Ender Lilies: Quietus of the Knights (Switch) Review
As magical and invigorating it is to experience a new genre-defining game, there is a simple beauty in the craft of playing within set boundaries and expectations, and somehow elevating the whole to be so much more than the sum of parts. Ender Lilies beautifully swims through the Metroidvania and “Soulslite” genres, lightly toying with player expectations, creating a morish experience that seems destined to already go down as a cult classic.
Set in a dark fantasy world of Land’s End, our protagonist must navigate a world beseeched by the “Blighted” (inhabitants of the land having been transformed into cursed creatures), discovering her setting, the nature of who she is and what has and will happen to this land. Ender Lilies strikes a perfect balance catering to both types of players, those who just want to enjoy the gameplay and those who wish to delve deep into the story and setting. This is achieved by never getting too heavy on cutscenes (most being skippable) and providing the player with lore through the use of “findings”. The narrative storytelling is also pushed forward with the bosses themselves which are revealing of the history of the land.
At its heart, Ender Lilies is an extremely well-executed Metroidvania game. This comes along with all the trappings you’d expect with power-ups accumulated throughout the playthrough, opening up previously inaccessible areas of the map and plenty of backtracking and quick travel.
In a very obvious nod to the tropes of the genre, by stretching the mix of skills and power-ups to the limit, you’re able to “sequence-break” (a not-so-secret function of Metroidvanias where you’re able to skip ahead to parts of the maps you’re not intended to go to) and also collect end-game secrets which often dangle in front of you, seemingly impossible to get, teasing for a 100% completion. The quality-of-life features you’d expect for a modern Metroidvania are all there, including clear indicators on an on-screen minimap indicating whether you’ve collected all items in a room and hints indicating if there are routes you may not have taken.
Where Ender Lilies sets itself apart from most Metroidvanias is the combat mechanics. With obvious inspiration from the Souls series, combat is fair but will push back on players that try to just run-and-gun, you are required to learn enemy attack patterns and dodge/parry to maximise your survival chances. Furthermore, the game allows for evolution in your combat style, opening up to melee builds and ranged attack types. Where the game differs and lands in a “Soulslike” category is how the checkpoints link into enemy revival and experience accumulation.
One key element of the Souls series is the tension created by forcing the player to choose whether they want to venture further into the world, risk all the experience they’ve accumulated, or decide to revive their health at a checkpoint but regenerate all slain foes. Ender Lilies breaks with this approach, keeping the enemy revival mechanic if you restore your health at a checkpoint, but it does not link this in with experience, which is accumulated instantly as you vanquish enemies. While the game is by no means a cakewalk, the softening of this link means that the game is less frustrating for players that dislike that tension that is built with being forced to choose between a rock and a hard place.
The combination of the subtle and somewhat muted art style, soundscape and soundtrack perfectly evokes the world and lore the developers are aiming for. While this may not translate well watching a trailer or screenshot of the game, the way the whole game feels when playing is a huge credit to Adglobe and Live Wire, developers of the game. The soundtrack features stripped back, piano arrangements with touches of vocal melodies that bring life to what almost feel like disturbed nursery rhymes.
Ender Lilies artfully weaves the Metroidvanias and Soulslikes genres in a dark fantasy setting, inviting the player to fully explored all of the secrets (and endings) of Land’s End.
+ Perfectly executed Metroidvania
+ Fantastic Souls-inspired 2D combat
+ Art, soundscape and lore well blended
- Minor hitching/stutters