Review – Ender Lilies: Quietus of the Knights
Ender Lilies: Quietus of the Knights, from here on referred to as simply Ender Lilies (because that is quite the mouthful), first caught my attention with its dark gothic theme. The juxtaposition between the dark blight-ridden areas and the radiant white unassuming stature of this little priestess girl is visually grabbing. On top of that, the combat itself looked unique with how you use liberated souls to do the combat for you. Anyway, before I talk about the whole game in the opening paragraph, I’ll just say the the game looked unique enough in a pool of metroidvania indies that it caught my eye.
In Ender Lilies you play as Lily, who has just been woken in the depths of a church by a Knight’s spirit who urges that she is the kingdom’s last hope. He reveals that an unforeseen rainfall reached their land that transformed all living things into undead monsters, known as the Blighted. It is Lily’s job now to liberate Land’s End from the Blighted with her guardian Knight spirit. She must set free the souls that are stuck in these twisted Blighted forms and cleanse Land’s End so that it can be rebuilt.
What I really enjoy about Ender Lilies is how the story elements actually tie into the gameplay in a lot of ways. As you uncover more of what happened, and the lives that lived here before the Rain of Death, you’ll collect items that relate to that area and boss. These items offer buffs to your defense, attacks, healing, experience gain, and more. Each item does take up an available slot on your necklace, so you will need to discover slot upgrades for the relics. These upgrades are typically discovered through areas unlocked by metroidvania progression.
However, it’s not only the collectables and Relics that offer insight into the world. Throughout Land’s End there will be bosses; each of them transformed into great Blighted because of their strong wills and acts of courage. This is why a lot of the bosses are military types, leaders, and protectors. These Blighted are extra strong and if you defeat them you’re able to cleanse their souls and release them from that prison. As you cleanse their souls you get a glimpse into that last few moments of life and see what they fought so hard for. Mothers protecting their young, fathers sacrificing themselves for their families, Knights protecting villages.
These glimpses into the boss’s lives were very well done and helped sell the tragedy and downfall. This made it even more fulfilling to be able to cleanse them. When you do cleanse these boss Blighted they will offer themselves to you so you may use their powers in combat or in traversal. You will unlock a large handful of souls that are willing to help, and while they all aren’t super helpful, it is neat to be able to try out different combinations. Also, only the main bosses will provide the metroidvania progression abilities while the mini-bosses only provide their combat ability. You’ll likely notice the difference in these fights due to the increased difficulty in the main bosses. All the main bosses will have a couple of stages they will transform through altering their strength, attacks, and aggression.
This leads me to the combat, which I find to be very unique. As you collect the boss souls, you’re able to equip them in any of the six combat slots available. The six combat slots are broken up into two loadouts, allowing you to have three at the ready and another three that you can quick swap. Essentially, all you do is summon these souls to do all of the attacks while you move and dodge.
Some souls you can use and they’ll stay in that spot and do a combo, meanwhile you’re able to dodge out of the way and setup other attacks. Most attacks will conjure the spirit right next to Lily, which means you’ll need to move in close and attack as if Lily was swinging the sword herself. There is a large variety of souls to use, so find the combinations that work best for you.
Killing enemies, as well as breaking environmental objects and finding secrets, grants you experience and upgrade materials. Experience is passive, and grants small increases to health and defense as you level up. However, the upgrades to the souls are more important. Each soul can be upgraded to level five and each upgrade tier will add strength or some other multiplier. For instance, the bird soul I upgraded was able to increase the amount of projectiles, shot frequency, and total uses it has before it’s done. You’re able to refill soul uses by collecting Blighted Lilies or rest at a upgrade point. These rest spots are used for fast travel, upgrade, swap souls, equip relics, and save your progress.
While I really enjoy the spin on the combat, it does have some drawbacks in how it feels. I understand that the player’s character isn’t the one doing the direct combat, but there is a real lack of impact with it. Perhaps it’s a design choice, however I still think they could have given some weight, despite the fact spirits are the ones attacking. First off, the enemies sort of just die into a tiny poof of blood and experience orbs. The sound design matches that weak look. With only a squishy blood sound when enemy dies, it doesn’t have that visual or audio intensity it needs to feel visceral. On top of that, the enemies don’t come off aggressive or intimidating in the sound design. No nasty growls or big attack sound effects.
Fortunately, the rest of the visuals, sound effects, and soundtrack are great. As I mentioned before, the art style with the dark gothic ruins of a kingdom are really well done. The details are also fantastic, with the level design variety and even the foreground and background animations being spectacular. Some of the enemy designs are reused for a lot of the game, but each section will have their own unique enemy designs and visual style. The bosses are often have the best designs and they’ll sometimes alter their looks as they transform during the fights.
I already went over a lot of my gripes with the sound effects for the enemies and combat, but it’s not all bad. The various sound effects with combat interactions and environmental items are fine. However, the real star is the soundtrack for Ender Lilies. A lot of the times the score is beautifully haunting, which really helped sell the feeling of a ravaged land. Each main area has its own theme and the combat music is perfect for those intense boss moments.
Ender Lilies is a fantastic game, with some really cool ideas and twists to the metroidvania genre. It never felt like it was leaning on and borrowing from another title heavily, and I appreciated that a lot. It took me about ten hours to get to the ending, however, and I was not close to liberating all areas. I went back and continued through the areas because I wanted to continue unlocking these stories and finding out more. The way Ender Lilies tells its story through the gameplay and items is a perfect way to mold fun action with storytelling. It’s definitely a unique experience that you won’t want to put down, and I fully recommend it to any action/adventure metroidvania fan.
The art direction is gothic and really well detailed, from the enemy and level designs, to the foreground and background of each area.
Controls are tight and the metroidvania elements are well implemented. The idea of using warrior souls to fight is unique, but the combat lacks impact.
The overall score is really great and fits the dark gothic feel very well. Unfortunately, enemy and combat sounds effects are not satisfying.
All the ideas brought forth in Ender Lilies are unique, and I love the aesthetic and music. However, there are some set backs with the combat.
Final Verdict: 8.5
Ender Lilies: Quietus of the Knight is available now on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch, and PC.
Reviewed on PlayStation 5.
A copy of Ender Lilies: Quietus of the Knight was provided by the publisher.