The Knight of Hollow

For the past couple of weeks I’ve had the pleasure of finally playing Hollow Knight and up until now if heard nothing but wonderful things about it and after quite a bit of time, I’ve come to the conclusion that the praise it has received is well warranted. Falling into the Metroidvania style of game, Hollow Knight is every bit as challenging that you would think it would be, and at times even harder than that. Essentially the story revolves around exploring a long dead city in habited by bugs and other nasties, no it isn’t as nasty as it sounds, it’s simply the nature of the world. Throughout the adventure you face off against monstrous entities and tainted creatures all while exploring this dead city and uncovering its secrets.

Before I played it, Hollow Knight received an outrageous amount of praise and rightly so. The story itself is fantastic and detailed in several different ways, with random relics and runes to read all of which flesh out the story and paint a dire picture of a once great city that has fallen from grace. Aside from story there is of course the art style itself, hand drawn and simply beautiful, I mean seriously I honestly can’t get over how beautiful this game looks with so many varied locales and each with their own distinct style it never gets boring to look at.

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There is one thing that I really need to mention even more than the art style and that’s the music, yes, I love it, but not like I love maybe the Final Fantasy VII soundtrack, or Castlevania Symphony of the Night. No, I love this soundtrack because while it is good, it’s understated, it fits, it’s organic. Every section of this game has its own mood and sound and that is what makes it a perfect fit and it’s why I love it, because not every soundtrack has to be standout and recognizable. Don’t get me wrong it does stand on its own and I could easily see me vegging out to it but in the context of the game itself it blends into the environment and brings it all to life in an intense way.

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In the end I do love playing Hollow Knight, then again at times I hate playing it as well. It’s a beautiful and frustrating game that brings back memories of the 16-bit era (and the horrors involved) while breathing new life into modern gaming, at least in my own opinion. It’s addicting and freeing in its explorations, but also rage quit inducing when it comes to many bosses and even just random enemies. Yes, like just about anyone else I would recommend it hands down, for whatever my opinion may be worth, and anyone who enjoys the pleasures a Metroidvania style would find a great deal to love here as well.

~Fallyn Aingeal~

A Most UnEpic Journey

Good evening, day, morning, friends! I’d like to take a moment or three to talk about a game that up until now I hadn’t given the love it deserves and this past weekend I decided to change that. UnEpic is the simple, heartwarming tale of one man’s journey home…just kidding, it’s about a crude guy who in the middle of a D&D like gaming session gets transported to a fantasy world and possessed by an evil spirit in an attempt to defeat the lord of the castle and find a way home. I’ll admit when I first played it I had a hard time with it, though at the time I think it was because I was trying to use an old and stiff Xbox 360 controller and since that was frustrating I switched to keyboard and mouse and that just made my arms and hands hurt. In the end the game sat dormant for a bit, okay a lot, but once I got my new controller and a new bit of motivation to take on my Steam list, I decided to start off with this one and boy am I glad I did!

Like I said, you play as Daniel (well I didn’t say his name), he’s a gamer, in to fantasy and tabletop RPGs, and is fond of going to the bathroom…okay last part is a little gross but it sets up the rest perfectly. See as he’s going during a break in gaming with his buddies the lights go out, confused and slightly damp he wanders out only to find that he’s in a castle and almost immediately he is confronted by a spirit being that guards the castle. Unfortunately for the spirit, Daniel really can’t be controlled so the two set off on an adventure of life, love, and the desire to be separated from each other. The story is simple in nature but it’s the writing that really sells it for sure, filled with movie, game, and general pop culture references, and the back and forth between Daniel and his spirit passenger is completely priceless. If for no other reason UnEpic is worth playing just for the story and dialog, sometimes it feels like it goes on longer than it should but I think part of that is just when I try to stream it and I feel awkward sitting there while the conversation goes on, waiting for it to finish before I can talk again.

