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Thoughts on “git gud” – based on my experiences with Hollow Knight, Castlevania Symphony of the Night and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Sometimes I see posts about how Hollow Knight is too difficult and you have to "git gud" if you want to beat it. I played it for just over 70 hours and wasn't able to go far. I really want to love it, but I just can't go further.

On the other hand, I have beat SotN two or three times, 200% completion, etc etc.

And now I'm nearing 200 hours in BotW and this is the first game I really felt the thrill of "getting good".

Why am I talking about these three games? They're all completely different in gameplay and mechanics. But there's this one thing they have in common: the joy of exploration.

First of all, I have to say I'm not a super skilled player. Although I started playing videogames when I was around 5 (I first had a Sega Megadrive, then an N64, now a switch; also played on wii, PS1, PS2, PSP, gamecube, DS but they weren't mine), I was never a hardcore player and I spend a lot of time in other hobbies such as reading, playing the guitar or TTRPGs.

So, here are my thoughts on why I really liked SotN or BotW and couldn't get far in Hollow Knight.

In BotW I used to be really afraid of monsters like lynels, guardians or moldugas. They do a lot of damage, have a lot of resistences. For over 150 hours playing the game I would just flee from them and focus on other stuff. But as I progressed in the game I started needing materials and it came to the point where I could just go and kill the boss, or I could upgrade stuff, finish the side quests and then kill the boss. However, to upgrade stuff I'd have to fight lynels and guardians and hinoxes to gather materials.

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So I'm not ashamed to say I looked up guides and started training.

And the beauty of training in BotW is the save system. Right now I'm farming guardians. I see the guardian I wanna fight, I save the game. Then I go there and try to parry the laser. If I get it wrong, no problem, I just need to reload and I'm there again ready to try. I can do it over and over again until I'm comfortable with the results.

First time I killed a lynel I finally understood what people generally say when they're talking about the "sense of accomplishment" when you finally learn to do something difficult. Yeah I had to reload a few times, but it wasn't frustrating. I could keep going on until I got it.

On SotN you have the level up system, which allows you to just keep farming levels until you're "good enough" to fight that boss that was pretty difficult. SotN has save rooms, but they're generally well-placed, and there's always one somewhat next to the boss or a difficult part. You can also always farm better weapons and other items that help (like when I realized I had a circlet that helped me fight a boss in inverted castle that was kicking my ass).

But Hollow Knight… I'll use Soul Master as an example because it was one of the most infuriating parts of playing that game for me. I found the shortcut in the elevator shaft. Still, if you die and need to try the boss again you need to go up a tower full of ghosts that teleport. At first I was trying to farm them for geo, until the time I died before getting to my shade and lost everything. I was trying to get to the boss to try it over again and I couldn't because I died before I got to the boss. How will I ever get better at killing the boss if I can't even get there in the first place?

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Playing these other exploration games I realized my big problem with Hollow Knight is the backtracking. Especially trying to beat a boss. If I have to repeat everything I did for the past 15 minutes all over again just to get the chance to try the boss again I'll never get good at it. It's just too much to do that my muscle memory never fully develops.

I know it was a design choice and the game is meant to be that way. I have to admit there's nothing inherently wrong with it. It's just not for me. I know a lot of people that didn't like BotW or SotN. That's fine. Different games appeal to different people.

The point I wanted to make here is that, at least in my personal perspective, what "breaks" Hollow Knight for me is the long backtracking in some parts of the game that halt my development. I think I finally understood what "git gud" means, and I agree it's a good thing to aim for if you want to.

Thanks for reading, and have a great one!

Edit: as I said, I'm aware of my motor skill limitations. I thought I was getting good but apparently I'm just catching up to everyone else. I found BotW and SotN to be challenging to me (up to some point). As I said, different things appeal to different people.

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