‘Hollow Knight’ draws excitement through basic complexity

image via Steam

“Hollow Knight” from Team Cherry is a single-player adventure game released in 2017 for PC and 2018 for consoles.

Erich Raumann, Reporter

2020 was a terrible year. Between a raging pandemic, racial tensions and countless other political and environmental nightmares, many people have been able to find solace in only one thing: video games.

Team Cherry’s “Hollow Knight” is like a good book: It knows when to string you along and hit you with a jaw-dropping surprise, or push you to the point of hopelessness — just making your eventual victory all the sweeter. It has attracted an avid fan base waiting for its sequel, “Silksong,” which will likely be released within the next few months. Whether you’re looking for a quarantine pastime, trying to see what all the hype is about, or just looking for a great game, “Hollow Knight” is certainly worth the mere $15 it costs. 

 The story of “Hollow Knight” is simple, though bizarre: You are a silent, bug-like creature exploring the ruined insect-kingdom of Hallownest. As you delve deep into its catacombs, fighting off hordes of bugs and finding precious upgrades along the way, you learn about the history of the place, deeply intertwined with the bug that you play as.

One of the best parts of  “Hollow Knight” is its atmosphere. At the start of the game, you walk through the slums around Hallownest. A piano plays mournfully and the cold wind blows in your avatar’s robes as you pass by building after building, all boarded up. This is not just a simple tutorial level — it tells a story. You feel like you are in a different world altogether. 

Just three people created “Hollow Knight,” and it is clear that they had a unified vision of what the Kingdom of Hallownest is, creating a world that feels like it lives on even when you aren’t playing. Your actions have weight in the game. Choosing to best the Mantis Lords in honorable combat doesn’t just mean you get a sweet upgrade to your sword, you also earn the respect of their warlike tribe, making traversing their territory far easier. Save Zote the Mighty from the clutches of a great beast and you will meet him from time to time on your journey, but leave him and he dies — no going back if you change your mind. It is these kinds of decisions that make everyone’s experience with the game unique, letting each person have the events of the game play out just like they want it to. 

“It is these kinds of decisions that make everyone’s experience with the game unique, letting each person have the events of the game play out just like they want it to.””

For all the wonderful moments that having a small studio creates, it does bring drawbacks. “Hollow Knight avoids most of these. The game is almost completely free of any glitches, and the art direction is absolutely stellar. The biggest flaw of the game is its difficulty, something that hardcore gamers will quickly praise but may be unnecessarily punishing to a newer player. Tough bosses, especially early on when your avatar moves frustratingly slow, can feel almost unfair, not to mention that if you die twice without progressing, you lose all the currency you have collected. Ever.   

“Hollow Knight” is a beautiful game, and the excitement over its sequel is well warranted. To top that off, it’s astonishing $15 price tag on almost every platform makes it the perfect thing to get out a good blanket, a cup of tea and play, especially if your bookshelves have already been scoured through for anything left worth reading.