If you started playing Hollow Knight and got out of the Forgotten Crossroads trying to get into Greenpath, but an Elder Baldur stopped you. This Hollow Knight Starter guide will help you out with this one. This Hollow Knight getting started guide will go through and explain every mechanic in Hollow Knight and a tad more.
Elementary, my Dear Pale Sons
As you already noticed, you have five health masks and a Soul Vessel to heal. Every three hits are one mask of healing (without any Soul charm equipped), and both your health bar and the Soul Vessel are upgradable. It takes four Mask Shards to upgrade your health bar and three Soul Vessel fragments to upgrade your maximum Soul capacity.
As you get to Dirtmouth, you will already have learned everything you need to know for you to continue for now – which is hitting everything that moves, collecting the Geo and Soul, repeat. You will see Lifeblood Cacoons that give you losable extra masks, don’t worry, there are plenty more throughout Hallownest.
In Dirtmouth, you will see your first bench, and it’ll refill your health bar and prepare you for the underground. Heading down to the Forgotten Crossroads, you will encounter two bosses, open two stores, find the map maker Cornifer and get your first spell, giving you a glimpse of what the game is going to be.
It’s against the law to stop pressing the attack button
Other than just hitting everything that moves, there are plenty of things that you will recurringly see playing Hollow Knight. During your exploration, you will find a few grubs in the Forgotten Crossroads, and you may think that you need specific abilities to reach them, and for some, you do need them. One Grub, in particular, is on a platform out of your reach, with platforms before it covered in spikes.
You may not realize this right away, but the sooner you realize, the better: spike jumping, bouncing off enemies, and damaging most of them in this way is a regular part of your journey through Hallownest. Hollow Knight is amazing at showing you these tiny details and teaching you how to advance in the game.
Every single thing you catch a glimpse of is a lesson, and every attempt of yours to reach a platform that you think you wouldn’t be able to reach is perhaps the correct thing to do. Team Cherry did a fantastic job of showing you how to progress in the game and preparing you for every area boss with the attacks that come from the usual enemies.
The Grubs you find can be taken to the Grubfather in Grubhome where he will reward you with a significant amount of Geo, a Mask Shard after collecting only five grubs, a Rancid Egg, a Hallownest Seal, one Pale Ore after collecting thirty-one grubs, King’s Idol, and two charms (Grubsong after you collect ten grubs and Grubberfly’s Elegy after you collect forty-six grubs – more on charms later in a bit, but if you want to learn even more, SPOILER WARNING, check this article out).
After talking to a Shaman, you will get Vengeful Spirit, your first spell, and you will have to go through a platforming section after you get it. By the time you get to your first spell, you will already get familiar with platforming and the types of enemies, and you will see most of them here, giving you the chance to practice, collect Soul and use your spell. While passing through that platforming section, you will find a charm.
Charms give you various benefits in Hollow Knight that you can equip based on your need for each situation. You can equip them on benches only. The platforming room ends with an Elder Baldur that will teach you how to use the Vengeful Spirit spell and show you that you need to hit an enemy three times to cast Vengeful Spirit; the exact three hits you need to heal one mask. This is also how you get out of the Forgotten Crossroads and into Greenpath.
I recommend equipping this first charm, the Soul Catcher charm, right there on that bench as it increases the amount of Soul you get per hit.
So far in Hollow Knight, you have your Nail as your primary source of damage, a Spell, and a charm. Grubs that get you rewards, as will other things in the game, whether the reason being that you defeated a boss or just picked something up in a hidden room, so exploration is a key that opens further doors. By opening a door, you open one more.
Separation Anxiety & Abandonment issues
So now you’ve heard the term “abandonment issues”, I mean “Shade”, you might have already seen it. When you die, you leave your Shade in that area; if you die before getting your Shade back by hitting it a few times (the amount of hits it needs to be taken out increases with your health, each mask of heath adds one more hit that you have to get until you get your Shade back).
If you die to your Shade or before you get to your Shade, you will lose all of your Geo, which might be very frustrating in the early hours of the game. If you think going back is risky, go to a Stag Station and back to Dirtmouth with a Rancid Egg.
