Well, it has been an incredibly slow year for video games hasn’t it guys? There have been a small handful of interesting Triple A releases over the past nine months, but nothing that will be remembered in five years or to write home about. All of the exciting hype worthy games have been delayed and pushed back to 2022. There is still no one who can get their hands on the next generation consoles, but let’s be fair who wants to pay five hundred dollars to play the same exact games again. And there hasn’t been any releases to call worthy of Game of The Year. Not that it is important or just because you have that title means your work is actually worth something now, but just using it as an example of how lame this year was.
To be honest, I thought 2020 was a more exciting year for video games and we got releases that were actually exciting and memorable. The film industry was taking a deep dive into hell as tons of movies got delayed to this year, but the video game industry rose to provide us a distraction from all the death and plague. Seems like a big turnaround happened. There have been some pretty decent games this year. Psychonauts 2 came out a few weeks ago and from what I heard the fifteen year long wait was worth it. I really want to play and review it since the first game was a quirky funny masterpiece, but it's kind of expensive at the moment and I’m waiting for a discount. What did I play in the meantime though?
Well, I surfed around for any cool indie games that I missed these past few months and decided to pick up a few. One of these games being the one we are reviewing today. I have seen a small amount of coverage on today’s title and even though the game mainly received positive reception there was this feeling that prevented me from getting the game sooner. This is another soulslike metroidvania to add onto the pile, and there are already a lot of soulslikes already out there. Soulslikes are really good though depending on which ones you check out and blending Soulsborne elements with one of my other favorite game genres is an absolute dream. The main title looks longer than it should be, but the game we are reviewing today is called Ender Lilies: Quietus of The Knights which was developed by a small independent studio named Adglobe.
Not much is really known about Adglobe, where the team originated from, and the development process behind the game. Ender Lilies was revealed during a PAX event last year and the plan was to make it into a three parted franchise. One person, Keisuke Okabi, was the main director for the story and design of the first entry being Quietus of The Knights. The game was released into early access this January and first impressions were really good. The developers even opened up a discussion page to get feedback on the game. Figure out what the main problems of the game were, what design choices would or would not work, and patch out any bugs that early access players spot while playing. The final release date was revealed during a Nintendo Indie World event and the full game came out in July.
Six months from early access which isn’t a lot compared to other games that were in early access like Hades or Subnautica. My first assumption was that Ender Lilies had a really short development process and that some aspects of the game would be rushed. An indie studio can’t just pop out of nowhere and publish a game with a hand animated art style within a year. I was a little skeptical until the reviews started coming in. Then I was, “What the f*ck?” Turns out the game was really good, and a lot of people were comparing it to Hollow Knight which is one of my favorite games of all time. Dear god, how many times am I going to have to say that in my reviews? Anyways, the similarities were being drawn along with a ton of other metroidvanias and I was really surprised when it happened. I was convinced to play Ender Lilies and it wasn’t until recently that I finally sat down to play this game. Oh my god. How do I explain this to you readers?
Ender Lilies: Quietus of The Knights is a good game. A really good game. This may just be the best game I have played so far this year, and one of the most outstanding metroidvanias I have played in a really long time. Ender Lilies exceeded my expectations by a long shot and it sad that I didn’t play this game sooner. Sadder that a lot of people or fans of the genre don’t know about this game either or skipped it because the game looked too anime or didn’t have the quality of other titles like Hollow Knight, Owlboy, Ori, or Axiom Verge. A big shame as Ender Lilies is now within my top five range for metroidvanias. The team behind this game obviously have a lot of dedication and for their first game they have shown what they can do. They have listened to all the feedback given towards the game and used it to create what is a near masterpiece in my opinion. Ender Lilies is just such a beautiful damn experience and I want to convince you all that this is a must play game. I know a lot of review outlets and reward ceremonies won’t nominate this game for anything but trust me when I say this is my Game of The Year contender. Today we’ll be talking about why I love Ender Lilies: Quietus of The Knights and why it deserves your attention. Wake up from your long slumber, gather your guardian spirits, and the abandoned kingdom of Land’s End.
