Hollow Knight is a 2017 action-adventure metroidvania video game. It was developed and published by Team Cherry, and released for Microsoft Windows, macOS, and Linux in 2017, and for the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One in 2018. Development was partially funded through a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign, raising over A$57,000 by the end of 2014.
The game follows a nameless knight, known as a "vessel", as they traverse an ancient plague-infested kingdom inhabited by various insects, known as Hallownest. The Knight must travel through Hallownest, fighting bosses and unlocking new abilities to progress, as they uncover the mysteries of the kingdom. Hollow Knight was well-received. A sequel, Hollow Knight: Silksong, is in development.
Hollow Knight is a 2D Metroidvania action-adventure game, which takes place in Hallownest, a fictional ancient kingdom. The player controls an insect-like, silent, and nameless knight while exploring the underground world. The knight wields a nail, which is a cone-shaped sword, used both in combat and environmental interaction.
In most areas of the game the player encounters hostile bugs and other sorts of creatures. Melee combat involves using the nail to strike enemies from a short distance. The player can learn spells, allowing for long-range attacks. Defeated enemies drop currency called Geo. The knight starts with a limited number of masks, which represent hit points of the character. "Mask shards" can be collected throughout the game to increase the player's maximum health. When the knight takes damage from an enemy or from the environment, a mask is reduced. By striking enemies, the knight gains Soul, which is stored in the Soul Vessel. If all masks are lost, the knight dies and a Shade appears at that place. The player loses all Geo and can hold a reduced amount of Soul. The player needs to defeat the Shade to recover the lost currency and to carry normal amount of Soul. The game continues from a last visited bench—they are scattered throughout the game world and act as save points. Initially the player can only use Soul to "Focus" (regenerate masks), but as the game progresses the player unlocks several offensive spells, which consume Soul.
Many areas feature more challenging enemies (bosses) which the player may need to defeat in order to progress further. Defeating some bosses grants the player new abilities. Later in the game, the player acquires a "dream nail", a legendary blade that can "cut through the veil between dreams and waking". It enables the player to face more challenging versions of some bosses, and to break what is sealing the path to the final boss.
During the game, the player encounters non-player characters (NPCs), with whom they can interact. These characters provide information about the game's plot or lore, offer aid, and sell items or services. The player can upgrade the knight's nail to deal more damage or find soul vessels to carry more Soul. During the course of the game, the player acquires items that provide new movement abilities. They include an additional jump mid-air (Monarch Wings), adhering to walls and jumping off them (Mantis Claw), and a quick dash (Mothwing Cloak). The player can learn other combat abilities, known as nail arts, and the aforementioned spells. To further customise the knight, the player can equip various Charms, which can be found or purchased from NPCs. Some of their effects include: improved combat abilities or skills, more masks or their regeneration, better movement skills, easier collecting of currency or of Soul, and transformation. Equipping a Charm takes up a certain number of limited slots, called notches. Wearing a Charm that requires more than the available number of notches is possible, but it results in being "overcharmed", causing the knight to receive double damage from all sources.
Hallownest consists of several large, inter-connected areas with unique themes. With its nonlinear gameplay design, Hollow Knight does not bind the player to one path through the game nor require them to explore the whole world, though there are obstacles that limit the player's access to an area. The player may need to progress in the story of the game, or acquire a specific movement ability, skill, or item to progress further. To fast travel through the game's world, the player can utilise Stag Stations, terminals of a network of tunnels; the player can only travel to previously visited and unlocked stations. Other fast travel methods, such as trams, lifts, and "Dreamgate", are encountered later in the game.
As the player enters a new area, they do not have access to the map of the surroundings. They need to find Cornifer, the Cartographer, in order to buy a rough map. As the player explores an area, the map becomes more accurate and complete, although it is updated only when sitting on a bench. The player will need to buy specific items to complete maps, to see points of interest, and to place markers. The knight's position on the map can only be seen if the player is carrying a specific Charm.