Abandoning your Shade because you died before getting to it and leaving the area completely is also a solution. You’ll die again anyway.
Things we all wish we realized by ourselves
Vengeful Spirit is handy when you’re dealing with more than one enemy at a time. The added benefit is that it deals 15 damage while your Nail does 5 at the beginning of the game without any upgrades or charms. Using Vengeful Spirit during fights is so much more beneficial and ends the fights quicker and safer.
Sometimes healing results in trading (healing one mask to losing one mask), you’ve already seen one enemy that deals two masks of damage in the Forgotten Crossroads (Husk Guard), and you will see many more.
This goes for all other spells that you will get later in the game too. They may seem situational, but they deal a lot more damage than your Nail does, and they all hit multiple enemies at the same time.
I shied away from using spells until I got to a boss fight that was much easier once I started using spells. It was a snowball effect as well; once you realize that you can use a spell in a certain way, you will see that you can use it in the same way elsewhere – you just didn’t see the connection.
Remember the law
There are breakable walls and hidden rooms everywhere. There’s only a reward behind them in most cases; it can be a whole new area to explore in other cases. There are breakable floors as well.
Typical walls’ sound when you hit them is noticeably different from the sound a breakable wall makes; the same for the floors when you walk over them.
- Yes. There is a Grub behind a breakable wall in the Forgotten Crossroads. Grubs make crying sounds, and you can hear them when you’re close.
We all know you can learn a lot from reading
Don’t skip out on reading lore tablets and dialogues in the game. Some NPCs will give you what you want after talking to them several times, like Divine, a very important NPC you will meet much later in the game.
Skipping on buying some useless-looking charms will prevent you from getting the goods from her. Think this way about everything in Hollow Knight.
Rely on your Nail, use your Soul
When it comes to your Nail, it’s a reliable source of damage – using Soul for more than just healing can be more beneficial in many situations, not only when you’re on full Soul.
When the time comes, you will find that some spells even prevent you from taking damage as well. All spells in the game that you get can also be upgraded and boosted, both with exploration and charms.
Geo isn’t everything
Geo is important but not as important as you think. You will buy out everyone in Dirtmouth easily. This isn’t to say that things later in the game won’t cost more, but you will find that there are other ways of getting A LOT of Geo that aren’t from Geo deposits, and the Geo dropped after killing enemies. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you lose 400 Geo.
Invest your Geo wisely
Make it your goal to buy every charm you see; it will pay off, I promise. This will help you in the long run. You’ll get an upgrade.
The Dream Nail laws are less strict, but they do exist
In the same way that you can hit everything that moves, you can Dream Nail everything that moves. This gives you Soul and an insight into their thoughts.
This can be tricky to time, but it’ll become a crucial part of your trip in some boss fights and other arenas that you will find. Dream Nail dead bugs too, you might get lucky very early in the game.
Traders in Dirtmouth
Dirtmouth is a place you’ll see in the first ten minutes of the game, and don’t think you won’t be coming here again. The Stag Station is there for a more significant reason than the shops.
The further you get into the game, there will be much more to see in Dirtmouth; events can be triggered by exploring. The first ones are on the list below; the next one is way down in Fungal Wastes.
If you’ve attempted to defeat the False Knight, defeated the False Knight, or found Cornifer, one shop will open in Dirtmouth, and you will be able to buy maps, map pins, and a quill from Iselda there. Iselda and Cornifer are husband and wife, and if you miss Cornifer in an area or if you don’t have Geo to buy a map, it’ll show up in Iselda’s shop.
As you now have a map with a quill, you will be able to fill the map out whenever you sit at a bench. Benches are your checkpoints, and as Hollow Knight has an autosave feature, if you exit the game, you will always be brought back to the last bench you sat at. Benches can also be used to go back to a place you’ve already been at, without walking back, by exiting out to the main menu and going back into your save file.
If you’ve traveled a bit deeper in and explored further, you will have found Sly asleep in his house. He will move up to Dirtmouth and open his store where you can buy charms, the Lumafly Lantern, Vessel Fragments, Mask Shards, keys, and a Rancid Egg. The charm that is very beneficial for beginners is the Wayward Compass.
