new abilities after progressing through a major area and defeating the final boss. Some of these will allow you to go back and reach a previously undiscovered area, so make sure to maintain track of all the inaccessible locations while making progress in the game.
I have to give props to the development team because they have released four major free post-launch updates so far. Each of them adds new content to the game like exciting boss fights or areas for you to explore. It is something that needs appreciation because of the free nature of this content. In the case of the PS4 and Xbox One version, which is appropriately titled as the Voidheart Edition, this content is all available from the get go making it the definitive way to experience Hollow Knight.
Hollow Knight Review (PS4)
Game Reviewed on: PS4
Game description: Hollow Knight is a Metroidvania video game developed and published by Australian studio Team Cherry. The game was released for Microsoft Windows in February 2017, for macOS and Linux in April 2017, and the Nintendo Switch in June 2018.
Final Score - 9/10
This is not just a contender for game of the year, but also easily one of the best Metroidvania games that I have ever played. The Voidheart Edition packs all content at release thus making it the best way to experience Hollow Knight.