At the game's outset, the player character, the Knight, arrives in Dirtmouth, a small town above Hallownest's ruins, seeking to venture within. As it journeys through the forgotten kingdom, the Knight encounters the remnants of Hallownest's former residents and other creatures, who are slowly being overcome by the Infection. It encounters Hornet, the "protector" of Hallownest's ruins, who attempts to stop the Knight's quest on multiple occasions. Through learning the history of Hallownest on its journey, the Knight discovers that it itself is a failed Vessel. It becomes clear that the Pale King's attempt at sealing away the Infection using the Hollow Knight did not work and would soon release the full power of the Infection to consume all of the remaining inhabitants of Hallownest.
Through dialogue with certain characters as well as cutscenes, the Knight receives insight into the origin of the Infection and itself. In ancient times, the bugs of Hallownest worshiped a higher being - a primordial, god-like creature - called the Radiance, a moth whose mere presence could sway the denizens of Hallownest to mindless obedience. However, another higher being, the Wyrm, arrived, and transformed into the Pale King in order to rule Hallownest. He expanded the minds of the bugs of Hallownest, civilizing them, and convinced the moth tribe to forget the Radiance, locking her away. The Pale King went on to construct a great kingdom, but the Radiance fought back by entering his subjects' dreams and driving them to madness, an affliction called the Infection. In an attempt to contain the spreading Infection, the Pale King used the power of Void, a type of living darkness, to create the Vessels - beings that lack a mind and will beyond what is imprinted on them. After many attempts, he created a suitable Vessel, the Hollow Knight, and used it to contain the Infection. The Hollow Knight was placed within the Black Egg Temple and sealed by three powerful elder bugs, the Dreamers, to be locked away forever.
Depending on the player's actions, Hollow Knight has multiple endings. In the first ending, "Hollow Knight", the player defeats the Hollow Knight and takes its place. As chains hold the Knight in place, the Temple is sealed once again, though the Infection still survives. The second ending, "Sealed Siblings", occurs if the player collects the Void Heart charm before fighting the Hollow Knight. Halfway through the battle, Hornet arrives to offer assistance and briefly holds the Hollow Knight at bay. Choosing to continue fighting normally causes her to be knocked unconscious. The ending then plays out like the first, except Hornet, sealed in with the player, becomes the new Dreamer, sealing the Temple door.
The third ending, "Dream No More", occurs if the player collects the Void Heart and uses the Awakened Dream Nail ability to enter the Hollow Knight's mind when Hornet arrives to help. Here, the player challenges the Radiance. With the power of the Void Heart, the Knight commands the forces of the Void, with the aid of the Hollow Knight and the shades (ghosts) of the failed Vessels, to consume the Radiance, and destroy the Infection. As the darkness from the Temple fades, Hornet awakens to find the chamber empty, except for the player Knight's broken and empty shell.
The Grimm Troupe expansionEdit
In the second expansion to Hollow Knight, the Knight lights a "Nightmare Lantern" found hidden in the Howling Cliffs, after which a mysterious group of circus performers known as the Grimm Troupe arrives in Dirtmouth. Their leader, Troupe Master Grimm, gives the Knight a quest to collect magic flames throughout Hallownest in order to take part in a "twisted ritual". He gives the player the Grimmchild charm, which absorbs the flames into itself, progressing the ritual. Eventually, the Knight must choose to either complete the ritual by fighting Nightmare King Grimm, or banish the Troupe from Hallownest with the help of Brumm, a traitor of the Grimm Troupe. The former fully upgrades the Grimmchild, while the latter replaces the charm with Carefree Melody, which, rarely, prevents the Knight from taking damage.
