Hollow Knight is a 2017 action-adventure game developed and published by Team Cherry, and was 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, 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 by critics and has sold over 3 million copies as of December 2020. A sequel is in development, called Hollow Knight: Silksong.
Hollow Knight is a 2D Metroidvania action-adventure game, that 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 type of sword, used both in combat and environmental interaction.
In most areas of the game players encounter hostile bugs and other 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 the 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. Players need to defeat the Shade to recover the lost currency and to carry the normal amount of Soul. The game continues from the last visited bench they sat on which are scattered throughout the game world and act as save points. Initially the player can only use Soul to “Focus” and regenerate masks, but as the game progresses players unlock several offensive spells, which consume Soul.
Many areas feature more challenging enemies and 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, players acquire 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 a few bosses, and to break what is sealing the path to the final boss. If the player defeats the final boss of the game, called “The Hollow Knight”, they are given access to a mode called “Steel Soul”. In this mode, dying is permanent, and if the knight loses all of their masks, the save slot will be reset.
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, players acquire items that provide new movement abilities including an additional mid-air jump (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 customize the knight, players 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; players 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 their surroundings. They must 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.