A few words about Hollow Knight

Avatar image for humanity
Humanity

19215

Forum Posts

5738

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 38

User Lists: 14

Edited By Humanity
No Caption Provided

While waiting for some big releases I've decided to dive back into Hollow Knight. This is a game that I have bought and played several hours of on the PC quite a long time ago but moved on to other games. That in itself is a warning sign, that I originally was not entrenched enough in the experience to keep going. Well it is also on Game Pass and I decided to give it another go starting from the very beginning.

Much has been said about the map system in Hollow Knight. This very much being a metroidvania, you would expect a classic map showing you where you've been, where you are at and what remains locked away from you - for the most part this is the case. The biggest point of contention has always been the rather odd decision to not have the player show up on the map unless you have a special badge equipped. These badges basically act as skill slots and you do have a finite amount to pin onto your bug-like character. So unless you have the Compass badge taking up a precious slot, you will see the map of the area but not have a player icon indicating where you actually are on the map which considering the twisty-and-turny nature of the maps in the game can become a problem. It's weird, but once you get the compass badge which is available from the very start of the game it's not a huge deal. What I do think is a big problem in Hollow Knight is direction.

In typical metroidvania fashion the game is very non-linear, but it does funnel you through your lack of abilities.. at the start. As you hit dead ends you tend to naturally gravitate towards the next logical location, but the map in the game is quite big so bouncing off areas can take a long time. Eventually you uncover many areas that go quite far in the "wrong" direction before you realize that this isn't the place where you should be going. The trial and error nature of finding out where to direct your adventure next is the biggest failing of this otherwise really well made game in my opinion. There was a point where I had defeated a boss and was shown a cutscene and given a cryptic clue on what to do next.. and I had no idea where to go. The map loomed giant in front of me. I explored far reaches of the bug kingdom, encountering locations and items that I was not yet prepared to handle because I had not unlocked skills and abilities found completely elsewhere. You see there is quite a lot of side content to explore. Plenty of passages will simply lead to health upgrades or new pins, bringing you trasure but ultimately ending in more dead progression-wise. Plenty of times I thought I was finally going in the right direction only to find that I was on an arduous errand of increasing my health all along. What doesn't help is the limited fast travel system.

The map is quite big
The map is quite big

In the bug kingdom you will encounter plenty of benches where you can save. You can never fast travel between these benches though. There is a Stag Station fast travel system, and these stations are not nearly plentiful enough to cover the entire kingdom. Plenty of times I had to make do with getting semi-close to where I needed to go and then have to hoof it on foot through multiple screens. For a game with such an incredibly vast map it is strange that your travel options are so limited. Then again, this is a complaint I've seen raised on forums only to get shouted down by numerous players stating that fast travel would "ruin" the experience. As I had recently posted a thread regarding the practice of boss run backs and learned that many people would rather suffer the inconvenience for the sake of immersion it is not all that surprising that the developers of Hollow Knight have not yielded to these complaints through the numerous patches and content updates over the years.

At this point in time I'm nearing the final boss fight and unlocked 90% of the map and it has becomes somewhat of a chore to finish out my remaining tasks. To do this I need to travel around the bug kingdom far and wide - mostly on foot. This, at this point in the game, is no longer as fun as it used to be. Traversing the dark, maze-like depths of Deepnest is quite frankly a pain. Having to go anywhere is a journey. I've enjoyed the game quite a bit and it is extremely well made but the travel has ceased to be exciting and is now busywork that I've begun to dread.

Hollow Knight is a great game that is a little too obscure for it's own good. When your main technique of signposting is simply letting players hit dead ends, you should present them with a faster way of getting around the map and trying new directions. When you're at the very bottom right corner of the kingdom, but you really need to be at the top left portion, it's a pain to travel there even with the use of the Stag Stations. I wish bench teleporting was a thing, but if it hasn't become a thing by now it never will. At the same time it is quite ironic that I'm complaining about travel time in this game, when I'm simultaneously anticipating Death Stranding knowing full well what type of experience I'm signing up for. I guess it's a matter of taste in the end.

Have you played Hollow Knight? What did you think of it?

Avatar image for relkin
Relkin

1250

Forum Posts

2492

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 2

User Lists: 0

The map system is a big part of why this game succeeds as an exploration game. There is not another game world in that whole genre that I know better than Hollow Knight, with all of it's labyrinthine twists and turns; that is in no small part due to not being able to just obsessively check my map (obviously you can via the badge like you wrote in your OP, but you're then depriving yourself of other much more vital badges) at every fork in the road.

I'm failing to find any common ground with you on the fast travel issue. Hollow Knight provides way more in terms of getting around it's environment than the majority of it's peers in the genre. There are like ten or twelve stations littered throughout the game. That's a hell of a lot more than most MV's. The next highest I can think of is the five or six in SOTN. Most Metroids don't have any fast travel at all (Prime 3 kind of has some with the different landing pads, but that's it, I think).