Two additional endings were added with the Godmaster content update, in which the Knight can battle harder versions of all of the bosses in the game in a series of challenges set by a being called the Godseeker. If the Knight completes these challenges and battles Absolute Radiance as the final boss, upon defeating her, it transforms into a massive Void creature and completely destroys Absolute Radiance. Godhome is consumed by darkness as the Godseeker begins oozing Void, which eventually erupts and destroys her as well before appearing to spread out into Hallownest. Hornet is seen standing by the Temple as the tendrils of Infection turn black. A chained creature, implied to be the freed Hollow Knight, moves to confront Hornet.
The fifth ending is unlocked if the Knight has given the Godseeker a Delicate Flower item before defeating the Absolute Radiance. The ending is identical to the fourth, but the void starts glowing and the Godseeker and the Void vanish, leaving only the flower behind.
The idea that prompted the creation of Hollow Knight originated in a game jam, Ludum Dare 2013, in which two of the game's developers, Ari Gibson and William Pellen, developed a game called Hungry Knight, in which the character that would later become the Knight kills bugs to stave off starvation. The game, considered "not very good", only holds a 1/5 star rating on Newgrounds. The developers decided to work on another game jam with the theme "Beneath the Surface", but missed the deadline. However, the concept gave them the idea to create a game with an underground setting, a "deep, old kingdom", and insect characters.
Believing that control of the character was most important for the player's enjoyment of the game, the developers based the Knight's movement on Mega Man X. They gave the character no acceleration or deceleration when moving horizontally, as well as a large amount of aerial control and the ability to interrupt one's jump with a dash. This was meant to make the player feel that any hit they took could have been avoided right up until the last second.
To create the game's art, Gibson's hand-drawn sketches were scanned directly into the game engine, creating a "vivid sense of place". The developers decided to "keep it simple" in order to prevent the development time from becoming extremely protracted. The complexity of the world was based on Metroid, which allows players to become disorientated and lost, focusing on the enjoyment of finding one's way. Only basic signs are placed throughout the world to direct players to important locations. The largest design challenge for the game was creating the mapping system and finding a balance between not divulging the world's secrets while not being too player-unfriendly.
Hollow Knight was revealed on Kickstarter in November 2014, seeking a "modest" sum of A$35,000. The game passed this goal, raising more than A$57,000 from 2,158 backers, allowing its scope to be expanded and another developer to be hired - technical director David Kazi - as well as composer Christopher Larkin. The game reached a beta state in September 2015 and continued to achieve numerous stretch goals to add in more content after an engine switch from Stencyl to Unity. Some of the stretch goal content, such as The Abyss, still made it into the game despite those goals not having been attained, albeit in heavily truncated form.
Team Cherry were interviewed by Kirk Hamilton on the 30 August 2018 edition of Kotaku's Splitscreen podcast. The interview covered many aspects of the game's development, ranging from its game jam genesis to its influences. Among those influences were Faxanadu, Metroid, Zelda II, and Mega Man X. It was noted that Hallownest was in some ways the inverse of the world tree setting in Faxanadu. William Pellen stated that they wanted to replicate the sense of wonder and discovery of games from their childhood, such as Zelda II and Faxanadu, in which "[t]here could be any crazy secret or weird creature."
The Nintendo Switch version of Hollow Knight was announced in January 2017 and released on 12 June 2018. Team Cherry originally planned to make their game available on the Wii U. Development of the Wii U version began in 2016, alongside the PC version, and it eventually shifted to Switch. The creators of Hollow Knight worked with another Australian developer, Shark Jump Studios, to speed up the porting process. Initially, Team Cherry planned the Switch version to arrive "not too long after the platform's launch", subsequently they delayed it to early 2018. A release date was not announced until the Nintendo Direct presentation at E3 2018 on 12 June 2018, when it was unveiled the game would be available later that day via Nintendo eShop.
