When you’ve got a game you hold in such high regard it’s hard not to judge other, similar titles against it. Such is the challenge that ENDER LILIES: Quietus of the Knights is up against, being a metroidvania game it finds itself in the company of a series that has the honour of taking my Game of the Year title not once, but twice in the Ori series from Moon Studios. So, whilst my expectations weren’t exactly high for this game, suffice to say that my standards for this genre are. That means whilst I found ENDER LILIES competent enough, there were enough faults to remind me of what I enjoyed so much about the Ori series and what this game lacked. To be sure, for metroidvania fans in general there’s probably a lot to love here, but for me it’ll never escape the long, dark shadow that Moon Studios casts.
You awaken in a temple, alone, and without any memory of who you are or how you got there. One thing is certain though the world you inhabit has been rotting away for some time, a Rain of Death beating down on everyone and everything, leaving nothing but rot and ruin behind. You are quickly greeted by the spirit of a warrior who passed onto the next life, ostensibly defending you as you lie sleeping in the temple. Somehow, you are able to wield his power as your own, able to slash out at the cruel horrors that now inhabit this world. Since there’s nothing for you here the only path for you is forward, further into a world that seems to die a little more with every passing moment.
ENDER LILIES’ art style takes inspiration from many sources with its dark gothic overtones punctuated by saturated colours and brilliant glows. It definitely tends more towards eastern style graphic inspiration, both in terms of its construction and also the use of certain visual elements that you just don’t see in similar, western styled games. Both the imagery and the animations are hand drawn, the latter of them unfortunately suffering from that unfortunately typical stiff movement that you get when animating 2D elements that way (ala Flash games of old). To be sure the art style suits the mood the game is trying to set, even if it is a bit dull and dreary for the most part.
The metroidvania core of ENDER LILIES is strong, with only a few deviations from the genre’s typical formula. You’ll be doing the standard exploration/revisiting areas loop, navigating yourself as far forward as you can go until you unlock a new power that lets you go back to a place that was blocked off to you before. You gain new abilities by defeating enemies, often then being able to use the same attacks on them that they used on you. Those abilities can then be upgraded by gathering the various currencies scattered around the place. The only real difference I found was the limitation of spirit uses per checkpoint, preventing you from spamming a single ability over and over. Whilst this initially seemed like a clumsy way to try and get you to try other abilities it, in fact, worked quite well and forced me into exploring slightly more build diversity for the specific challenge I was up against. All in all, it’s a very standard metroidvania experience.
Whilst someone seems to think that ENDER LILIES qualifies for the “soulslike” tag when it comes to combat it’s really nothing of the sort. Sure, you’ll need to dodge attacks that enemies telegraph but that’s about where the similarities end. The only real thing to note is that enemies have a two bars to take notice of: their health and the other “stun” bar as I’ll call it. Your abilities will drain the former and fill the latter and, should you fill the latter, you’ll stun them. This is where having a variety of abilities on hand is helpful as quite often doing damage and filling the stun bar are how they’re balanced. So some abilities will quickly stun enemies, but will do basically no damage. Once you figure this out it becomes much easier to deal with certain enemy types, especially ones which you struggle with.
This makes combat mostly enjoyable and to be sure the boss fights are well designed to provide a good challenge without being unfair. However it does get repetitive rather quickly as enemy variety is low and you’ll often have to fight them in weird positions due to the rather precise hitboxes on your abilities. For example, it only takes about 3 hits to kill a crow, but you’ll have to jump once, attack 3 times (of which only 2 can hit) and then repeat. That gets pretty tiresome when you have to do it half a dozen times in one encounter. Combine that with the fact that combat doesn’t flow particularly well and you’ve got an experience that’s competent but not much beyond that.
There’s also a couple quality of life improvements that could be made (and possibly are there, given I didn’t really get that far into it). The map for example is really bare bones and whilst, yes, I get that exploration is part of the metroidvania experience it doesn’t have to be a chore. Having a more detailed map just makes exploration more inviting since you know exactly where you need to go back to and aren’t trying to guess which part of the grey box you need to explore. The controls are also really whacky out of the box too, something which I can likely write off as it being designed for controllers first. But honestly, did no one actually try to play this game on PC? The default keys don’t even have jump mapped to space bar! Of course this is a somewhat easy fix, but that doesn’t change the interaction keys with the interface which, for some odd reason, have change language bound to the arrow keys. Who’s changing language that often they need a key for it!
The story is, for want of a better descriptor, mediocre at best. Whilst there’s plenty for you to chew on with the various bits of lore fed to you as you explore the world none of it is particularly intriguing. I think this is partly due to the lack of an overarching narrative or goal that you could work towards as sure, each section usually sets up the big bad for you, but there’s nothing really bringing all those pieces together. Perhaps it starts to pick up speed after a few more hours of play but, at that point, I felt I’d seen a good chunk of what the game had to offer and wasn’t really seeking to see much more of it.
ENDER LILIES suffers from the success of others in its genre, at least for this writer. Whilst there’s no one thing that’s wrong with it the numerous small things really do add up, giving an experience that’s fine but nothing really beyond that. Sure, I found things to enjoy (the last boss fight I had before quitting was heaps of fun) but the bulk of the game doesn’t do enough to keep me on the hook between those moments. In a world where I hadn’t played the Ori series I’d probably find more time to stick it out with ENDER LILIES but for now I can’t find much reason to play on.
ENDER LILIES: Quietus of the Knights is available right now on PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S and Nintendo Switch for $31.99. Game was played on the PC with a total of 2.9 hours playtime and 15% of the achievements unlocked.