Hollow Knight: One Player’s Journey


Photograph by S Vasileva

Hollow Knight is a soulful game developed by Team Cherry in South Australia, with fans around the world.

“Higher beings, these words are for you alone. 

Beyond this point you enter the land of King and Creator.

Step across this threshold and obey our laws.

Bear witness to the last and only civilisation, the Eternal Kingdom.


The words appear on an egg-shaped tablet before an embroidered, yet ruined stone gate. The mysterious pale masked figure approaches the gate, breaking it piece by piece. The gate breaks, and the journey begins. 

Centered on the exploration of a ruined kingdom through the eyes of an enigmatic wanderer with no memory of who they are or where they come from, Hollow Knight has grasped the hearts of thousands of players, with some even going as far as saying that it’s a “new classic” that belongs in a video game museum. Ever since its release in 2017, Hollow Knight has amassed a huge following with over 500,000 copies sold in its freshman year, surpassing 1 million by July 2018. By 2019, the number reached 2.8 million copies, and that’s when I discovered the game.

When I started playing it, I was immediately captivated by the dark, melancholy atmosphere that balances elegance and peace. Unlike most games where you get an idea of what is going on in the game, Hollow Knight shows you artifacts of the past civilization, tablets of recorded history, fallen structures, graveyards, and dialogue of characters that offer their own insight on the history of the land. The world is stained with regrets, unrequited feelings, unfulfilled wishes and dreams, and lost souls all with a story for you to piece together. 

Another element that makes Hollow Knight stand out is the immersive tutorial. When you start the game, you descend into a ravine called King’s Pass. There you learn the basic controls such as movement, attack, and hazards that you might find across Hallownest. The player finds lore tablets that speak of a civilization beyond the gates. When you leave King’s Pass, you are greeted by a desolate town called Dirtmouth. The game doesn’t automatically show you how to play the game or how to use abilities. Instead, the game subtly teaches you how to play in an immersive experience.  Finding traditional Metroidvania abilities such as dashing and wall climbing help improve navigation through the game, allowing you to see an area with a fresh mind. Once you’ve gone far into the game, the game lets go of your hand and the world is all yours to explore. 

In each area, you have to find the cartographer Cornifer to purchase a roughly done map with a limited perspective on the area. It is up to you to fill those empty areas using an item called the Quil. The player won’t find themselves visiting an area and never returning to it, but instead will find that there is still more to be explored as they gain abilities. That ledge that was too high to jump now leads you to a gate to unlock.  That barrier you couldn’t get past now grants you access to where you can find Cornifer and get the map of the area. 

In my first playthrough, missing intricate details led to a slight downfall in my gameplay experience. 

The world, despite its tragic atmosphere, proves that there is beauty even in the direst of situations. Every new area is distinct and unique in color palette, shape, language, and what it has to offer as you progress. For example, the Forgotten Crossroads is a deserted, lifeless, maze-like passageway dotted with statues and carts that used to be a trading route. Greenpath is a juxtapositioning contrast to the lifeless world you got introduced to with its lush, green, rainforest-like environment thriving with moss creatures. Fungal wastes is an earthly cavern of blue and yellow fungi with acidic pools. The City of Tears is a gloomy metropolis shrouded in endless rain. 

Each area never failed to fascinate me and gave me the urge to explore it. The music adds a lot to the atmosphere, especially in the way that it muffles as you stray from the area or becomes intense if you’re fighting a miniboss. 

The large interconnected world of Hollow Knight and the player’s freedom to roam the world brings several hours of gameplay. Aside from tough boss fights, there are secrets hidden all around Hallownest: from fauna to secret lore to hidden areas. There are multiple endings you can get based on how far you go in the game. A player can go for the quickest ending, but that doesn’t immediately end the game and instead leaves you an opportunity to dig deeper and find your place in the fallen kingdom. There are multiple dlcs for the player to play, most of which automatically come with the game after you purchase it. One of these free dlcs allows the player to challenge themselves in tough arena battles with all of the bosses of the game. 

Hollow KnightSilksong is the newest Metroidvania action-adventure video game developed and published by Team Cherry for Windows, macOS, Linux and Nintendo Switch. It was originally announced in February 2019 as a sequel to the 2017 game Hollow Knight.