Hollow Knight- Review

Spoiler Level: Low
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My favorite “fast travel” implementation in any game, by far.

After spending 60ish hours on it, Hollow Knight has become one of my favorite games. As someone who never played many Metroid-vania style 2D platformers, I found myself enjoying this thoroughly. The game made me want to go and explore, find out about the fantasy world of “Hallownest” through NPCs and item descriptions and get better at the combat. I really felt like I was part of a grand adventure. The game even has its own version of Pokedex called the Hunter’s Journal, indexing all the various enemies you face, not all of which you can put away with a couple of slashes of your weapon.

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The art in the game is truly something to admire. The combination of the rich color palette, mesmerizing soundtrack and neat level design across the locations did an amazing job of putting me in a certain state of mind while tackling a platforming section or while battling a boss, or just sitting on a bench (which acts as the game’s save spot) and soaking in the atmosphere. Be it a sense of rising tension, melancholia or an epic wave of heroism, I felt it all. The locations themselves are diverse in the sense that I will recount them, not by name but by the experience I had there: the crawl through the dark nooks and crannies of “Deepnest” in the company of other creepy-crawlies; or the stimulating stroll through the vegetation of “Greenpath”; or the unforgiving trek through the industrially harnessed mountains of “Crystal Peak”. Everything from the enemies I faced there, to the items I found or the secrets uncovered, fleshed out the area more, literally as the map grew and figuratively in the broader picture of me understanding how it fits into the lore. The platforming, for the most part felt like a natural extension of the level itself, except for a few sections which were made solely as a platforming challenge, which did get a little tedious, and wasn’t always worth the reward on the other side.

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The NPCs that populate the kingdom of “Hallownest”, thanks to their strikingly distinctive designs, dialogue that is intrinsic to their nature, and voices that are what can be described as vaguely weird syllabic gibberish, had me interested in them enough that I couldn’t help but go check on them from time to time (that didn’t end well for all of them, sadly). The combat mechanics are simple, but do require you to get better and adapt as you face different enemies and bosses. Using the melee weapon, in conjecture with intuitive movement (this is a platformer after all) and the magical spells creates for many satisfying (and equally frustrating) moments of combat. The charm system, which are basically perks that add passive abilities or enhance your basic set of attacks and spells, is profound enough that I found myself trying out different combinations not only to get an advantage in combat, but also to see ridiculous visual returns (such as turning the player character into a snail with a blue shell and mushrooms growing atop it). The game does a good job of not providing a “one size fits all” combination of perks or attacks that you can use to mundanely slaughter your enemies. I had to constantly strategize my load-out and change my approach to fighting a breed of enemies at a certain place or overcoming a boss, who was radically different from the previous one.

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The lore is sprinkled in trinkets across the breadth of the map and the length of the story. Taken in its raw and often ambiguous form, it is open ended to just the right degree, that I found myself playing sleuth and theorizing what must’ve happened. The scope of the lore (when fully comprehended, for which I watched multiple YT videos) easily rivals that of a blockbuster movie franchise or a bestselling fantasy book. All the NPCs have had some or the other role to play in the history of the game world. All the apparent character arcs seems to intersect at some point or the other, before branching out into the bigger picture at the center of the story. There are no useless dangling bits or wasted subplots. The fact that there isn’t much separating what would be “side quests/challenges” and paths that actually progress the story, I was ready to be tangled in whatever mess that came next, always being pleasantly (okay, not always) surprised.

I know the comparison with Dark Souls, seems extremely cliched at this point, but in Hollow Knight’s case, it actually makes sense. The game not only borrows the way in which the mysterious lore is unfolded to the player, but also some of the thematic aspects as well, in the form of a “once great kingdom, now in ruin”.

The one gripe I have with the game stems from one of its obvious strengths. Every player is bound to experience the game differently, because after a certain point, you are free to choose which path to explore. In doing so, the game has to keep up with the rate at which the player gets better and acquires different abilities, by increasing the difficulty of the enemies/bosses in the order they are faced. It does accomplish this with some enemies, even managing to have a very challenging final boss. However, a few bosses in the middle, that were building up to be great battles, ended much quicker than I had anticipated only because I had that one extra ability that gave me the edge or because my weapon was upgraded that one step further than it was supposed to be when I faced that particular boss.

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“Crystal Dashing” is the new Leap of Faith, only so much cooler.

So, for something that started off as a kickstarter project, Hollow Knight is a very ambitious, and in the end, a well realized game. For me, it comes down to the way it balances its elements so naturally: it is quirky yet serious, dark yet colorful, challenging yet relaxing, the story for all the tragedy in it does have a hopeful side, there’s moments of utter dankness and there’s moments of pure heroism. Everything in it, is memorable. I do recommend this wondrous game at full price. When there are petitions from fans, asking the developers to charge more for the game as they felt like they paid very less compared to what they got, you’d think it’s worth checking out what the fuss is about. Trust me, it is.

 

Oh, and yeah, free DLC.
Purchase links: Steam
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W.A.S.D- A Guide To PC Gaming

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Hey guys! I’m here today to announce yet another series that I plan to frequent on my blog. Yes, these will never stop rolling out. W.A.S.D is aimed at explaining and discussing concepts and doubts regarding gaming, on a computer. We will be covering a variety of topics pertaining to both hardware and software, where each fits in and the role they play that directly affects a game. We’ll try to answer some common queries that have never quite been dwelt into properly or simply are just worth revisiting. We will poke fun and rant at behavior of general phenomena in this field, talk about the agenda of a few brands, where they succeed and egregiously fail. And just really discuss games. Should be a lot of fun. So what is it that should drive you towards the world of gaming? What goes on behind it all? And why should you care? What is the spirit of gaming?

