Title: Ender Lilies: Quietus of the Knights
Developer: Live Wire
Release Date: June 20, 2021
Reviewed On: PC
Publisher: Binary Haze Interactive
The Souls-like umbrella has been reformatted and constructed under various directive lenses, which shows how much of a cultural impact the genre has had and how adaptable it is. If there is one fundamental element each title of the genre shares, though, it’s their collective, omnipresent sense of dread and carefully emitted trepidation.
Ender Lilies: Quietus of the Knights is a title that, while still adhering to the expected conventions of the genre, makes itself distinct in numerous ways. While it’s not completely smooth sailing, nothing comes close to ruining the majestical ambiance this artistic game evokes.
Ender Lilies has players take control of a young woman named Lily exploring the kingdom of Land’s End. Within this set of once noble, historic architecture, a puzzling rainfall dubbed the Rain of Death cloaked the land and transformed living beings into undead creatures called the Blighted. However, the narrative here is not the driving force of the experience, as it is delivered lightly throughout the adventure. Instead, the meat is the gameplay, well, to an extent.
Ender Lilies is an action title requiring timed evasions, hits, and other maneuvers. It’s a game of dexterity, patience, and ingraining of patterns, much like other Souls-likes. While games of the genre are typically regarded as brutally difficult, Ender Lilies is quite the opposite. Lily’s movement pool is limited as she can only jump and dodge. Combat is performed via extensions of her moveset from beings called Spirits. These are collected from around the map in battles, and each has its own strengths for varied situations.
However, the default spirit and one used most often is the Umbral Knight. Unlike other Spirits, which have cooldowns and a specified number of usages, the Umbral Knight is infinitely useable and is essentially the foundation of combat in its entirety. He can only perform a simple series of slashes, but his efficacy and speed at doing so are reliably paramount to succeeding against all manner of foes.
If there’s one critique I have with the combat, it’s how there’s a distinct lack of combo variation and creativity with what players can employ. For instance, as clearly portrayed as the Umbral Knight’s slashes are, there is not much else to perform with his fundamental capabilities. As a result, enemies can quickly grow mundane, even with the other Spirits players obtain. At most, one can synergize the activation of Spirits in succession to create a combo of sorts, but that lacks player agency since they attack on their own.
Other mechanics can potentially supplement this simplicity depending on the player’s preferences and expectations. Spirits can be enhanced from materials found throughout the world. Relics are equippable accessories that serve to boost select parameters. However, both features are merely one and done tasks, with lite implementation, and mimic the approachable coherence the combat offers.
Bosses are certainly a highlight of the experience and are, on paper, what one would expect from Souls-like bosses. Though, they are expectedly unchallenging given how the title approaches its mechanics and ideas with what seems to be approachability in mind. The later bosses require some skill, but those experienced in the genre will likely spend very little time on these encounters. Patterns are few in number, and telegraphs are quite obvious.
A lack of combat complexity is not an inherent negative. Still, the monotony of overtly categorized, repeated actions can easily be a turn-off for prospective players expecting more. I wouldn’t describe the combat as mind-numbingly easy or thoughtless since avoiding enemy telegraphs and applying proper spacing is imperative. Still, it can be seen as more tailored to those not adept at the genre. Ender Lilies steps away from difficulty and focuses on enhancing other aspects of the experience.
Exploration is a significant part of gameplay. Backtracking to prior areas with newly found movement abilities is at the forefront of the Metroidvania experience, and Ender Lilies applies this philosophy in its design. Thankfully, the newly found paths are usually rewarding, with new Spirits and items being at their end. I always found myself feeling invested in discovering more of the map, and the consistent reward cycle granted by these efforts was gratifying.
If I had to choose one trait Ender Lilies excels in, it’s undoubtedly its atmosphere. The developers expertly craft this masterful sense of uneasy yet simultaneously comforting sense of whispering ambiance from the very opening segments of gameplay.
The soundtrack plays an integral role in this feeling, with its vocals and instruments embracing the sorrowful, melancholy tone the premise creates. To compare, the music gave me some strong NieR vibes, and there’s never been a game I’ve played that has managed to even remotely be in that same league of appeal.
The art style does an inherently fantastic job of portraying this strength, too, as it is both endearing and frightening in several fashions. Lily herself, for one, is far from the typically expected protagonist one would expect from a game of this nature. She feels foreign, to the extent her presence in this grotesque, shoddy environment can seem uncomfortable.
Her cutesy-drawn animations beautifully mesh with the gorgeous sceneries, from the haunting death of the forest to the majesty of the defiled castle. I truly can’t exemplify enough how much the backgrounds wowed me at every turn and every screen transition. I also can’t even begin to imagine the number of hours and effort it must have taken to create a world with an aesthetic this eye-catching and mesmerizing.
Ender Lilies: Quietus of the Knights is a standout experience. From its speedy combat to its breathtaking visuals, there’s something for any action love fan. The minimal challenge may not mesh well with hardcore players, but exploring this dreary world is rewarding enough. The influences of this adventure only supplement its unique action systems, and very little stands in the way of its beauty.
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