With the two charm Notch slots that the Soul Catcher is occupying, the Wayward Compass will fit right in as you start with three charm Notch slots. Gathering Swarm is a charm that makes the Geo dropped by the enemies fly to you; the only Geo left behind are those that drop into acid or a different room.
You already know about charms, Vessel Fragments, and Mask Shards, but Rancid Eggs?
You’ve heard about the Rancid Egg four times now, and you’re wondering what they do. You can find Rancid Eggs all over the place, and I like to call it a Ransome Egg because one of the bosses, Nosk, closes your Shade in his arena behind like eight walls, and you can’t get out unless you defeat him – or use a Rancid Egg.
This is the only time I used a Rancid Egg in Hollow Knight, but they are very useful; you just have to find Confessor Jiji in Dirtmouth on the far right, she likes to eat Rancid Eggs, and she will do a ritual to summon your Shade each time you give her one.
I always felt like I would use up all Rancid Eggs if I did this too many times, but an NPC named Tuk in the Royal Waterways will sell Rancid Eggs to you for 80-100 Geo only, and she never runs out of stock. She does, however, refuse to sell you more if you have eighty Rancid Eggs, and this is only in normal mode. At a certain point, you will get familiar with the map to a point where you won’t even think about Rancid Eggs, but don’t forget they exist as I did. Do as I say, not as I do.
There are several more shops that you will unlock, and those are later in the game. Hollow Knight is the most fun when you’re going into it blind, so I won’t spoil the rest of them, but you will get upgrades to buy, charms to buy, and relics to sell. One of the relics is the King’s Idol that you can sell for 800 Geo. The other one mentioned here is the Hallownest Seal that you can sell for 450 Geo.
Related: Check out our complete guide to Hollow Knight characters.
The map you’ve seen so far is just a fragment of the whole map, which you will see while getting lost in Greenpath that you can enter after you get the Vengeful Spirit spell. There are several benches in Greenpath, and you should try to go everywhere you can because you can’t go everywhere. You will see this after Hornet teases you from a platform you can’t reach.
One of the benches is right next to a Stag Station, and Stag Stations are very self-explanatory once you’ve found the first one. They are a means of travel, and it is the first fast travel tool you’ll see; there are two more. There are ten Stag Stations, and once more becomes available after you’ve unlocked the previous ten using Geo or ringing the bell where the station is.
After you’ve spent a bit of time going through Greenpath, you will see that you will need the Lumafly lantern (Sly’s shop – 1800 Geo) as well as other upgrades that you don’t have yet. The first upgrade you will get is after running down Hornet, your first serious boss, and defeating her. You will here get your dash ability, and you’ll be lost on where to go next again.
You may have realized that both Hornet and the False Knight give you chances to heal. Those opportunities aren’t random, and they happen when an enemy is staggered. You can use this opportunity to heal, but you don’t have to wait for them to pass, as when you hit Hornet and other bosses that you will encounter later in the game, the fight will continue normally (the False Knight is more forgiving in this sense as he doesn’t continue to fight he just sits and takes it, but you will fight the False Knight twice).
Hornet’s stagger values are 11 hits or a 6 hit combo. In Hornet’s case, this combo needs to be performed within twelve seconds, more precisely, hitting her every <2s. Stagger values are different for each boss, and not all bosses can be staggered.
Parrying is kind of hard
You may find that the game is slow, simplistic, and overly difficult, but as time goes on, you will see that it is preparing you for fast-paced, think-fast combat and platforming, sometimes both at the same time. Parrying an enemy means countering their attack with your own. If you were lucky enough, you might have already seen this in the Forgotten Crossroads (the Husk Warrior), but Greenpath and the Mantis Village are areas where there are many more chances for it to happen accidentally.
Parrying gives you invincibility frames, and you deal damage that you would have if you did hit the enemy without taking the damage yourself. This is somewhat of an advanced mechanic as you need to time it perfectly, and you can go through the entire game without parrying a single enemy or noticing that you parried them. The way that you can tell that you’ve parried an enemy’s attack is the freeze frame with the parry animation.