Land’s End, a once prosperous kingdom led by a powerful king and protected by his faithful order of knights. The people would dance in the streets, children would play, and everything was just enlightening overall. The most important figure of Land’s End though wasn’t the king who ruled from his tall castle throne, but a religious woman named The White Priestess. She was a mysterious figure somehow related to the Ancients, godly beings that once looked over the land the kingdom was forged onto and had the ability to heal the most fatal wounds. The White Priestess possessed the magical healing abilities the Ancients had and with it came respect. People wanted to witness her magic, see her perform miracles on the sick, and learn the way of the Ancients just like her. Afterall, she was practically a god to these people. It was the White Priestess that brought attention to Land’s End, but that all changed when the Blight started to infect the people.
The Blight was a demonic infection that came out of nowhere. Nobody knew if the Blight was a punishment from the gods for abusing the sacred powers of the White Priestess, but whatever the Blight was, it was spreading rapidly. First, what the Blight does is crawl through the infected person’s body and slowly weaken them through their bloodstream. The infected person’s skin slowly begins to fade into gray and it becomes harder to move on your own. The infected person can have trouble talking or thinking on their own. The infected person’s eyes will then begin to turn black and beat with a dark red. That is when they truly lose themselves. An infected person taken by the Blight will seek energy from those who possibly possess more Blight, and coincidentally it seems that a lot of people in Land’s End got infected by the Blight. Even the strongest warriors who fought for the king. Enough Blight can mutate a Blight inhibitor's body and transform them into the demonic creatures that the people fear. Monsters that the White Priestess would provoke and protect them from.
The king sent his royal knights out into the world to prevent the spread of the Blight, but his forces didn’t work, and the kingdom quickly fell. Researchers also tried to find a cure to the Blight and a way to prevent it from spreading, but they were too late as the Blight took them as well. However, the Blight was a form of darkness forbidden by the gods and the White Priestess had the power to purify souls that were infected by it. Something happened during this purification process and as the kingdom began to crumble, the White Priestess disappeared. Her purification powers were no longer around, and all hope was lost.
We are just a small little girl awakened into the Blight taken Land’s End. We were in deep slumber within a laboratory and have no recollection of who we are and how we got there. Someone woke us up from our slumber though, and it just so happened to be a hooded knight in silver armor. The spirit of an Umbral Knight, a group of skilled sword fighters employed by the king to take down Blight infected foes. All of his brethren have moved onto the great beyond, but his spirit has been bound to a Priestess. There was the White Priestess and the several other Priestesses who learned of her powers and tried to follow in her ways. These Priestesses were looked over by powerful warriors, but each of them fell to the Blight. The Umbral Knight claims that you are the last surviving Priestess in the kingdom and it is your duty to purify Land’s End from the Blight. His soul is now bound to you and together you both journey into the great unknown.
Traveling further through a sewer system you begin to discover the many monsters the Blight has constructed. The undead, ferocious beasts, and even possessed guardians of the Priestesses. One of which standing in your way from escaping the tunnel system. Once you beat the guardian though she shrivels into a gray lifeless statue. Words spoken during her last moments before possession are spoken out loud and she reveals that our name is Lilly. We then approach the corpse and choose to purify her soul. We are then shown how hard the guardian tried to protect her own Priestess before both of them were taken, and that something must be done before the Blight moves onto another kingdom. The spirit of the fallen guardian then chooses to fight with it and the Umbral Knight states that if Lilly can collect more spirits of fallen warriors or people then she might stand a chance against the Blight and travel further into the land. Lilly, wanting to know who she is and why she was chosen to be a Priestess, ventures further to see what mysteries lie ahead. To find out what happened to the White Priestess.
Ender Lilies borrows heavily from other popular indie metroidvanias. The story and world take clear influence from the Soulsborne franchise, but the real meat of Ender Lilies is the gameplay. There is a good heaping load of Bloodstained, Salt & Sanctuary, Hollow Knight, and plenty of things seen before. Yet, despite all of these unoriginal aspects Ender Lilies still comes out to be a well-designed game and at times it does certain elements better than what it takes inspiration from. Hollow Knight isn’t an original game either, but I love it because the developers knew what they were and how to carry out ideas.
