I always check How Long to Beat before I start a game, and I often put off long games for as long as I cqn. I get easily bored with long games and they're such a large commitment of time when I won’t play anything else. Hollow Knight lists as 24 hours on How Long To Beat.
Hollow Knight is a metroidvania in a world of bugs. Bummer! I don’t like metroidvanias and I don’t like bugs. It's a soulslike, meaning you will learn the game by dying a lot. Sorry, but I’ve become quite comfortable at late and play all my games on easy. The game is infamous for having some really hard bosses.
Ok, here we go.
Hollow Knight is a lovely world with beautiful environments, interesting characters, good platforming/level design and pleasant lore/world building. It really doesn’t come out in the screenshots but this game is stunningly beautiful. There are a lot of effects going on, both in the action and the background that makes the world “otherworldly”. The music, both ambient and theme music are really good and gives an extra depth to the world.
This game is huge. Much care is taken into making each piece of the world as intricate as possible, and it makes it worth wile to return to old areas after achieving some new mechanic because it is likely that you can use the new mechanic in an old area to reach new undiscovered locations.
The platforming is good and precise, and sometimes the game turns almost into Celeste in its technical platforming. The enemies are well designed and diverse. Sometimes you get upgraded versions of past enemies, but more often than not you find new enemy types also very late in the game. The same with different abilities that are evenly paced through out the game which makes the game fresh and you don’t really get bored before you get a new mechanic to play around with. I even used the last mechanic I got after 30 hours of playing to kill the last boss.
The bosses are good. They are also very diverse. It is so easy to get stuck in Dark Souls 2 where every boss is a guy in an armor, but here the bosses are very different from each other and you never quite know what to expect. There are bosses of different difficulty and I found the bosses on the critical path to be sensible in their difficulty.
So far so good. I also have some complaints. The game leans hard into the abilities that you gather through your journey, but those abilities are very well hidden and impossible to find without consulting a wiki. If you play this game without looking up things on the internet you will be so underpowered that you'll get stuck and unable to beat the bosses ahead. Even if you want to hide the candy, you can leave some breadcrumbs to the cupboard. Not place it behind an invisible wall guarded by a secret boss. That is not fair.
The game requires you in classic metroidvania fashion to revisit old areas with your new found abilities. But the game is very bad at telling you what you’re supposed to do. Where are you going and why? Unless you have the wiki or walkthrough open you would have to revisit every area once more to see what has opened to you. There are even whole levels hidden away that I finished the game without knowing about because they were so well hidden.
This game’s main strength is in exploring new areas. That is where the game shines. The bosses are good, but they get in the way of that. They change the pace of the game from going forward to suddenly stopping and grinding. Fighting the bosses will feel like a grind when you need 10-20 tries. I think I spent 40 tries on Mantis Lords, and even if that boss was one of my favourites it really did stop the pace of progression completely.
The bosses are well designed, but they have some flaws. They do not care where you as a player are at all. They will gladly teleport right into you if you’re in the way, giving no chance to react. You will just have to learn not to stand in that space. Some of the bosses are denying you of space giving you no way out. Watcher Knights is one of those bosses if you get cornered there is simply no way out. I’m not a fan of that design. I was scared that the last boss (false ending) would be so hard that I’d never finish the game, but that boss was not so bad. It was pretty straight forward and easier than some of the bosses along the journey.
I recognize that this game is not for me, but I really enjoyed my journey through it. I liked exploring the amazing areas and I did enjoy the theme of the game. I got frustrated that the game was so long, that I needed to google every thing in order to progress and that I got stuck on bosses. Still I will definetly checkout Silksong when it is released, given that they haven't turned the difficulty up to 11.