Hollow Knight – First Steps Into Hallownest

I’ve been keeping my eyes on Hollow Knight since it first landed on Steam in February 2017. A lot of the press around the time likened it to Dark Souls both for its difficulty and its atmosphere, and the insect theme was certainly a draw for me (as I’ve been a bit of a bug maniac for years).

I was a little bitter that it was PC only, but I held faith that a game getting this much good press would be ported to consoles. I watched in mild jealousy as it landed on Nintendo Switch. This week, my patience was rewarded as the Voidheart Edition landed on PlayStation 4 and XBox One.

The game starts with our unnamed protagonist arriving into Dirtmouth, a near abandoned town that sits on the entrance to Hallownest, an ancient forgotten kingdom. The Elder Bug tells us that many have entered Hallownest, some seeking treasure, some seeking enlightenment, but none ever returning. The air drains people’s memories.

Already, the Dark Souls comparisons are hitting home. This is a world in the later stages of decay, it’s crumbling and melancholy, a world on the very edge of ruin. For those who have ventured through Lordran, it feels homely and familiar, yet unique and fresh, in its own musty, mouldering way.

The world begins to open up as we explore, but there’s an atmosphere of oppressiveness over it all. In those foggy grey chambers we find creatures that look similar to us and the townsfolk above, but they’re wandering around mindlessly until they attack us and we kill them.

They may as well be hollows wandering the outskirts of Firelink Shrine. The parallels are obvious for anyone looking, but I really don’t want to lower this game to “2D Dark Souls with bugs”, it’s really so much more than that.

The game is a Metroidvania style game, a large map to explore and wander, poking at the corners until you finally find a dead end, a door closed from the other side, a jump that’s just a little too far, then backtrack and poke the other corners until a path opens up a little further.

Along the way we meet other characters, adventurers like us, a cartographer trying to map the depths of Hallownest, an old knight that we rescue, a strangely jolly ladybug who sings morbid songs whilst mining.

The mystery is delicious, tantalising. What happened to this world? How did it end up in this pitiful state, who are these beings mentioned on the stone tablets scattered around the depths? The secrets any mysteries hidden in the depths of Hallownest are covered in layers of dust and obscured by the mists of time. It’s going to take some digging.

We find a Stag Station and ring a bell, awakening an ancient being that once travelled these forgotten depths, ferrying people back and forth. As we open up more of the old paths, this creature tells us that it’s memories are returning.

On the path of exploration we occasionally come across powerful beings blocking our path. In the echoing chambers of the crossroads, we find a hallway filled with several of the mindless townsfolk. After putting them out of their misery, a gigantic knight drops down from the ceiling and attacks us. Though it may succeed in destroying us, we return and eventually prevail. As the final blow is struck, this powerful knight is revealed to be nothing more than a maggot-like being hiding within the armour.

Further along, we find another being like us who seems to still be self-aware. She weilds her own nail as she stalks the tunnels and hallways of Hallownest. We find her in a chamber, standing over a corpse. She threatens us, tells us that she knows why we’re here, what we intend to do, and that she cannot allow it. She draws her nail and attacks us, but again we triumph and she flees. She knows more than we do, a lot more.

This fight with Hornet is as far as I have gotten so far – and there’s so much more to uncover. I haven’t even pulled away the first cobweb on this ancient, dusty, buried ruin. This game speaks to the Dark Souls player in me, but it speaks in a new voice, a beautiful voice. I cannot wait to hear what it has to say.

As I continue through Hollow Knight, I’ll be uploading videos of boss kills and best moments. You can find this on my YouTube channel here, if you’re interested.

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