(Available for Xbox One, Xbox Series X and Series S, Nintendo Switch and PC )
(PC version used for review)
(PlayStation 4 and 5 version in development but will release in third quarter of this year due to a delay)
Ender Lilies: Quietus of the Knights is the latest game from indie studios Adglobe and Live Wire. It creates a Metroidvania with some mechanics from Dark Souls brought in, if you’ve played games like Hollow Knight or the Ori games it’ll seem familiar to you. Rather like Hollow Knight, the game also put emphasis on the boss fights incorporating them in a big way though the gothic design of the game has drawn comparisons to Bloodborne by many people. I would say that the comparison is certainly somewhat warranted but I’ll go into my thoughts on what the big difference is in a narrative sense in the review. I got a head start on Ender Lilies buying the game when it hit early access on steam in January, and I was somewhat impressed (but was reserving judgment until I could play the other 5 areas that would release with the full game). The game has finally fully released.
- Story: The story of the game revolves around a gothic world of Lands End which has been corrupted by a never-ending rain known as the ‘blight’, which corrupts creatures with both immortality and subsequent madness, twisting the land into a dark landscape filled with ghouls and monsters. The task falls on the last of the White Priestesses Lilly, to purify the various souls that have been corrupted by the blight. Lilly is a young girl who is incapable of defending herself but is guarded by the spirit of the Umbreal Knight. Over time, as she purifies the various over corrupted souls, their spirits will join her. Upon defeating these warriors, the game triggers a cutscene which dives further into the characters past and their connection to Lilly adding a sense of tragedy to their defeat, since while they have been corrupted by the blight for the most part, they aren’t monsters. The game has a good sense of foreboding a despair within the story, and similarly to games like Dark Souls and Bloodborne, the story largely unfolds through diary entries and various texts you find thorough the world (putting the onus on the player to discover the full story leading to a sense of reward for exploring the world uncovering all these various plot points going on around Lilly). The tone of the story and world has been compared to Bloodborne quite a bit, but I think the difference is that while both worlds portray a gothic-design town filled with corruption and tragedy, Bloodborne provides a sense that by the time your character shows up- all is lost and everything you do is just for survival (there is no hope for Yharnam). In contrast, while there is despair and slim chance of success in Ennder Lillies, the game offers hope that Lilly can purify this world and bring Spirits to peace and thus there is some hope for Lands End. The bottom line is, that if you like a good gothic action story with big worlds to discover, this is the game for you. However, don’t expect as many speculation videos on the plot line to this game, compared to Hollow Knight.
- Combat: The combat was one of the best things about this game. As mentioned in the plot synopsis, Lilly can’t fight. She can move and jump, can dive move to dodge from attacks, and can call on a prayer to heal herself; however this requires a short time to pull off standing still and has a limited amount before each rest area.
- The attacks from the guardian Spirits: The first is the Umbreal Knight which is a basic sword attack, but after you beat each boss and mini boss (and they have added one of their attacks to your arsenal), it’s up to you master these moves and to know which environments and enemies work best for them. You carry 6 at a time though you can only activate 3 each time, swapping between them (using the RB button on Xbox/ R button on Switch). Strategic thinking also comes with knowing how to work best with your gameplay style, as you have to map each attack to one of 3 buttons on a controller (in the case of the Xbox controller I used, it was X,Y and B). Combat feels both fluid and challenging, and really rewards experimenting with different combos for traversing each environment and figuring out with spirits you want to upgrade with the currency you pick up throughout the world. There is no one combo that will win every fight. You’re also going to want to experiment with Relics and find ways to hold as many as possible. Trust me some of the boss fights I would have lost had I not changed from one relic to another in the loadout
- Soundtrack: It’s a phenomenal soundtrack. The piano and violin are regularly used instruments to really suit the world and can be both foreboding and atmospheric with excellent songs for the boss fights. One song of note is the theme of ‘Ulv the Mad Knight’. My favourite song however is ‘Harmonious’ which is used early on in the game and actually features the main character humming along to the tune to really add to the effect of how bad things have gotten.
