Review: Ender Lilies - Quietus of the Knights
By: Fernando Da Costa
Developer: Adglobe Inc, Live Wire
Publisher: Binary Haze Interactive
Available On: PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S
Review Console: Nintendo Switch Lite
A SOMBER BEGINNING! - Introduction
In my many years of gaming, I’ve enjoyed several different genres. My favourite is, without a doubt, the JRPG due to its wonderous stories and grandiose settings. There was always another that remained very dear to my heart, though. Most others would say platformers since; naturally, the dominance of Super Mario was a fixture in a lot of childhoods - mine included. I tend to, however, lean more towards Metroidvanias and that satisfying loop that accompanies each one. The premise is straightforward, with specific areas being locked behind a particular skill. These are usually obtained by simply progressing. As I’m sure you’ve all gathered by now, this genre is built around the idea of backtracking. That may turn a few folks off, but I implore everyone to give it a go. With shining gems like Dust: An Elysian Tale and the Shantae franchise, Metroidvanias have a proven pedigree of fun. Ender Lilies: Quietus of the Knights wants to replicate that joy. Was it successful, or is it condemned to rot? I aim to answer that.
THE WHITE PRIESTESS! - Story Synopsis
You play as a girl known as a White Priestess. As she awakes from her slumber beside a glass chamber, she witnesses utter mayhem in every direction. The castle around her has decayed and been swallowed by a Blight. Vicious creatures now roam the corridors freely. With the accompaniment of a spirit belonging to an Umbral Knight, she battles her way through. It’s during this excursion that she soon comes to learn the origins of the debilitating blight that has left the entire place in shambles. Death has run rampant, leaving nothing behind but sheer chaos and destruction. You’ll combat grotesque abominations, winged gargoyles, and disfigured archers as you search for the current misfortune’s source. It won’t be an easy task, though, as these monsters starve for flesh and blood. Can the disease be purified, or is this venture doomed?
GHOSTLY LETTERS! - Writing
The dialogue exposition is minimal, with exchanges being brief and full of in-universe suffering. The bulk of it is told through letters that are hidden throughout the many sections of the castle. There's nothing inherently wrong with delivering the narrative like this, but it must be perfectly executed - it isn’t here. The biggest problem is that because the game encourages exploration, it’s entirely possible to pick up on only half of it. Then, much later into the session, the other half is found. Think of it like this - some notes are numbered. For example, you might have something akin to Eleine’s Diary 1, 2, and then 3, and so on. As you continue forward, it’s viable to only stumble upon the first and fourth in the beginning. Then, after a few hours have elapsed, the third is acquired, with the second following. This creates a jumbled mess of incoherence because those plot holes remain until every sequential note is found. If like me, you have horrible memory issues, there’s going to be difficulty in understanding the bigger picture. That is unless you go into your findings for a refresher.
And yes, when the story does come together, it’s rather touching. I enjoyed learning about the White Priestess. Her motivations and drive were all revealed, as was why the Umbral Knight chose to stay by her side. Ender Lilies: Quietus of the Knights does, as I said, allow you to reread any notes you’ve located thus far. So, yes, it’s plausible to get the proper context. My rebuttal, albeit nit-picky, is that doing it this way disturbs momentum. The action of combat is fast-paced, and it demands your utmost attention. By pausing every so often to look up this information, it eventually becomes a drag. Not to mention that there were a few times I thought I had everything, only to discover a hole still needed plugging. That is, of course, due to my atrocious memory. Regardless, if these notes were placed not only closer but be found in numerical order, I reckon this frivolous gripe of mine wouldn’t even exist.
ROLL OUT OF THE WAY! - Gameplay
Simply put, brute-forcing your way through battles is discouraged. As a kamikaze-style player, I learned this the hard way. See, back when I was a wee lad, video games wanted me to practice patience. Enemies packed a serious punch, and the damage inflicted got pretty staggering. Death was inevitable unless my focus was keen. This is exactly what one can expect from Ender Lilies: Quietus of the Knights. As with a lot of Metroidvanias, dodging quickly becomes an important tactic in your arsenal. I, however, found the implementation a tad frustrating at first. By default, the White Priestess’ dodge has a slight cool down. What I mean is you can’t continuously press the assigned button and expect results. That’s because she somersaults, and once she starts, thrust dictates she not stop. It’s that tiny window of unresponsiveness that adds an element of precision. I appreciated this bit of detail because it added a sense of strategy. While yes, the first few hours were assuredly full of cursing, I did eventually adjust. I had no other choice but to adapt or be defeated. This, in turn, kept me engaged and, by proxy, made combat intriguing. After a while, you do unlock a better, more reactive dash. Even once I unlocked that and replaced her little tumble, I still needed to maintain full concentration.
