I had high hopes for this game from the moment I saw the trailer, given its resemblance to Hollow Knight. However, it’s more than just a rehashed version of Team Cherry’s successful platformer. ENDER LILIES: Quietus of the Knights is a beautiful, well-crafted experience with a compelling story and exciting gameplay. It lived up to my expectations and then some.
I’m the kind of gamer who usually likes to play in short bursts of 1-2 hours, but with Ender Lilies I found myself unable to resist the urge to go longer. It’s the type of game that makes you lose track of time, because you’re too engrossed in what’s happening. It’s also challenging enough that your determination motivates you to keep going.
The story is moving, and evolves as you progress through the games. I’ll avoid spoilers throughout this review, but suffice to say, it tugs at your heartstrings. There are also several unique mechanics that set Ender Lilies apart from other games, and although it undeniably bears similarities to titles such as Dark Souls or Hollow Knight, it stands as a solid title in its own right. Your gaming skills will truly be put to the test as you explore the world, battle enemies, collect items, and defeat bosses.
ENDER LILIES: Quietus of the Knights was developed by Adglobe, Adglobe Inc., and Live Wire, and published by Binary Haze Interactive. It’s available for Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and PC.
Story – A Hauntingly Beautiful Tale
I don’t want to give too much away when it comes to the story, as part of the delight of this game is discovering the world as you play. There’s detailed lore, and I love how much they developed the backstory for Ender Lilies. You play as a young girl called Lily, who has lost her memories. You have to piece together your history from snippets that you find whilst exploring. You’re accompanied by your friend, The Umbral Knight, and along the way you encounter new spirits to help you on your journey.
There are notes scattered throughout the world, and you see flashbacks when you defeat a boss. I love how the story feels so earned. It’s not fed to you, you have to work to get every new piece of information. Certain lore notes might not make sense until you find another, and it’s great how you get a new perspective of the sentiment when you consider two things in the context of one another.
I won’t delve into the realm of spoilers, but the basic concept is that this world has been ravaged by a curse. It affected the people within the world, and turned them into monsters known as ‘the blighted’. You play as the White Priestess, and you’re able to purify them and set their spirits free. The story is very touching, and constantly learning more makes you feel very engaged with the gameplay. It’s exciting knowing that if you can just defeat that tough boss then you’ll have another piece of the puzzle. It’s a masterful way of world-building.
Gameplay – A Little Bit of Everything
When it comes to gameplay, Ender Lilies isn’t afraid to push boundaries. You have platforming, rpg-style exploration, fighting, strategy elements… The whole works. And whilst sometimes genre-mashing can feel a bit overwhelmingly, it all melds together so well in this game. It truly puts your gaming skills to the test. I was impressed by how smooth the movement is, whether you’re jumping, running, dodging, or attacking. There’s no awkward animations, or lag. The character reacts perfectly in time with your button pressing, and it allows for some fine-tuned combinations.
Ender Lilies employs a series of interesting mechanics, some are familiar from other titles, whilst others are unique. One of my favourite mechanics to use were the spirit attacks, and I’ll go into that in more depth later in the review. The game uses a level up system, and you gain experience by killing enemies. You have several stats, but your attack is the only one improved by levelling. HP and prayer potency rely on other items that you find throughout the world.
I really enjoy the prevalence and range of items found throughout the world. You have relics, lore notes, items that improve skills, items that increase slots, and more. The gameplay too, is satisfyingly varied, and there’s a fun balance of combat, platforming, and exploring.
Combat – The Good Stuff
I have mixed feelings when it comes to combat. On the one hand, I love the range of options you have. There’s your basic attack with the Umbral Knight. It’s the one you start with, and its strength improves as you level up. Although you gain better skills as you progress, it never becomes redundant, as it’s the quickest and most convenient attack.
ENDER LILIES: Quietus of the Knights has a big focus on spirits. When you defeat a boss, you learn their spirit attack, and you can call on them. Most of them have a limited number of uses, so you have to be strategic about when to use them. You can choose your spirit loadout when you rest at a respite, and there are two loadouts that you have access to. The Umbral Knight counts as a spirit, so I always chose him as my first slot in both loadouts for easy access, but then I chose a mix of ranged and close quarter attacks for my spirits.
It can take a while to adapt to the combat methods, as you’ll need to be comfortable with using spirits in conjunction with your standard attack. You can choose which button is allocated to which spirit (I always chose X for The Umbral Knight). Having that choice means you can find the controls that work best for you.
Different enemies will respond better to different attacking styles. Some are slow with high defence, or quick with high attack. Learning the best way to tackle each enemy will give you an advantage as you’ll lose less HP on your journey. If at any point you find your HP getting low, you can heal yourself with a prayer by pressing LB.
Combat – The Not-So-Good Stuff
One of the main issues I have with this game, and honestly pretty much the only issue, is the balancing. It starts out fine, and I don’t mind a tricky boss battle, but some of the regular enemies are just too darn difficult to defeat. It’s all good and well making tough enemies, but then spawn them a decent distance from each other. Too many areas of the map are clustered with enemies, making it nigh on impossible to get through without taking serious damage.
There are ranged enemies and close quarters ones, and putting them together leaves you in a predicament where you can’t take out one without receiving damage from the other. It’s not so much challenging as it is frustrating. It means you’ll keep dying in the same section, and you miss out on the opportunity to progress. The exploration part of Ender Lilies should be fun, not as difficult and repetitive as a boss battle.
