ENDER LILIES: A Beautiful World in Ruin
Ever since I first read about ENDER LILIES: Quietus of the Knights, I’ve been captivated by it. I’m a Metroidvania junkie, and it was apparent from a glance this was one to watch. Honestly, I can tell you right here that this is one of the best, most polished examples of the genre I’ve played in years, even though it inexplicably has no physical edition. Developed by Adglobe Montreal, Adglobe Tokyo, and Live Wire, it’s a stunning and mournful tale about a land brought to ruin. A mysterious Blight has ravaged the land, turning average citizens and animals into terrifying monsters. Not only does it rend their consciousness from their bodies, but it empowers them, turning them into undying horrors. The only way to counter this supernatural threat is for a Priestess to purify them, putting their souls to rest. And thus begins our tale, as an ethereal and frail little girl named Lily wakes up from a magical sleep…
Survive the Blight
The story of ENDER LILIES had me hooked from go. It gradually gets revealed bit by bit courtesy of notes you find all over, which slowly reveal the full extent of what happened. The Blight, which literally rains down from the skies, finally found purchase in the immortal Knights. They were the protectors of the Priestess, and once they were turned, everything was in danger. Luckily, Lily survived the catastrophe, and she’s awoken by a ghostly protector, the Umbral Knight. Though he may be dead, he’s still of service and is capable of becoming corporeal to attack your foes. He’s only one of many such spirits you’ll encounter on your quest, and eventually, you’ll have a ghostly entourage at your disposal. Just keep in mind, you’ll have to earn each and every spirit by first beating and purifying them. They serve as the bosses and mini-bosses in ENDER LILIES.
One of the things I most appreciated about ENDER LILIES is the combat. You’re welcome to play with mouse and keyboard on Steam, but I found my Xbox gamepad worked marvelously. Lily can equip up to 3 spirits at a time, mapping them to either the X, Y, or B buttons. She can jump with A, dodge with RT, and press RB to switch her equipped spirits (of which you can have two different groups at a time). Lastly, one key action is prayer. By pressing LB, Lily will pause what she’s doing and pray. After a few moments, she’ll heal herself. Just keep in mind, if you’re interrupted, either by being attacked or moving, the prayer will stop, forcing you to try again once it’s safe.
It’s a hell of a lot of fun playing around with different spirit setups. There’s a ton of variety, but all your spirits are broken down into two types – main skills and sub-skills. Main skills have no cooldown and also provide a new exploration ability, such as a double jump or aerial dash. Main skills can also utilize a more powerful attack once you attain Last Rites. Some skills have infinite uses (such as the Umbral Knight’s sword slash). Others are limited.
Additionally, most skills work differently in midair than on the ground. A good example is Siegrid, a warrior nun that wields a mace. She does a slow horizontal swing back and forth on the ground; in midair, instead, she swings her mace in a circle rapidly, making her helpful for dealing with aerial threats early on. But my true MVP spirit was the Dark Witch Eleine. She fires homing bolts and can shoot several in quick succession. Better yet, though she doesn’t have infinite uses, she still has a ton, around 70. This made my witchy warrior super helpful, poking foes from a distance as I explored this vast and dangerous world.
I’ll be honest – ENDER LILIES is not an easy game. But it’s also surprisingly well balanced and incredibly fun. Sure, Lily will perish after taking a handful of attacks head-on. But I still wouldn’t characterize the game as Souls-like. I found most all of those games required expert countering to survive. While it’s true there’s a couple of counter options here, I didn’t find either super helpful. One is a spirit you can summon who will raise his shield. The other is a relic that lets Lily counter. The problem with the first is that there’s a slight delay between activation and bringing his shield up. The problem with the latter is the button used for the relic counter is the same as your dodge. Thankfully, I was perfectly able to beat the game without countering once. Though admittedly, it probably would have helped in a couple of challenging battles.
Get Ready for Death
By far, the highlight of the combat is the fierce boss battles. Not one of them is easy. And though they made me work for every victory, I found them exhilarating. There’s a definite flow to the combat, especially in these fierce battles. Each has multiple phases, and some even have multiple forms. Also, bosses (as well as regular enemies) have two meters. One I suspect is armor, and the other their actual health. Though the armor regenerates, thankfully, their health doesn’t. While I only encountered a handful of true boss battles in the game, they were all totally different and forced me to quickly learn their patterns. The same goes for the mini-bosses, though those were much less difficult overall.
