So... I've been trying to get more and more into it and I kinda like the core of what's there, but I kinda feel like the pacing is really crazy here.
I like big games as much as the next guy, but if your game is big, you still need to pace it correctly. On Ori, we had around 400 level designs during pre-production and then went through the process of cutting everything that was just 'more traversal', while trying to only keep the stuff in that felt really good. So we left probably 100-200 levels on the cutting room floor. Sounds a bit crazy, sure, but proper pacing in a game like this is super important. Sure, we could've made the game twice as big with the content we had designed, but if you don't have enough 'juicy stuff' (in the case of a Metroidvania, new abilities and level designs that make you really learn these abilities and play the game in a new way every now and then) to constantly keep the player engaged, you're actually doing your game a disservice. It also doesn't help that the game looks 'mostly the same' in all the areas thanks to its art direction. Everything's dark and while the colors change a little, most areas still look kinda samey, which gets tiresome after some time.
Even on Ori, I always felt that the time it took to gain the DoubleJump was a little too long - Granted, we used story sequences to break up the pacing a little, but it would've been good if you would've gotten the next ability like 10 minutes earlier.
But here, I feel like I'm traversing soooo much and very rarely get new stuff, so I'm much more encouraged to put the controller away since it always feels like there's probably nothing new within the next area anyway. I've played for probably 5-6 hours now and only now got the Dash - The fireball isn't something I use a lot, since I feel like saving my Souls for healing instead - And the level design doesn't necessarily naturally guide me to where I can / should go next. That's the difficult thing with a Metroidvania: You design an open world, but you need to connect the areas in a way so that it'll immediately be obvious to the player where he can continue on with the new ability he just learned. At this point, I'm also desperate to find a weapon upgrade, since a lot of the stronger enemies that I constantly face now take a lot of hits and it becomes a bit of a chore to always fight the same enemies while never getting stronger to deal with them in a more efficient way.
In the shops, I spent around 5000 'geo' or so already and only got map upgrades and what I assume to be heart pieces - but not a full heart, of course, so again I feel like I'm progressing at a snails pace.
If you compare the pacing and flow here to games like Super Metroid or any other classic game in that genre, it just feels like Hollow Knight is a real drag. I'm really getting the feeling that they should've looked at the final layouts and then edited it down to only keep the 'really good stuff' to make the pacing feel a lot more tight. When designing a Metroidvania, I really feel like 'less is more' should be your core mantra, since the overall pacing is the most important thing.
So does the pacing pick up at any point or does it keep going like this?
Very insightful impressions, thank you. Will wait for some replies before purchasing, but I am not entirely happy about the sound of the first 6 hours in either case then.