A quick rundown of how a metroidvania works is that they are side scrolling adventures that place you in an open-ended map. It may feel linear at first but give it time and areas will begin looping back into places you have already been too. Exploring every nook and cranny will nab you items to improve certain aspects like your maximum health, and occasionally you will unlock upgrades that give you a new skill to perform. These skills are needed to explore more of the world and open up new pathways you didn’t have access to earlier in your journey. There are checkpoints scattered across the world and when you die you then respawn at the last one you rested at. To make backtracking less tedious you must open up shortcuts or passageways that make going through areas you have been to before much shorter. All of this is pretty simple enough if you are a metroidvania fan.
The way Ender Lilies does most of this stuff though is interesting. Upgrades are obtained by beating bosses, although that’s how you find them in other titles, and you can’t move on further into other areas unless you slay them. The main upgrades and pickups you can find throughout the world are gems that increase your maximum health, Chains of Sorcery which increase the amount of relic slots you have, Blight which can be used to upgrade your spirits, and treasure chests which may contain special or rare items. The way you increase your attack power and durability though is through leveling. You gain experience points by killing foes and once you gain enough you level up automatically. Unlike Soulsborne where experience points must be spent at a checkpoint or special NPC, here in Ender Lilies you level up normally and experience points aren’t lost upon death. This may seem like it ditches the important Soulsborne rule of constantly needing to learn from every death and failure, but Ender Lilies still manages to be challenging and demand improvement.
You take damage when hit by enemies, which is obvious, and the way you recover health is either by resting at a checkpoint or using a Prayer Restoration. You carry around three Prayer Restorations at all times and using one restores a lot of health. The maximum capacity of Prayer Restorations can be increased using relics you find later in the game, but it’s still risky using them as the stretch between checkpoints is really long and you don’t want to run out of restorations at the wrong time. Like during a miniboss or enemy infested area. There are flowers that can replenish a single Prayer Restoration, but they don’t appear often and if so it’s because the developers know what areas are really long. You also must find the right time to heal as Lily grinds to a halt when you try to use a restoration. She is completely exposed, and she can take more damage if she is not careful while using a restoration. Basically, find those windows of opportunity.
Combat in Ender Lilies is really fluid and there is a lot to be offered. You start off with the Umbral Knight at first with basic sword swings, but as you explore the world you will encounter other guardians and special infected monsters whose spirits can be purified so that they now fight for you. These spirits can be assigned to different slots, and you can have a maximum of six spirits equipped at once. Testing out new spirits can open up new combat strategies and that is where Ender Lilies’ build variety lies. You can shoot projectiles from afar, summon skin tearing cyclones, heavy attacks, and what are basically alternate weapons besides the Umbral Knight and his sword. There are the claws, the mallet, the hammer, and the spear. Later on, you unlock a meter that can be built up when striking enemies and when activated using a guardian spirit they can perform deadly attacks. So, an aggressive playstyle is encouraged at times, especially with the bosses who have a tremendous amount of health and can kill you easily within a few hits.
Fights are pretty energetic, and enemies clearly telegraph their attacks to the player. A majority of attacks must be dodged, and Lily has a dive that allows her to get out of the way quickly, or phase through an attack since her dive offers a lot of invincibility frames. Basically, it means all damage from an attack will be negated if you time the dodge at the right time. The dive is flimsy when performed, but later on you unlock a dash which allows evasion to be much faster and easier. Enemies have a basic health bar, but they also have a secondary bar which resembles their defense. The more you hit them, then the lower this defense bar goes down. Break through their defense then they will be weakened for a short period of time. Use this as the opportunity to unleash multiple spirit attacks at once and gain the upper hand during a fight.