Speaking of boss battles, whilst they’re mostly well-designed, there are a few minor issues with some of them. In phase 3 of Dark Witch Eleine, she has a teleporting attack that always spawns directly on top of you, and is impossible to dodge. This means if you haven’t got enough HP left by this last stage, you will die no matter what you do. This feels unfair, as I don’t think there should ever be a situation where you’re guaranteed to take damage, and I’d like to see a momentary delay after she teleports, so you have time to dodge out of the way of her attack.
Finally, it’s a small complaint, but one of the spirits is a giant crow, and he’s one of the most useful companions to have as he fires ranged projectiles that home in on enemies. However, he’ll sometimes get stuck on parts of the scenery, and his projectiles will just disappear inside the object, whilst still being used up. Given the fact that the projectiles are limited, this is an annoying glitch. He also sometimes won’t register an enemy as existing, and so won’t fire. This can be annoying as it limits your tactical options.
In true metroidvania style, Ender Lilies gives you lots of potential routes, and the map branches off in many directions. This can be a nightmare if you’re someone with poor navigational skills (like me), but fortunately the game accounts for that. There’s a map that’s accessible from the menu, and it shows how each area connects to the others. One of the coolest features is that it also shows any undiscovered connections. That way, you know to return to an area later so that you can explore another route.
Whilst I love that the map shows you where you’ve been and where you can go, I do wish there was more detail within an area. Each area is shown as a rectangle, and is colour co-ordinated to explain whether or not you’ve fully explored it. I would have really liked an option to select a block and see a more detailed layout. That way you could see which sections of the area you were yet to explore.
As you move throughout the world, you’ll discover respites. These are places where you can rest and recover your health and spirit uses. However, relatively early on in the game you also unlock fast-travel. This allows you to easily move throughout sections that you’ve already been to, and assists greatly when there are multiple directions that you can go in. It makes it super easy to return to an earlier area and take a different route.
As you progress in Ender Lilies, you’ll unlock new skills, which will allow you to traverse areas that were previously inaccessible. So, when you unlock double jump you can access ledges that were previously out of your reach. Or when you unlock the ability to swim underwater, you discover a whole world of new locations.
Skills and Relics
As you’d expect from this genre of game, you unlock new skills and abilities as you play. You start with rudimentary skills – healing, attacking, jumping, switching spirits, and dodging. However, as you encounter more areas and bosses, you slowly but surely build your arsenal of actions.
You will also find various relics scattered across the areas. These will increase your stats in various ways. They may give you more HP, or mean you earn more experience. Some will improve the damage you do to enemies under certain conditions, such as when fighting underwater. However, you’re limited as to how many you can equip at a time. Each relic will take up a certain number of slots, and so you’ll have to decide how you want to combine them. Thankfully, you can find items throughout the game that give you extra slots.
Ender Lilies also gives you the ability to enhance your spirit skills. Each enhancement is different, some may improve the attack power, or perhaps it’ll lower the cooldown. To enhance them, you’ll require either stagnant blight or furious blight. These are residues that are found next to calcified bodies. As you level up each spirit, the amount of blight they require for the next level increases. You’ll need to decide how to split your blight for the most effective upgrades. You can also upgrade The Umbral Knight, but he requires a special, rarer item.
Unlike in Hollow Knight, you don’t lose anything when you die, not even experience. You just reset at the most recent respite, with all your items, experience, and blight intact.
Visuals – A Gorgeous and Visceral Experience
The graphics in Ender Lilies are truly phenomenal, and I was blown away by how stunning they were. The 2d art style allows for so much more detail and creative expression than an indie company would likely be able to manage in a 3d game. The atmosphere of the game is mostly quite dark and mysterious, but you get these bursts of vibrant colour that contrast superbly. It’s a visual masterpiece, and really captures the emotions that you feel whilst playing this game.
The graphics really make use of the Xbox Series X’s capabilities, and they stand out wonderfully in 4k resolution. I don’t usually notice the difference between the Xbox One and the XSX, but this game certainly felt so much more vivid than the things I play on the Xbox One. I feel like it would still be beautiful on any platform, but if you can play on something with better visual abilities, then do.
Each area of the game has a distinct aesthetic, with different colours and materials present. This really helps with immersion, as you can feel Ender Lilies changing with your progress. It also helps avoid boredom, as there’s always something new and exciting to look forward to. Regardless of the area, one thing that stays the same is the appearance of the enemies. They always look scary and pitiful, exactly as intended. It makes you take the blight seriously.
I only have two slight criticisms about the graphics. In some cutscenes, Lily stands a little awkwardly if she’s facing towards the camera. That’s easy to overlook, however the other problem is a little more serious. Due to the similarity in colours between characters, and the way they layer with the 2d style, it can make it difficult to keep track of movement during a battle. Several times I took damage during a fight because I physically couldn’t see the enemy as they were behind my character whilst I was attacking, which blocked my view.
Audio – Magical and Delightful to Listen to
From the moment you load up the opening menu, it’s clear that Ender Lilies is designed to be a holistic experience that accounts for the look and feel of the game, on top of the immersive gameplay. The music immediately captures your attention with its beauty and simplicity. It uses piano tones that are reminiscent of animes.
Just like with the graphics, each area has its own distinct theme, with various speeds and harmonies. Most areas stick to using a piano as the main instrument, although some include other sounds such as vocals, although never any lyrics. It gives an orchestral choir effect, and is really powerful.
The sound effects, too, are realistic and ambient. When you run, you can hear your footsteps pounding against the ground. The sword swishes have depth to them that makes you really believe you’re hearing what you’re seeing. But perhaps the cleverest part of all is when you go underwater. If you’re swimming, all the sound effects are muffled, as if the water is drowning them out. It’s such a genius way of creating believability, and I fully commend the team for thinking of it.
ENDER LILIES: Quietus of the Knights was reviewed on Xbox Series X using a key provided by Stride PR.