Sorry to hear it's wearing on you in it's final hours, but this seems like one of those situations where the reasons you don't like it happen to be a lot of the reasons I love it.

"Having to go anywhere is a journey."

Avatar image for bisonhero
BisonHero

11687

Forum Posts

625

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 2

#2  Edited By BisonHero

I think the only truly fucked part about the map is that they make you pass through Fog Canyon (I think that's the name) early in the game, and you cannot reach the mapmaker in that zone until significantly later in the game. I just don't understand that one. Like, most of the pathways in Fog Canyon are a dead end the first time you go there, so just give the player the mapmaker in an accessible location and be done with it so players can catalog just how much of a dead end it is. It just gives the player the sense that "Oh, I must be missing something, surely I can get the map for this area," and no other zone misleads you like that. Between my own experience, and watching some streamers and GB staffers play through that section, nearly everyone spends unnecessary extra time thinking they've missed something in what is meant to be a "here's a taste, but come back here later" sort of zone. It just gives the player the wrong impression, when all previous mapmakers have been accessible once you poke around the zone a bit.

Other than that, I didn't mind the maps and limited fast travel points at all. Overall, when I was lost I feel like I found various corners of the map that kept me interested, so I didn't mind wandering. I also like how the wandering and flexible ability sequence can lead to people's playthroughs differing quite a bit. I found the crystal mine zone really early in the game, couldn't progress in it, and then proceeded to do basically every other available zone until I was roadblocked everywhere else and had to think "oh right, the mines." I think you're meant to fall into the graveyard zone from the crystal mines, but instead I had fought my way through a bunch of the City of Tears and came upwards to the graveyard through what I later realized was more of an elevator backdoor. Watching streamers play the game and end up doing different routes than I did is something I've enjoyed.

I think the map system just goes against modern gamer expectations in a really specific way. People kinda expect that if the game has a map at all, it automatically fills in constantly and is very user friendly. OR the game just doesn't have a map at all like a Dark Souls, and you just have to remember every single micro and macro element of the zones through rote memorization. Hollow Knight splits the difference by kinda forcing you to do the Dark Souls thing the first time you pass through an area and keep your wits about you, but as you reach checkpoints you fill in the map and have an actually usable visual map once you get into the Metroid backtracking phase of the gameplay. I think it's an interesting fusion of the two ideas that I was personally on board with, but holy shit does it rub some people the wrong way (e.g. it seemed to be the main thing GB staff members complained about with the game, and I think none of them gave it a fair shot).

However, when you're past exploring and just doing some late game cleanup, some of the fast travel points just seem intentionally dickish (for the love of god, put one right by the nail blacksmith in the City of Tears, you go back to that dude multiple times as you upgrade your weapon). But at least the main village has a fast travel station, and the...seer lady in the graveyard (whom you also return to many times) has one like 2 seconds from her. Some of the other ones just felt like they were equidistant from 3 significant locations, which on paper sounds like it isn't overly favouring any one destination but in practice felt like it was just trolling me no matter which of the 3 directions I meant to go to. Overall it's close to right, but I think one or two zones that had zero stations needed 1, or one or two zones that had 1 station needed 2. I honestly think it's really close, especially with them adding that one station near the white palace as a free update, but I think they're still a couple stations short of long distance travel feeling not annoying.

Avatar image for inevpatoria
inevpatoria

7522

Forum Posts

2136

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 6

I played probably four hours of the game, liked it for the most part (particularly the sound design), unlocked some power that allowed me to shoot an orb of energy, then couldn't figure out where to go next and, determined to go without a strategy guide, eventually abandoned the game for clearer waters.

It's something I'll go back to some day.

Avatar image for boozak
BoOzak

2741

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 8

The game could've done with a few extra stations as mentioned above but I think if you could fast travel between benches that would be going too far. I know people seem to be caring less and less about immersion and atmosphere and more about functionality these days (at GB at least) but even on an ease of use quality of life front I tend to lose my bearings when i'm able to just fast travel everywhere. I had this problem with the later Dark Souls games, I had no fucking clue where I was yet I know the first game like the back of my hand. Granted this is less of an issue when you have a detailed map but the game was designed in a way to discourage you from becoming over-reliant on it. I know when you've reached the point where you must explore every inch of the map this ceases to matter, and you just want to get somewhere fast and with little effort but it's just not that kind of game.

If I had to complain about one needlessly tedious aspect of the game (and many others) is that the corpse running/collection process sucks. Just deduct %50 of my souls or whatever, take them. Just dont make me back track to an area i've already been that I might not want to go back to until later.

Avatar image for bisonhero
BisonHero

11687

Forum Posts

625

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 2

@boozak: Yeah, the corpse running is kinda needless. I almost feel like having to backtrack from where you respawn is punishment enough. If your corpse is super deep into a zone you don’t feel like going back to, they technically do let you just retrieve your corpse if you give a rancid egg to the weird dude in the far, far right of the village, but I’m sure some percentage of players never understood this mechanic because it isn’t explained well.

