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There are seven abilities you can unlock to allow you access to new locations and sometimes find secrets.
Mothwing Cloak – You get this by defeating the Hornet, and it lets you dash.
Mantis Claw – Once you have the Mothwing Cloak, you can use it to access an area in Mantis Village and find this ability, which lets you grab whiles and jump from them.
Crystal Heart – This is located after a platforming challenge on Crystal Peak and lets you propel yourself forward.
Isma’s Tear – Once you have the Crystal Heart, you can use it to access an area in the Royal Waterways and find this ability, which protects you from the acid in Hallownest.
Monarch Wings – You get this by defeating the Broken Vessel, and it lets you double-jump.
Shade Cloak – You get this by standing (and waiting) in the shadow fountain in the Abyss, and it lets you dash through enemies and attacks without taking damage.
Dreamgate – Once you have 900 Essence, you can talk to the Seer at the Resting Grounds to get this ability, which lets you place a Dream Gate at any location (except for a few specific locations that disallow use of this ability).
If you talk to Elderbug while you have the Delicate Flower, he asks if you brought it for him. It is possible to give it to him, which overjoys him and makes him happier about the world. He promises to take good care of the flower so that he can enjoy it with you when you return.
Buy maps and tools for the map as soon as possible.
Don’t be stingy about spending your geo. You want items that can help you, and there’s always a risk of losing your geo along the way.
While there is a bank, certain things will happen if you deposit enough geo into the bank, which will lead to what is essentially an optional quest/battle, so keep in mind that you can’t really use it as a way to save your geo.
Watch enemies and learn their patterns to fight more effectively. The Hunter’s Journal, obtained from a Hunter east of Greenpath, will also provide tips.
Make use of upward attacks and downward attacks, both in combat and to help you in your exploration.
Although your shade will disappear if you die, the same isn’t true if you save and quit. You can take a break and come back later without losing your chance to get your shade.
There is a secret door in the Weaver’s Den area that shows the Seal of Binding, which appears in only a few other areas. The Seal of Binding was finally explained in the second free DLC pack, The Grimm Troupe.
The Dung Defender has a secret room that you can enter by breaking the ground above it, although the ground isn’t marked. Inside, you can find his statues and also see him sleeping. He mentions Isma in his sleep, suggesting that there was once a close relationship between the two characters.
There are five different endings you can get when you beat the game, three from the main game and two more added through the Godmaster free DLC pack.
The Hollow Knight – Defeat the Hollow Knight without the Void Heart.
Sealed Siblings – Defeat the Hollow Knight after getting the Void Heart.
Dream No More – Defeat The Radiance after getting the Void Heart, by using the Awoken Dream Nail on the Hollow Knight.
Embrace the Void – Beat all of the Pantheons and then defeat Absolute Radiance at the end of the Pantheon of Hallownest.
Delicate Flower – Beat all of the Pantheons and then defeat Absolute Radiance, but also give the Delicate Flower to the Godseeker first.
There is also an optional post-credits scene in addition to the endings. To unlock the post-credits scene, you must complete Mister Mushroom’s quest. This will display a short scene following any ending.
There is a secret area called the Shrine of Believers. This is the place where all of the messages from Kickstarter backers are displayed. You can inspect them to read the messages.
By destroying the sign in the Infected Crossroads, then leaving and charging down the well, you’ll be able to kill Menderbug and enter his house, where you can read his diary entries.
Maps will help you a lot, but they don’t come automatically. You’ll need to buy maps from Cornifer, as well as tools that improve you maps (a Quill to add new areas, a Bench Pin to mark benches, and a Vendor Pin to mark vendors). You’ll also want to get the Wayward Compass sold by Iselda. All of these things cost geo, but it is well worth it for how helpful they will be.
Note: if you have the Quill, it will update your map once you rest at a bench. A bench basically serves as a checkpoint, while also allowing you to equip charms.
Make sure you buy new maps from Cornifer whenever you encounter him. Scattered paper, as well as the sound of his humming, will be clues that you’re close to his location.