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June 2021

Ender Lilies: Quietus of the Knights

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Binary Haze Interactive
Developer: Adglobe (EU), Live Wire (US)
Release Date: June 22, 2021


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Switch/PS5/PS4/XSX/PC Preview - 'Ender Lilies: Quietus of the Knights'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on March 31, 2021 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

Ender Lilies: Quietus of the Knights is a 2D dark fantasy metroidvania fairy tale.

It's weird to get tired of a concept as simple as "a destroyed kingdom," but one can only play so many atmospheric decaying kingdoms inhabited by dark and corrupted beings where the story and lore are mostly told through item descriptions before it all starts to feel the same. That is why Ender Lilies: Quietus of the Knights was such a surprise. Admittedly, I rolled my eyes a little at the basic concept, but it quickly stood out from the crowd, and it has leapt high on my list of most anticipated games for 2021.

In Ender Lilies, a terrible corruption known as The Blight has overtaken the kingdom and turned everyone into monsters that are trapped forever in the decaying shells of their mortal form. Players control Lily, a young girl dressed in white, who is the last living being in the world who's capable of battling The Blight. Awakened by a knightly spirit, Lily discovers that the Rain of Death has brought The Blight to the land, and she must find a way to purify it before it overtakes the world. Yes, it sounds familiar, but the atmosphere and beautiful visuals carry the title a long way.

Ender Lilies has a lot of similarities to Hollow Knight. Like that game, it's effectively a combination of Metroidvania and Dark Souls, even though Ender Lilies seems to focus more heavily on the Castlevania aspects. It's basically a 2D platformer through a large interconnected series of map rooms with lots of secrets, backtracking and hidden bonuses. Healing uses the now-expected Estus Flask mechanic, where you have a set number of heals and recover them when resting at a save point, which respawns enemies, of course. Lily controls like a dream and can easily hop, dodge and fight her way through everything in her path.

Like those games, Ender Lilies also relies on the idea of gradual progression and shortcuts. While the first area or two are linear, you'll quickly find your way into dangerous zones that can tax your healing. Thankfully, you'll find a ton of shortcuts ranging from hidden doors to open to secret passages that allow you to skip over huge chunks of danger. It's taken right from Dark Souls, but it undeniably feels darn good to make that path on your own. You can also warp between save points, and older areas reward you for backtracking with bonus items that can increase your health or offer passive bonuses.

The interesting thing about Lily is that she doesn't fight on her own. Instead, she collects spirits that serve as her basic combat options. You begin with only a sword-wielding knight but quickly gather a wider selection based on the various enemies you fight. Spirits seem to come exclusively from bosses. Minibosses give their spirit upon defeat, and big bosses provide a powerful spirit upon defeat and also grant standard Metroidvania power-ups, such as double-jump or swimming.

What is different between a spirit and the kind of abilities you see in Castlevania? Each spirit is its own functional being, so you can use multiple spirits at once. You can throw out a poison gas cloud and a deadly tornado at the same time to turn a small area of the field into a massive damage field, or you can chain together a sword combo and a powerful swinging mace to smash through enemy defenses and leave them vulnerable. Each spirit has a cooldown and a limited number of uses. The uses are replenished at save points (like your healing), but you still need to consider where you want to use your allies. You can upgrade them to get more uses, increase their damage, or give them additional range or additional attacks.

Ender Lilies doesn't seem to be overly punishing. You can die quickly, but from the Early Access version, the game is extremely fair. You can die, but it'll be due to impatience and rushing into combat against an enemy. Platforming is a thing, but it doesn't seem like the game intends to have instant death pits. Failing platforming challenges usually takes you to a lower path or occasionally into a deadly pit of water that drains your energy until you jump out. Even the Souls-like death system is forgiving and mostly amounts to lost time rather than lost resources.

What makes Ender Lilies stand out is the beautiful artwork that captures a storybook feel; it's easily one of the best-looking Metroidvania offerings I've ever played. The gloomy, decaying atmosphere is conveyed wonderfully, and the fact that Lily is the sole bright spot in the world allows for remarkably striking visuals. The bosses we've seen thus far are delightfully animated, and most of the monsters have fantastic detail. If nothing else, Ender Lilies is worth keeping an eye on for its gorgeous visuals.

All in all, Ender Lilies: Quietus of the Knights has all the makings of a top-grade Metroidvania title. The closest comparison I can make is to Hollow Knight in terms of engaging gameplay, beautiful graphics, and a dark and gloomy world. If the final version of the game is as good as the Early Access version, then Ender Lilies might be one of the best Metroidvania titles on the market. I'll keep a close eye on it as it approaches its "spring 2021" release date, even though the Early Access version is currently available for anyone who's interested in taking it for a spin.

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