Deadly and Beautiful
It wouldn’t be a true Metroidvania without a vast world to explore. I can confirm the world of ENDER LILIES is expansive, stunning, and dangerous in equal measure. The best thing about it is how streamlined it all is. You’ll quickly acquire the ability to fast travel to any Respite you’ve found. Respites are not only checkpoints but also where you save, upgrade spirits and manage your equipment. The only downside to using them is once you do, any foes you’ve slain will be resurrected, other than bosses. Regardless, I really loved this feature, and it made it far less anxiety-inducing to explore this world. Cause you’re going to die, a lot. But knowing you can manually return to your last Respite at any time, and from there, the entire map you’ve found, is a game-changer.
There’s a lot of real estate to explore in ENDER LILIES. Though I was able to roll credits in a bit over 8 hours with the bad ending, there are many more secrets to find. Including unlocking the other two possible endings. One thing that really can help your globe-trotting are white and red flowers. Attacking a white flower will heal Lily and restore one use of her prayer. The red flowers will increase the number of uses for non-infinite skills. Just keep in mind, the map is very meandering. You might see a way forward but have to twist around to get there. A prime example of this was in the horrifying catacombs area, full of giant spider women, kamikaze zombies, and other nightmares. It had me wandering like a fool until I finally stumbled onto a path leading to the boss I needed to slay.
Red, White and Black All Over
This next point is probably obvious to anyone with eyeballs, but I need to make it anyhow. ENDER LILIES is gorgeous. The hand-drawn artwork is full of complexity and little details, such as how Lily will cover her eyes in fright when her spirits attack or lean on them for help. Likewise, the Blight infected monsters all look great and are remarkably fierce. There are fire-breathing crows, flailing slug children, and more. And I loved how the color palette in the game is mostly white, black, and red. It’s really dynamic and haunting, though, on occasion, the color choices did make it hard to see items like levers. Not to be outdone, the sound design is great. I love how water muffles what you hear as you ride up waterfalls. Better yet, the music is ethereal, mournful, and captivating. There’s a great use of classic instrumentation, and it works very well. One particular battle starts with a calm piano melody that amps up noticeably when the boss really starts fighting. Put together, the art and music make a tremendous Metroidvania even better.
I have very few complaints about the game. But here’s a couple of missteps that held it back from a perfect score. One is that the game doesn’t always make it clear whether you have the right ability to proceed. In the coven area, there are these green bulbs. I thought I needed a new spirit ability to access them. Instead, I found I could slash them to open locked gates. I also found some locked doors yet no keys to open them, as well as pulsating red gates that prevented my progress. Again, I’m sure I’ll eventually stumble onto the solutions, but it was a little perplexing that the game wasn’t a bit more upfront with solutions. Even having the Umbral Knight tell me I didn’t have the right tools to get past something would have helped since he’s usually pretty chatty.
This next point isn’t necessarily a complaint but more a minor irritation. While I appreciate that most foes have good tells, visual or audio, to highlight attacks, I had an issue with ranged attackers. They can hit you from off-screen, and they’re remarkably good at sniping you. Keeping in mind a few solid hits will end Lily. This got to be a bit annoying. Also, while I don’t hold this against the game, I’m a bit frustrated there’s no bestiary in the game. Given how much I love the artwork, I’d appreciate a way to gaze upon it in my free time.
A Stunning New Metroidvania
Honestly, there’s very little I can complain about. ENDER LILIES: Quietus of the Knights is one of the best Metroidvanias I’ve played. Sure, it’s challenging, but also well balanced and fair. When you add stunning artwork, captivating music and a touching story, you have a winner. If you’re looking for a worthy game at a very affordable price point, this is a must-own title on PC or Switch (coming later to other consoles). Now I just hope to see more in the near future from this talented group of creators!
Final Verdict: 4.5/5
Available on: PC (reviewed), Switch; Publisher: Binary Haze Interactive; Developer: Adglobe Montreal, Adglobe Tokyo, Live Wire; Players: 1; Released: June 22, 2021 (PC, Switch); ESRB: T for Teen – Blood, Violence; MSRP: $19.99
Editor’s note: The publisher provided a review copy to Hey Poor Player.