Hollow Knight

Categories: videogames

Hollow Knight.

It’s a visually interesting platformer/exploration game which does shine in several areas. The controls are tight and responsive, the art style is gorgeous and detailed, and the music is top-notch and really heightens the gaming experience.

It has an expansive world to explore and an incredibly interesting lore to discover along the way, and the enemies are varied and interesting for the most part.

It’s sad, though, that the developers chose to diminish the value of the positive aspects by being so hostile, unfair and disrespectful to players.

The lore (all 20k words of it if reports are to be believed) is inscrutable, hidden among disjoint dialog by (some impossible to find) NPCs, and I wonder why go through all the trouble of creating this if it’s not going to be discoverable in a way that can be pieced together within the game.

The player is never truly rewarded by honing their skill and gathering achievements – weapon and spell upgrades are few and far between and the increases in power are not all that impressive (sure the final nail upgrade is 4x more powerful than the basic one, but it still does only 21 damage against late-level enemies having more than 1000 hit points), and a lot of the charms are so limited as to be basically useless (hiveblood only restores the most-recently-lost mask, an affront to auto-regeneration in any other metroidvania -really only useful for platforming sections such as the white palace). Almost feels like the devs begrudgingly give upgrades, and some only when the plot demands it to progress.

To further this point, upgrades are somewhat pointless given some enemies and bosses that actually gain hit points according to the nail upgrade level the player has achieved. This is almost a slap in the face, why would I bother upgrading the nail if it’s only going to make enemies harder? and it kind of negates the benefit of upgrades, it’s again the developers saying “why should the player beat our game?” (which is indeed the entire point – you can produce an unbeatable game by simply killing the player at the very beginning but then nobody would ever play that).

Details like losing all your money when dying (“don’t fret it, in the late game you’ll have tons of money and nothing to spend it on”, they say – if that’s the case then why not let the player keep the money on death, if it’s not such a big deal?) or enemies re-spawning when the player rests on a bench (the reasoning is probably along the lines of “if he gets to regenerate, so should enemies”) further point to the developers coding the game to challenge themselves, and not to provide the player with a fun, rewarding experience, and rather a punishing, frustrating one.

Exploring is the most interesting part of the game but it’s hindered by ridiculously difficult bosses. “git gud” and all but they are a horrid roadblock to less-proficient players who might not have the time, devotion and reflexes to learn and beat the attack patterns. Three bosses (Hornet, Traitor Lord, Radiance) took me a full week each of trying and trying until I managed to beat them, definitely far beyond the patience of most players.

Yet I persevered and did finish the game, diligently gathering all the achievements needed for the “true ending”. My final reward? A lame 30-second cinematic which explains nothing, gives no closure and is just as inscrutable as the rest of the game’s lore. Honestly it was not worth it.

I did end up with a feeling of accomplishment, but it was more a “I finally beat this sucker, good riddance” than a more positive and satisfying one. I can finally put this piece of crap down and devote my time to games which actually respect me and want me to play and have fun, not be a grueling experience.

“git gud” indeed – I sank 90 hours of time in this game, I got proficient enough to finish it – but it should be and feel like a game and be fun, it’s not a job and should not require honing your skill that much – I found I couldn’t make a lot of progress if I played at the end of the day when I’m relatively tired – a game that requires this level of training, attention and concentration doesn’t really feel like a game, and more like a job.

I’m quitting this job and going on to easier, greener pastures – and despite how gorgeous it looks, I’m not going to buy Silksong and give these guys more of my money and time.