This beloved Metroidvania title 'Hollow Knight' features a beautiful art style and score, a lore rich plot, and some punishing combat. Not to mention, intense boss battles and a sprawling, deadly, world to explore.
Starting my own adventure, whilst I didn’t feel lost perse, I did feel like understanding some mechanics alluded me. Additionally, Hallownest is dauntingly massive, meaning getting lost is all too common.
Whilst I’m no Hollow Knight professional, I did beat the game’s true final boss, which is no easy feat. So allow me to be your tour guide through Hallownest as we delve into some helpful advice.
1. Starting Your Adventure
The very beginning of your adventure (thankfully) holds your hands in some regards. Before this perturbs you, I’m not talking overly long tutorial based hand holding, but some guided exploration. However, it’s not long until you’re left to your own devices to wander in whatever direction you choose. Thus, my first tip is to just get lost and have fun!
So often in Metroidvanias it can feel that despite having no set path to follow, progress is dependent on acquiring certain skills. Whilst such abilities also exist in Hollow Knight, the amount of the world explorable without them is not insignificant. This leads to a lot of discoveries happening naturally through exploration.
As a result, your playthrough may be completely different to mine, an experience usually reserved for true open world games.
2. Don’t Worry, Be Mappy
The hub town of Dirtmouth isn’t the most bustling settlement when you first arrive. It is however worth getting acquainted with its services. In particular, Cornifer the map maker is easily locatable in the Forgotten Crossroads. After purchasing their map, they can be found in most areas of the world, ready to sell you a map. Additionally, Cornifer’s wife Iselda, located in Dirtmouth will sell you a quill to update your maps, as well as markers.
Given how sparse Geo can seem early on, these seem like bad purchases, but buy these as soon as you can. The quill enables the map to fill in with new areas visited every time The Knight rests at a bench. Without this, maps will remain bare and useless. Markers that you can place yourself are incredibly useful to refer back to when you gain a new traversal ability.
Finally, the Wayward Compass charm is probably the single most important charm in the game. When equipped, it shows The Knight’s location on the map, and without it getting lost is inevitable. This charm can also be purchased from Iselda early on.
3. Money [Doesn’t] Make The World Go Round
The currency of the world, Geo, can seem limited initially, with slain enemies dropping small amounts. Some rocks can be broken to spill Geo also, but early on these amounts are also not significant. With maps, markers, charms and fast travel stations all demanding this resource, it can feel like your finances are stretched thin. Couple this with the fact that dying twice without recovering your resources from the first death results in losing all of your previous Geo, and money feels like the be-all and end-all.
Imagine my dismay then when I lost over 2,000 Geo very early on in Hollow Knight! I felt I would never financially recover, but thankfully, progress through the game comes with faster Geo acquisition. Therefore, I recommend buying anything that you can when the opportunity arises. Even charms that seem useless will go towards meeting the requirement for unlocking further charm notches. This way, death comes with less consequences. Furthermore, Geo can be stored in the bank found in Fog Canyon, and can be easily farmed in the Coliseum of Fools.
To avoid losing your Geo like me, bring your Shade to Dirtmouth, making recovering your lost Geo and Soul easier. To unlock this ability, use a ‘Simple Key’ to unlock a door in Dirtmouth to rescue Confessor Jiji. They will then summon your Shade in exchange for a Rancid Egg, which are easy to come by. This is useful for when you die in a tough area and don’t wish to risk losing your Geo forever.
4. Lucky Charms
Charms are the other element of Hollow Knight allowing for unique experiences and customizability. Some, such as the aforementioned Wayward Compass as well as Long Nail or Soul Catcher appear immediately useful. Others, such as Flukenest or Balder’s Shell don’t seem all that useful. However, it is worth acquiring all charms for a couple of reasons. As mentioned earlier, purchasing extra notches allows you to equip more charms, and requires obtaining a set numbers of charms.
Secondly, you never quite know when a seemingly useless charm may come in clutch. Take for instance the Dashmaster charm. Being able to dash more often doesn’t seem all too useful, but against bosses with attacks that require dashing to avoid, it has a unique use. Similarly, ‘Lifeblood’ charms grant extra HP but don’t allow you to use Soul to heal. In some frantic fights where options to heal are limited, focusing on damaging and dodging may be a better tactic.
5. [Boss] Biology 101
As alluded to in the point above, experimentation is key to success, which is especially pertinent to boss fights. Time to get dissecting!
Fortunately, most boss fights have a bench nearby, allowing you to swap out charms on reattempts. This is one of the best tips for when a particular boss is giving you trouble – mix up your strategy! If you’re taking lots of hits up close, maybe switch to a magic based build? Not enough time to heal? Switch to a ‘Lifeblood’ build as mentioned previously to relieve the urge to heal. If you’re finding yourself overwhelmed by enemies or projectiles, the Dreamshield or a charm offering small companions may help.
With some bosses dealing out attacks quicker than an aggravated wasp trying to escape through a closed window, another tip is to… stop fighting. If after several failed attempts you’re still taking too many hits, maybe take a few attempts to focus on successfully dodging attacks and don’t attempt to retaliate. This may highlight attack patterns more clearly and provide important knowledge for a future, successful attempt.
Finally, this may seem counter-intuitive, but if you’re really struggling on a boss, walk away and come back later! Additional charms or upgrades to other abilities, traversal options or The Knight’s nail itself may be what you need. Place a marker on your map to indicate the boss’s location and come back with a fresh mindset and some upgrades and watch as they topple much easier.
6. Nailed It
The Knight’s nail can also be upgraded by Nailsmiths located throughout Hollownest. The harder to find smiths will offer techniques such as a charged slash, which can be useful in niche situations or when combined with certain charms. The most useful smith however is the main one found in the City of Tears. He will upgrade the nails attack stat at the cost of Geo, and then later the rare Pale Ore item. Tracking these items down is certainly worthwhile, granting a permanent attack boost to The Knight.
Additionally, if going for a nail based build, make sure to chase down the Longnail, Mark of Pride and Quick Slash charms.
I’ve covered a lot of ground in this guide, as you will do as The Knight, traversing every corner of Hallownest several times over. Here are a few miscellaneous tips to help you reach the end of the game:
Don’t be afraid to tailor your charms to traversal and healing when exploring, then swap to combat charms for bosses.
The Knight’s offensive spells can all be upgraded by finding a collectable for each across the world. These aren’t really hinted at so keep your eyes peeled throughout your travels.
Use the downwards aerial nail swing to bounce off of enemies, chaining hits together, or to navigate past sharp hazards.
Infected orange enemies almost always explode upon death so get out of the way!
And my final, most valuable tip, would be to consult a wiki! If you’re truly lost with no clear path forward, better this than wasting time endlessly wandering and potentially spoiling your experience. There are some really detailed maps out there to help you. Whilst the game can probably completed without too much consultation, if you wish to get lost in Hallownest or unlock alternative endings, the internet is your best friend.
Hopefully you’ve found this Hollow Knight guide helpful, and it hasn’t dissuaded you from venturing into the unforgiving world of Hallownest!