Hollow Knight: Silksong - Hands-on preview from E3 2019

A new land is suffering a curse and it's up to new hero Hornet to find out what's happening. Shacknews goes hands-on with Hollow Knight: Silksong at E3 2019.

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Nintendo's E3 2019 lineup featured a strong number of first-party heavy hitters. The publisher's booth featured Luigi, Pokemon, Link, and even the full pantheon of Marvel superheroes. It also offered up a formidable indie gaming presence, including a highly-anticipated follow-up to one of 2017's best games. Seeing Hollow Knight: Silksong playable at the Nintendo booth was a pleasant surprise and Shacknews was more than willing to wait in line to give this sequel from Team Cherry a try.

Let's offer up some quick background on Hollow Knight: Silksong, for the uninitiated. Team Cherry unveiled this sequel back in February, taking a DLC project and deciding to blow it up into a full-blown standalone title. Following the events of the first game, a new protagonist is stepping into the forefront. That new lead character is Hornet, princess-protector of the land of Hallownest. She finds herself in a whole new world, with the idea to traverse through it and ascend to the citadel at its peak. And while the first game's Knight had a full arsenal of moves, Hornet will bring along some new abilities, as she faces a gallery of new foes.

Hollow Knight: Silksong

With the background out of the way, we started out our playthrough in Moss Grotto, said to be the simpler of two available demos. At its core, Silksong retains the Hollow Knight Metroidvania formula. The goal is much more vertical, noting again that the idea is to reach the top of the world. With that said, Moss Grotto sits at the bottom of the world. The idea is to ascend the world's various platforms. Because of all the climbing required, players will put a new edge grab into frequent use. Minor enemies get in the way in the game's opening minutes, with Hornet able to dispatch them with a few simple hits.

The Moss Grotto is a great demonstration of Team Cherry's art style at work. Just as was the case with the first Hollow Knight, there's a tremendous amount of detail in the environments and in the backgrounds. The backgrounds are noticeably busy without being obstructive, while the landscapes have a serene atmosphere to them. The exquisite level of detail extends to the first boss battle, where players will notice worms gather around in the back of the screen to try and get a front row seat to the action.

Hollow Knight: Silksong

Managing your healing ability, just as in the first game, is a critical component to making progress. Upon reaching the area's first boss battle, I realized that I didn't have a heal charged up, so I was taken down in fairly short order. This is where I was reminded of how brutal Hollow Knight can be, because dying against the boss put me back at the very beginning of the game. That meant having to climb all the way back up to reach the boss a second time.

The boss battles do indeed get tough. The Moss Mother is nothing to sneeze at, particularly for series newcomers. She'll charge at you after taking a hit, while also slamming against walls to bring debris crashing down your head. She can summon minor enemies and try to overwhelm you with numbers. There's very much a pattern to her movement, but the Moss Mother's difficulty comes in just how many hits she can absorb. She's surprisingly durable for an opening boss.

Fortunately over the course of the game, it looks like Hornet will be able to progress. She can pick up new abilities, like a dash that lets her speed across dangerous obstacles. She can also progress further by collecting Shell Shards and the new Rosaries currency. Rosaries can be traded for various items over the course of the game. Just be careful, because your Rosary count resets if Hornet dies.

After completing the Moss Grotto, I could only ponder the path not taken. Deep Docks is said to be an even tougher demo and it gives me a good sense that Hollow Knight: Silksong will not pull any punches, much like its predecessor. Team Cherry has crafted a colorful, yet hazardous world, one that looks like it will prove every bit as beautiful as it is frustrating. Hollow Knight: Silksong has a tough act to follow, but Team Cherry appears to be up to the task. Hollow Knight: Silksong is coming in 2020 to PC and Nintendo Switch.

Senior Editor

Ozzie has been playing video games since picking up his first NES controller at age 5. He has been into games ever since, only briefly stepping away during his college years. But he was pulled back in after spending years in QA circles for both THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping to push forward the Guitar Hero series at its peak. Ozzie has become a big fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, just to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can't enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?

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