LOOK AT THAT PATTERN! - Gameplay
I grew up in the ’90s, and as such, Ender Lilies: Quietus of the Knights felt nostalgic. Not in its presentation because it’s visually stunning. The dreariness of the world is perfectly encapsulated. No, another facet is responsible. As already discussed, each enemy encountered packs a wallop. What you’ll also find is both basic and uniquely named ones follow a particular attack pattern. Each strike is preceded by a tell, notifying the player of what’s incoming. This is yet another example of exactness because the offensive doesn’t execute immediately. There’s a timing to it, and thus a spotlight is shone on a potential deterrent. Combat is heavily trial-and-error-centric, meaning that in spite of your best efforts, you’ll likely die. I perished a lot in my 45+ hour session. A large portion, however, was due to being caught off-guard. In that same breath, I must iterate that deaths never felt unfair. That’s not to say it isn’t possible to defeat a boss in one go either - I’ve done it. That, unfortunately, was rare, and oftentimes, I had to die to learn the necessary tricks. Rest assured, though, as spawn points are generous and shortcuts are plentiful, so dying won’t ever feel arduous.
RELIC HUNTER! - Gameplay
Believe it or not, there’s some firm Mega Man DNA baked into the code. Like that franchise, after defeating a boss, the White Priestess is bestowed a power that correlates with the creature killed. This isn’t the focal point of this section, but as a blue bomber fanatic, I had to shout it out.
I actually want to point to character customization. It’s not to the same degree as other titles, but it still allows you to somewhat improve your pre-existing abilities. As you journey through the catacombs and wilderness, you’ll stumble upon what’s known as Relics. Each one comes with a specific perk, such as increased damage or movement speed. To avoid undermining game balance, players can’t freely toss any on the little girl. For every Relic found, there’s a stipulation to wearing it. For example, one that boosts experience points requires three open slots.
There are many Relics in Ender Lilies: Quietus of the Knights to be found with varying costs. Thankfully, the available slots to do so can be improved by locating necklaces hidden throughout the castle. With more openings, it allows you to build your White Priestess to your liking. She could become capable of jumping high and swimming fast. Or, if you fancy damage output above all else, this little girl can not only pack a mighty punch but also be light on her feet. Sure, while not as in-depth as we’re accustomed to, it’s still a very much welcomed addition.
MELODIC ADVENTURE! - Sound Design
The soundtrack is hands down, hauntingly beautiful. From the first moment I booted up the game, I was graced with the soft, calm musings of a piano. It made my brain deliver an endless supply of smiles to my eardrums. One thing that’s especially well done is the usage of the score during combat proper. With each phase that a boss enters, it would intensify to signify that change in the battle itself. The piano grew increasingly louder as more instruments were added. The speed of the track itself picked up, causing my heart to pump as adrenaline-filled my veins. Above all else, the tracks are just damn catchy, with one specifically replaying in my head as I write. Special shoutout to the vocalized song as well. It’s predominantly humming, but it still manages to be eerily entrancing. The ambiance is, much like all facets of the sound design, superbly done and authentic. It’s so tranquil and calming, which sounds counteractive to the intense action. It, however, helps nail how run-down the Blight has left the world and the surrounding area.
AND THE HOLY VERDICT IS...
Ender Lilies: Quietus of the Knights is not only a phenomenal addition to any gaming library but also a masterstroke of genius. It’s punishing and challenging in all the right ways. Every death I endured felt fair and like it was my fault and my fault only. On that same note, the difficulty and brutality of the monsters may be a hindrance to some. They all hit like a truck and inflict massive damage. While you can mitigate this with Relics, it will only prolong your utter destruction - make sure your reflexes are agile. This game is technically an Action RPG, but the cogs that help the machine turn point to a Metroidvania. The need to backtrack and the branching paths are all signatures of the genre. There are numerous secrets to discover and hidden rooms too, if you’re like me, accidentally find. When all is said and done, this is a fantastic, old-school romp that’s worth every penny.
Ender Lilies: Quietus of the Knights should be purchased yesterday. Hopefully, one day, we’ll see it come in physical form for collectors like myself. Until then, I highly recommend getting the digital version as it scores a deserved 9.
Thank you to Stride PR, who, on behalf of the Publisher, provided a code for this review.