There are tons or resting areas scattered throughout the world and they can be imagined as bases of operation. You can equip different sports and relics at these locations, fast travel to different resting places throughout the world, and upgrade your spirits using the blight you picked up. The upgrade system is really simple to explain. There are different types of blight to be found and stronger spirits like the guardians require stronger blight. Upgrading them can improve multiple categories like attack power, attack speed, or range of projectiles. The Umbral Knight will take the longest to upgrade as he requires Ancient Souls, and there are only six of them in the world.
Finally, there are the relics, and they act like the charms in Hollow Knight. Relics will require a certain amount of space to be equipped, and once equipped you gain special buffs or perks. These aren’t like Ori and The Will of The Wisps where the charms had minimal effect. They are more like Hollow Knight as they can change your playstyle or help improve the fighting style you have. These charms include improvements to your healing, attack efficiency, speed and evasion, resistances to enemy attacks and elements, and attacks buffs for on the ground or in the air. It’s nice the game gives us all this stuff to work with.
That’s all I really have to say about Ender Lilies now. The combat can be really fun at times and customization is great. Hopefully you can stop the spread of the blight, purify the entire land, and find out what makes Lily so important. Why was she chosen to become a priestess like the ancient she was chosen to replicate?
Ender Lilies: Quietus of The Knights is really good, and I totally recommend that you buy it in the future. There is a lot that this game does right and even if you were able to find something this game does wrong, I’m pretty sure the goods help outweigh them. As this is a positive experience the entire run through.
The combat may seem slower compared to Hollow Knight or Dead Cells, but it is so satisfying to master. Every hit packs some sort of satisfaction to me and it is fun to mess around with the tools the game offers. Progression is also smooth sailing and as Lily’s power matches up with the tougher encounters in the game. The game can be pretty hard at times, but it’s not so tough to the point where it’s more of the game’s fault rather than your own. Pure skill and mastery are needed to beat some of Ender Lilies’ late game bosses and attacks are telegraphed easily enough where you should be able to see and dodge them. Another factor I like about metroidvanias is that unlike an RPG where you may be struggling due to being under leveled or wandering into an area you shouldn’t obviously have been in; all it takes to make a tough challenge a little easier is exploring the world and finding items you may have missed. Like those health upgrades or relics that increase the number of times you can heal during a battle.
The art style is another aspect that I really like about Ender Lilies. The animation is not as fluid as other hand animated games like Spiritfarer, Ori, or…. Hollow Knight, but the art style is still what makes Ender Lilies wonderful to look at. Everything has this type of stroke and cleanliness that you would see with a paint brush. There’s a good amount of shading, value, texture, and color. The color in Ender Lilies is great and even though some of the environments can be gray at times, the way Ender Lilies uses color to express safety or danger is great. I like the design of the characters and monsters, Lily being this little ball of joy that gave me hope during my adventure. She’s a mute character without a personality, but there is a ton of background which we’’ touch on momentarily. Lily is like one of the five video game characters I wish I could hug. Sounds a little weird to read out loud, but Lily is just that adorable to be. Like the bard from Wandersong, Stella from Spiritfarer, Otus from Owlboy, and…… Hollow Knight. The music is really relaxing as well and works alongside with the art style. Either expressing beauty in the world or prepping you for a fight.
The one major aspect of Ender Lilies that I was not expecting to love so much was the story and world. It feels so homage to Soulsborne that the tropes can be listed beat by beat. Dying world, abandoned kingdom full of demons or the undead, infectious disease that will never end, bosses with very sad lore, and a main character who isn’t important at first but has relevance in the plot later on. Ender Lilies has all of these tropes and it worried me at first, but as I found more information while exploring the world I started to grow attached to Land’s End. There are diaries and logs that give hints to what life was before the Blight came and it all sounded so happy. You get to learn later on about why there are so many Priestesses, why they all look and are dressed the same, what their true purpose was, what happened to the White Priestess herself, how the little Priestesses relate to her, and it all gets really sad near the end. Lily should just be a vessel for the player to control, but she is actually a curious kindhearted girl. Purifying the spirits of guardians and monsters who wished to die in the first place, and the spirits redeem themselves by helping Lily fight. There are three endings to earn in Ender Lilies and all of them I think are pretty good.