On 3 August 2017, the "Hidden Dreams" DLC was released, featuring two new optional boss encounters, two new songs in the soundtrack, a new fast travel system, and a new Stag Station to discover. On 26 October 2017, "The Grimm Troupe" was released, adding new major quests, new boss fights, new charms, new enemies, and other content. The update also added support for Russian, Portuguese, and Japanese. On 20 April 2018, "Lifeblood" was released, bringing various optimizations, changes to the color palette, bug fixes, minor additions as well as a new boss fight. On 23 August 2018, the final DLC, "Godmaster" was released, containing new characters, boss fights, music, a new game mode as well as two new endings. It was renamed from its former title of "Gods and Glory" due to trademark concerns.
Hollow Knight's initial release received "generally favorable" reviews and the Nintendo Switch and Xbox One versions were met with "universal acclaim", according to review aggregator Metacritic. Jed Whitaker of Destructoid praised it as a "masterpiece of gaming ..., and certainly art worthy of being in a museum" and, on PC Gamer, Tom Marks called it a "new classic". Reviewers spoke highly of Hollow Knight's atmosphere, visuals, sound and music, noting the vastness of the game's world.
Critics recognized the combat system as simple, unsurprising or nuanced; they praised its responsiveness, or "tightness", similarly to the movement system. On IGN, Tom Marks stated: "The combat in Hollow Knight is relatively straightforward, but starts out tricky ... It rewards patience and skill massively". In his review on PC Gamer, Marks praised the "brilliant" charm system: "What's so impressive about these charms is that I could never find a 'right' answer when equipping them. There were no wrong choices." NintendoWorldReport stated: "Charms offer a huge variety of upgrades ... Some charms ... were so essential that removing them felt like trading a part of myself for a better chance at an upcoming battle."
Difficulty of Hollow Knight received attention from reviewers. Vikki Blake of Eurogamer called the game "ruthlessly tough, even occasionally unfair". For Nintendo World Report's Adam Abou-Nasr it also seemed unfair—he had "'so frustratingly hard that I cannot recommend this game' angrily scrawled in [his] notes"—but "it eventually clicked". Destructoid "never found any of the bosses to be unfair". Critics described Hollow Knight as challenging; Destructoid and Nintendo World Report reviewers felt a sense of accomplishment after difficult fights. Critics also made comparisons to Dark Souls, noting the mechanic of losing currency on death and having to defeat a Shade to regain it. Destructoid praised this feature, as well as the holding down of a button to heal, because "[t]hey circumvent a couple of issues games have always had, namely appropriate punishment for failing, and a risk-reward system".
As of February 2019, Hollow Knight has sold over 2,800,000 copies. Hollow Knight had sold over 1,250,000 copies by July 2018. The game had sold over 500,000 copies by November 2017 and surpassed 1,000,000 in sales on PC platforms on 11 June 2018, one day before releasing on Nintendo Switch, where it had sold over 250,000 copies in the two weeks after its launch.
The game was nominated for "Best PC Game" in Destructoid's Game of the Year Awards 2017, and for "Best Platformer" in IGN's Best of 2017 Awards. It won the award for "Best Platformer" in PC Gamer's 2017 Game of the Year Awards. Polygon later named the game among the decade's best.
|2017||SXSW Gamer's Voice Awards 2017||Gamer's Voice (Single Player)||Nominated|||
|The Game Awards 2017||Best Debut Indie Game||Nominated|||
|2018||Game Developers Choice Awards||Best Debut (Team Cherry)||Nominated|||
|14th British Academy Games Awards||Debut Game||Nominated|||
|Golden Joystick Awards||Nintendo Game of the Year||Nominated|||
|Australian Games Awards||Independent Game of the Year||Won|||
|Australian Developed Game of the Year||Won|
|2019||National Academy of Video Game Trade Reviewers Awards||Art Direction, Fantasy||Nominated|||
|Design, New IP||Won|
|Game, Original Action||Nominated|
A sequel, Hollow Knight: Silksong, is in development and is set to be released on Microsoft Windows, Mac, Linux, and Nintendo Switch, with Team Cherry stating that "more platforms may happen in the future". Team Cherry had previously planned this game as a piece of downloadable content. Kickstarter backers of Hollow Knight will receive Silksong for free when it is released.
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