The average adult who has led a mostly distasteful life will see games only as an addiction for his kid and nothing more than a growing nuisance, a cancer. And there are the kid’s peers. They too enjoy the same and will find pleasure in the company of games as long as they play. But eventually, they grow into teenagers, priorities change and their older phases are outgrown. But what about that one guy who has still stuck to games? He is looked at as an introvert with no friends, a man child who doesn’t like to socialize and prefers to stay locked up in hits basement, staring at a monitor all day long. But of course, this man child couldn’t care less about other’s opinions. He’s busy having fun!
The distasteful adult and the ignorant teenager however, do acknowledge games, but only as a means to pass time. Hence they get mobile games to entertain themselves, and it works because these games require a very limited attention span. So they pull out their mobile phones whenever bored, and well, tap away. These games are the real cancer. And the ones who play them aren’t really gamers.
So, what exactly do games offer beyond recreation?

Developing games is one of the most underrated fields of computing, to the common man at least. It is actually a really tough job, that requires a lot of skill. But passion is the most important credential, and how does it manifest in this case? As in what is in it for the developer? He gets to build entire worlds. Beautiful and vast lands. It can be anything. A haunted house, a cut off space station, a mystical forest, a high rise city, pretty much anywhere the imagination leads. Like a painter, the developer puts his elements in place and decides how they interact with each other. Be it wide vistas like moving clouds or small details like an elevator shaft, everything is in the developer’s hands. And like a painting, the world feels real. And by that, i don’t mean photorealistic. I mean dynamic and full of soul.
Then these worlds are populated by characters. As if moulded by clay, the developer takes and puts them in a theorama. One or more of them are chosen as a medium to take us, the gamers to world that has been created. Again, there is no limit to who these characters are and where they are from. They can be like everyone else around them or one of their kind. Important thing is, they are given a story and an agenda. For the time we control that character, we are one with them. We feel whatever they feel. Some games let us live the experience as our own self, in our own shoes. We can choose to act and look different, being ourselves at the same time. Like a really cool alter ego.
That’s all cool, but the real intriguing thing are the other characters with artificial intelligence. Higher forms of this are usually found in bad guys and less commonly, in your companions. These guys, they react organically to situations and certain parameters. So technically in a way, they are alive. For the developer having created a world, with (kinda) alive characters, that sense of power, that feeling of being a creator is itself a huge accomplishment. Like an artist, he tells a story. All that matters to him now, is how the audience receives his work.

For the consumer, it’s like watching a movie, except being in total control over whatever’s happening. It’s like taking an amusement park ride, and being able to steer the roller coaster to will. To some, the world of the game and the people within are more appealing than the real ones. And that’s perfectly alright as the game let’s them be something society says impossible. Important, unique, righteous etc. It gives them a chance to be a superhero, or an astronaut, or very commonly a soldier, an alien conqueror and pretty much anything, really. Games are a great way to vent your feelings without hurting anyone or anything in the process. It’s your world. But it’s more than just that. Remember that thing I said about connecting with the character? Everything they feel, you feel too. And that includes pain, happiness, conflict, views on authority and the deprived. A good story and solid characters, or even a potent theme/concept has the ability to carve at your inner personality in a positive way if you let it.
Some others may like to create their own stories and special moments, and hence become warriors, form teams, take on real opponents and win battles. This enhances not only their leadership and team work skills but also their presence of mind during tense situations. New friends are made. And I’ve seen how much it means to them, eternal glory or not. Many people today have dedicated their lives to playing and analysing games. Best way to live, if you ask me. Like these games are pop cultural phenomena, and they’re changing lives.
But in the end, if a consumer really likes a game, he/she may not say it out loud, but they’ll definitely close their eyes to thank the developer. And somewhere in the studio, the developer nods in appreciation. That, is the spirit of gaming.

Now, let’s get back to the technical aspect of it all. When I first found PC gaming appealing, I thought I’d just brush myself up on some basic topics, but, I’ll be honest, looking at the sheer vastness of it all, and how much even the little things matter, it was very daunting. So, I researched a little bit, touched upon a few stuff and thought I was ready to go, but sadly, that wasn’t the case. It just wasn’t enough and I was left even more confused than before. All these hardware components and what their specifications meant, numerous graphical terms and abbreviations all over the place, and entities I didn’t even know existed coming into importance. I thought I should just give up, but then I told myself, “No matter how long it takes, we will dig deep in and learn it all!”. So here I am, wanting to share with you guys everything I learnt over the past few years, some from hours of research and some from personal experience.
But why should it matter at all? Why can’t we just play and enjoy games? Well, the reason for all this isn’t to be a some sort of know it all or bully the intellectual capabilities of others. I’m doing this because I feel like there’s a certain beauty in knowing how things work, the mechanics of it all. It let’s you look at stuff and appreciate its maker in a different way. Then there’s the satisfaction that comes from knowing everything that’s going on under the hood. And by that I not only mean the hardware, but also the code part of it. To know just what you’re investing your time, money and most importantly, your soul on.

If you want a certain topic to be discussed, contact me on damn098123@gmail.com and I will reply, or may even dedicate a post to your query. So, gear up, turn your PCs on, and let’s get on with this series. This is W.A.S.D, PC gaming in all directions. I will see you in the next post!

Cheers.

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