This article originally appeared in issue 349 of our glossy magazine. You can get it delivered right to your door by grabbing a subscription (opens in new tab), which will also net you special subscriber-only covers.
The labyrinth that lies beneath the small bug town of Dirtmouth is a dangerous place. Exploring the ruins of Hollow Knight's vast kingdom is an isolating experience, and running into the creatures living in these wastelands will almost always end in confrontation.
Although the scale of these sprawling caverns is unnerving, exploration and discovery are the two main pillars of Hollow Knight. You have to embrace the feeling of getting a little lost and letting curiosity lead the way—even if it gets the better of you. Thankfully, you're not alone in this pursuit. Throughout your journey you bump into another traveller on their own quest—Quirrel.
He embodies the game's sense of discovery wholeheartedly. His curiosity for the mysteries of Hallownest pulls him deeper into the kingdom for reasons he cannot explain. He's a bit of a mysterious character, describing himself as more of an observer than a warrior, although he does carry a nail around for safety. Like many other characters in the undergrowth, he's lost his memory and is hoping to recover it by wandering the wastes of Hallownest. Although his fate is a bit uncertain, Quirrel is an upbeat bug and always fascinated by the world around him. He's also the closest thing you have to a friend down in the dark pits of Hallownest.
You meet Quirrel a few times over the course of the game, usually finding him in the rare peaceful pockets of the underground. Running into him normally means a moment of rest, and the game often invites you to share it with him, sitting next to him on a bench or quietly gazing at whatever he's looking at. If you strike up a conversation, he's always open about what he's musing over.
Being a fellow explorer, Quirrel has a genuine interest in Hallownest and wants to understand its myths and history, and Team Cherry's gorgeously gloomy subterranean world is stuffed to the brim with lore. The detail that has gone into building the fallen bug civilization is comprehensive, but also completely sealed away within the broken memories and hazy dreams of the characters. With Hollow Knight's story being notoriously difficult to piece together, it's nice sharing this path with a fellow traveller. His musings are often posed as questions, like whether something can be opened, or questioning the importance of a place. When he asks these questions, I find myself wanting to know the answers. The most poignant example of this is when you meet him in the City of Tears.
This area is a beautiful metropolis deep within Hallownest, where it always rains. Its lore describes it as once the beating heart of the kingdom, but now its mechanical elevators, endless libraries, and intricate tram systems lie abandoned. You find Quirrel sitting on a bench looking out a window over the city, and you can take a seat next to him. It's one of the most serene moments of the game as the music quietens down to highlight the light pitter-patter of the rain.
Joining him on the bench, he muses about the endless rain that encompasses the city, and wonders where the water comes from—since Hallownest is so deep underground. It's an interesting point, I'd been running around the City of Tears for a while and just accepted the rain as a weird anomaly, but maybe there was a reason. "Before I leave this Kingdom, I'd like to see where all that water comes from," he says. "What a sight it must be!"
Quirrel's observations inspire you to act, and that is what makes him the perfect companion. Many wanderers are looking for something—be it freedom, peace, to lose themselves, or to find something. For Quirrel and the player, our search for answers is what unites us.
Untangling the web of locations and lore in Hollow Knight is no easy task, but Quirrel is a character who inspires you to look deeper. Crossing paths with him was always a welcome encounter, his curiosity and wisdom always inspiring me to push on. Without him, I would never have found some of Hallownest's deeper secrets, like the real source of that endless rain. He really captures the whimsical nature of a true wanderer – one pursues their curiosity, but also nurtures it in others.