Where do you go after defeating Hornet?
The world is yours, and you can go anywhere, well, not everywhere. You may have noticed that you got the City Crest after defeating the False Knight. The City Crest is used to enter the City of Tears. There are other ways to enter the City of Tears, but this is the intended and the easiest way.
The City of Tears is the capital of Hallownest, and for you, it’s important as you will find the Nailsmith there. This is where Pale Ore mentioned above almost comes into place. The first time you meet the Nailsmith, he will upgrade your Nail, and you will get four more damage to your Nail that previously did five damage. He will also charge only Geo the first time; the second time you visit him, he’ll ask for Pale Ore and Geo.
Upgrading your Nail with Pale Ore throughout the game is essential. It might take you a while to get Pale Ore needed as every upgrade requires more Pale Ore and Geo than the previous one, but you can upgrade your Nail with Geo once and three times with Pale Ore – getting you from 5 Nail damage to 21 Nail damage with each hit. This damage can also be increased with charms later in the game.
You will go through Fungal Wastes and get lost twenty times before you get to the City of Tears, but that is the charm of Hollow Knight. From the City of Tears, the path will be more straightforward. Going the long way around, like in Greenpath and discovering more than you would by just speedrunning Hollow Knight, is a much better experience.
You might even find some things that you can miss out on (Cloth‘s Spirit – take a look at this Essence guide for more, SPOILER). The way to go is down. The Deepnest is scary, but there is Pale Ore there. Measure how much you’re supposed to be where you are by how many Nail hits it takes to kill the weakest enemy. That’s it.
Your next mission is to make your way to the Resting Grounds, find the Dream Nail, and finish the game. Explore as much as you want, find all Pale Ore, Mask Shards, charms, spells, and upgrades to make your journey easier.
Common mistakes to avoid
1. Forgetting that counting is a basic skill
Don’t forget to keep track of how often a boss is staggered. This can be nailed simply by counting, and as you already saw, you can stagger them faster if you hit them faster – certain charms and parrying will help immensely with this. But staggering an enemy is a moment you can use for healing, and dealing more damage to a boss means they will be staggered less often – if you need to heal three times during a boss fight, you might get only two chances to heal by dealing more damage in the same amount of time. The boss’s damage and how fast they move don’t change.
2. Not letting yourself grow
Don’t neglect the important items that will help you throughout the game. Charms, your Nail damage, and your spells all make up your playstyle, and with more exploration, you will get a broader take and a more pleasurable experience.
3. If it’s not a happy ending, it isn’t an ending
Finishing the game by killing the Hollow Knight isn’t the end. If you haven’t seen it already, many things can be unlocked by unlocking DLCs. Hollow Knight has five different endings related to the main game and one extra ending that you will have to see for yourself and not understand; like everyone else that went through the agony of hunting down Mister Mushroom.
4. Fix mistakes before you make them
Don’t forget that you already have five Rancid Eggs at least.
Killing Myla and cutting down the Nailsmith are crimes. We don’t kill Myla and the Nailsmith will find another passion, and he’ll be happy again.
Question: What do I do at the beginning of Hollow Knight?
Answer: Other than just hitting everything that moves, there are plenty of things that you will recurringly see playing Hollow Knight. During your exploration, you will find a few grubs in the Forgotten Crossroads, and you may think that you need specific abilities to reach them, and for some, you do need them.
Question: What should I know before playing Hollow Knight?
Answer: As you get to Dirtmouth, you will already have learned everything you need to know for you to continue for now – which is hitting everything that moves, collecting the Geo and Soul, repeat.
Question: Is Hollow Knight beginner-friendly?
Answer: Team Cherry did a fantastic job of showing you how to progress in the game and preparing you for every area boss with the attacks that come from the usual enemies.
Question: Is there a way to make Hollow Knight easier?
Answer: Explore as much as you want, find all Pale Ore, Mask Shards, charms, spells, and upgrades to make your journey easier.
Question: How do I get the Dream Nail?
Answer: In resting Grounds at the Dreamers’ Memorial
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