- Graphics and world design: Ender Lilies art style is amazing. It has a brilliant almost hand drawn art piece-feel to it, and while lots of mute colours are used, some areas have very vibrant colours used as well (particularly the Catacombs and the Witches Thicket) with an overall apocalyptic gothic horror look to everything. It’s a Metroidvania, so if you’ve played recent releases like Hollow Knight, Ori and the Will of the Wisps, the structure will be familiar to you. Castlevania however, is a clear influence in both art and world structure. As usual for this genre, the map slowly opens as you acquire new items or abilities- usually following a boss fight. For example, when I played the game in early access, I came to a wall (which although the map told me there was an exit in this area) I hadn’t accessed before. After defeating another boss, I gained the ability to climb walls and then I was able to access the exit and a completely different area. Another example is Lily’s inability to swim underwater until you beat another boss (who also gives to the best ranged attack in the game, but I digress). The structure did remind me of Castlevania games like Symphony of the Knight and Order of Eclisiaz, and the game rewards you for memorising areas and making notes to go back to areas once you’ve gained new abilities, since there can be collectibles like health boosts, resources to increase stats and relics. These will help you improve your combat capabilities, especially in the late game when really tough enemies are abound. Exploration is also helped with the fact the map is really good at showing any missed exits and is colour coordinated to indicate whether you acquired all the collectables in an area or not. Plus, there are a ton of fast travel locations which you return to upon death and most areas offer permanent shortcuts, so exploration rarely feels like a chore.
- Boss fights: This is where the Bloodborne comparisons are very apparent. The boss fights are incredibly memorable but also very difficult giving a sense of reward to beating them. You have to experiment with each spirit and relic you acquire in order to win, and these bosses pull no punches with all having at least 2-3 phases. For example, I was very much used to having at least one ranged attack at all times, but when I got to the final non-optional boss, they were damn near useless since he was immune at most times and the charge-up time meant I’d get hit before performing the attack. This meant I had to swap to more effective close-range attacks. Take your time, learn patterns and remember you’ll die a lot. Whilst none of them reach the level of difficulty of Dark Souls or Bloodborne, some get damn close but the satisfaction of victory is great. Put it this way, I played for an hour and half straight just to beat one boss when playing to make this review…that’s how determined for victory I got.
- Not too much cost to dying: I’ve heard this criticism banded around a bit for this game and while I would agree you don’t have as much risk in dying as in games like Dark Souls or Hollow Knight, there was also a ton of complex areas with a lot of tough enemies, and having to return to them after putting so much work, made some deaths feel really awful. The reduced risk does kind of make you less worried to die in certain areas (especially when there’s tons of rest areas so you won’t be thrown too far back upon death, this is especially the case in the late game). I think it comes down to personal taste on this one, but I will agree while you don’t lose much dying it can be quite frustrating.
- Feels a bit short: Ender Lilies is pretty short clocking in at around 21 hours for completionists, if unlike me you rarely die. It is shortened however and doing the bare minimum will mean this game really is only 10-12 hours which might actually suit some players that don’t want incredibly huge experiences. However, I kind of got a bit of a feeling by the end of my run, that I hadn’t had my fill of the game and could’ve done more. Granted I wasn’t going for 100%, but my run time still felt a bit short. Although as there is a save point before the final cutscene, I was able to go back in and explore more. While I wish there was a few more hours of enjoyment for each playstyle on the spectrum of play, bare minimum to 100% completion what I got while playing was well worth it.
Ender Lilies is a fantastic Metoridvania which rewards exploration, has some amazing combat and very difficult boss fights which drew me to the end of my tether. However, it also had a great sense of accomplishment upon victory. The look of the game is also fantastic using great backgrounds and character models to make a very beautiful yet ghoulish world in its gothic charm. The story is very typical for this kind of game, relying on the player to uncover much of the plot and world, but it’s rewarding to do so and no matter how many times I died, I kept getting up and wanted to keep going because I was having a blast. In fact, my only real criticism is that even going for 100%, it didn’t feel as long as I would’ve liked and I wish I got a bit more, but that being said it is still an experience well worth having.
I would say pick this one up- it’s not too expensive because it’s indie, and despite the short length, the run time goes up significantly if like me you died a lot so you get a lot of worth for your money.
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