Avatar image for humanity
Humanity

19215

Forum Posts

5738

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 38

User Lists: 14

I’ve seen the argument go both ways and really I think it’s two camps that will never see eye to eye. Personally I never had any real issues with the map system in the game. Having to explore a section blind before finding the Map Maker added a bit of thrill and mystique to the adventure. It was also funny to see this guy (err bug) just chilling off to the side while horrendous creatures where skulking about. I think their decision in obfuscating your location on the map is a step too far only because the map is not that accurate. If you want me to rely 100% on my own sense of direction then make the map a 1:1 representation of what is happening on the screen. It seems as if they wanted to have it both ways and it just adds an unnecessary layer of haze that seems more like a nuisance than anything else. That said I just kept the compass on at all times and it wasn’t really an issue.

As for fast travel I do think there is an argument made for it. As has been recognized above, most people tend to agree that once you fully explore the map, getting around can become a lengthy ordeal where you’re no longer seeing anything new and it boils down to running the same few twisting pathways. Much like Dark Souls 1 you could gain an item in the late game, possibly your final power up, that allows the fast travel between benches. Exploration is not ruined in any way because you’ve already uncovered it all and all your stag conversations and lore would also have come to a natural conclusion. In the way of most game systems it would be an upgrade to existing stag travel - like hey before you had to travel to a station and the s till good it those several screens but now you can just teleport to a bench instead. I don’t really see any argument against such a solution in the late-game apart from purists that want to walk everywhere, always, for the sake of immersion - something that those people could still do if they so desired.

Of course as I read through a dozen pages of the Steam thread asking devs to add this functionality I’ve seen that some players are very much into the whole “teleporting will ruin the game!” stance even if it’s an option added at a point where it wouldn’t actually ruin anything.

Avatar image for boozak
BoOzak

2741

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 8

@bisonhero: I figured that out pretty late into the game but yeah it was nice option, a few other games have something similar. I just feel like the whole system doesnt ad much and prevents or at least delays exploration, which is my favourite part of souls and metroid style games.

Avatar image for humanity
Humanity

19215

Forum Posts

5738

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 38

User Lists: 14

@boozak: it’s also frustrating when your ghost gets placed inside the tail end of a boss room so you have to fight off your shade while the boss is activating and starting to attack you as well.

Although most of the time they place the shade in a convenient location. Once they did put it in the middle of one of those Meatboy platforming segments and that kinda sucked.

Avatar image for redwing42
redwing42

579

Forum Posts

2

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 2

#9  Edited By redwing42

Nobody has mentioned the dream gate system yet... It is only one way, but it allows you to set up right outside a boss and eliminates those lengthy runs if you need multiple attempts.

I'm clearing endgame and side content currently, and some of the travel is wearing on me as well, but the discovery process was very fun to me, and I usually expect clean up before the finale to be a bit tedious anyway.

Avatar image for humanity
Humanity

19215

Forum Posts

5738

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 38

User Lists: 14

@redwing42: yah I’ve heard about it but didn’t read up too much into it so I didn’t know how it worked. From what I know you need quite a lot of essence to unlock it? I tried the dream version of the very first boss To get some of that sweet essence and boy he kicked my butt.

Avatar image for wollywoo
wollywoo

367

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

These complaints are fair, but they're also endemic to the genre. The great pleasure of a Metroidvania is exploration - the feeling of going to some strange place where you're not supposed to be. That and the lock-key system of powerups and obstacles is what makes a Metroidvania a Metroidvania. But this almost automatically means that players can get very, very stuck, as the lack of direction - which is so satisfying when it works - means that when you are unable to progress you just wander the whole world without unlocking any new areas. Hollow Knight is actually better about this than most, as it often will allow more than one way into a given area. Mark Brown has a great video on this.

I wonder what could be done better. Obviously you could put in more signposting, but to me this removes a lot of the fun. They could put in a character you could go to for occasional hints. Maybe it should cost money to discourage using it too often.

Avatar image for praisedasun
PraiseDaSun

27

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

I loved pretty much every second of my time with Hollow Knight, but I understand the criticism. I did have times were I got lost and it can be a bit frustrating and the character map pointer being a charm is kind of a stubborn choice.

On the upside, I felt that when I got my map supplies I did feel like I had unlocked something meaningful and hearing the map seller humming his tune always came with a sense of relief. Same when I unlocked the first tram station (which wasn't the first one that's available to you), the feeling of acomplishment of finding a shortcut back home was very satisfying.

But in general, once you were on track, the game is pretty good. The platforming is great and the boss fights are fun and challenging. Some of the late game content is quite hard and eventually it wore me down. I managed to defeat the final final boss, but I gave up on most of the dlc bosses.