Metroidvania, a term I hadn’t heard until Axiom Verge came out, and I never truly understood it until I played this game right here though this is definitely more Castlevania than Metroid and not just the fact that it’s more fantasy based, the over all feel is very much in line with Symphony of the Night which really boosts it in my opinion. The similarities are so close that on face value you could almost confuse the two games though from a graphics standpoint it’s a step below Castlevania and that most definitely is not a bad thing, but I’ll talk about that later. As far as gameplay is concerned though, the castle you’re in is sectioned off into different areas that you have to explore, a guardian to find, and a boss to beat but each section needs a key so you are somewhat guided in where you go in a more obvious fashion but it isn’t a terrible feeling either as you don’t feel constrained in where you can go because each area is a decent size to explore. Other gameplay things to note is a full-fledged character sheet that you’d find in just about any tabletop game, full inventory and equipment, spells, crafting, all in all full RPG mode and even a map! Let’s not forget a bunch of side quests and even a few grinding quests thrown in there because why not, and to be honest the only thing I’m not a fan of is the fact that some of the menus that you can use (though don’t necessarily need to use) have to be used with the keyboard in conjunction with the controller but fortunately it’s not a major issue. One last thought on gameplay though, and it’s one of my favorites oddly enough, every room has a set number of candles and/or torches for you to light to help illuminate the area and once you light all the ones in the room there is usually a secret that opens up for you to access. It doesn’t always happen but every once in a while you’ll completely light up a room and a hidden ladder will appear or a chest and it’s just a good feeling…plus it’s one of the achievements to light all the lamps so of course I’m gonna try to light them all.

 

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I know I’m a little out of order, I’ve gotten this far and usually I’ve already talked about the graphics but screw it, let’s talk about them now. I mentioned before that the graphics sit just below Castlevania Symphony of the Night and I stand by that but it’s not a bad thing. To be fair this looks more in line with the 16-bit era of gaming versus the 32-bit era which would explain the drop down there but in the grand scheme of things it looks phenomenal, well to me at least. Every section of the castle has its own theme and look to it, from the sewers to the library it all has a distinctive feel and it all flows so well. Now I won’t lie, as beautiful as the game is, the thing that I thought was the best to see was when Daniel walked behind a pillar, yes a lot of 2D games create the illusion of depth with their backgrounds in a layered way but actually having things in the foreground that your character can walk behind brings it up a level for sure and I’m loving it.

Let’s talk music, my favorite subject, now overall the music and general sound design is perfect, but it’s subdued. I mean I love how the game sounds, but the music doesn’t really stand out to me or at least there isn’t a lot of the music that sticks in my mind after I turn off the game. Now just because the music doesn’t stand out after the fact, like I’m not thinking about the music hours later, but the music is just right for the moment your in the game and really fleshes it out which when your playing that’s exactly what you want. I will concede though that there is enough substance to the soundtrack that I would like to buy it and just sit and listen someday if I get the extra money to do so. Aside from the music, the voice acting is up there for favorite because it flows so well and the way the characters play off each other is great though I should warn (finally) it’s certainly a rated R game on dialog along in many cases. From swearing to full on sexual innuendo it’s all in there, it’s hilarious and well written, but it’s all in there so just a fair warning there.

 

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Finally let’s bring it all together with the replay value and RPGs don’t naturally have much of that, obviously exceptions apply, for instance if you really love it you’ll come back to it or if it’s one that happens to have multiple endings that may bring you back in as well. UnEpic is like any other RPG in that regard, you’re either going to love it enough to keep coming back to it or you won’t, now there are some challenges that you have to do across multiple playthroughs which somewhat brings you back but over all it’s still the same story so if you do come back to it more than likely it will be because you love how it plays and listening to the banter. For me personally I’ll load it up again and again because it’s a fun game to play and sometimes you just want to run around swinging a sword.

My final thoughts? Easy, lately I can’t even shut up about this game because it’s so much fun. It his all the right spots from nostalgia to solid gameplay and design. Overall, I don’t know if it’s gotten the love it deserves, I personally don’t think it has because I don’t see or haven’t seen a lot of people ever really talking about it and that’s very unfortunate because it deserves so much more. If you haven’t tried it and you like Metroidvania style games, then this is one you shouldn’t let slip away especially since it’s normally reasonably priced, as of this writing on Steam it’s listed at $12.99 and personally I think it’s a decent price. If you’re on the fence I have no doubt it would go on sale and for the size of the game I would have gone about to $20 before waiting for a sale. Either way, take a look, you can see my stream on it on Twitch and YouTube if you’re still not sure.

~Fallyn Aingeal~

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Couldn’t resist throwing this one in there too 🙂