Ender Lilies: Quietus of the Knights is a 2D sidescrolling Metroidvania, so I thought I would be in for a typical gaming experience, not too great, but not bad either. Boy was I proven wrong in the first ten minutes. Our young priestess (Lily) awakens amidst the debris of a long-forgotten church located in a dark kingdom fallen to ruin. She has no memories of her own but is greeted by the wraith-like Umbral Knight that will watch over her and guide her through her journey. As you take control of Lily and go through an introductory gameplay tutorial, you hear about how an event named the Rain of Death heralded the end of all as a blight of undead fiends crashed wave after wave against the last defenders of the kingdom.
Just going through the tutorial I immediately took note of the absolutely amazing animation and use of contrasts that made the visual feast that much more impressive. Lily’s white-clad form is surrounded by a gentle luminescence that simply radiates light and dramatically sets her apart from the dark, decayed gloom of the world. She is not a fighter, and this is apparent each time the Umbral Knight attacks. As Lily can’t fight, she relies on spirits for combat. The Umbral Knight trails behind you in wisp form until you attack. Once you press the button, his body becomes corporeal and he strikes: Lily flinching with each movement, while the knight swings straight and true. Once the attack animation ends, the knight’s form fades away into a cloud of red wisps. The whole transition is quick, seamless, and smooth as hell. And the visuals only get better as you get farther into the game and some of the more detailed environments. It’s beautiful and my words cannot do it justice; you’ll have to see it in action for yourself! Even the soundtrack is stellar. The soft, sorrowful piano music that accompanies you during your first glimpse into the world is just the beginning of a score that remains noteworthy throughout the entire game without being overbearing or obtrusive. The orchestral soundtrack is piano-heavy but there are also some haunting vocals thrown in there for dramatic effect. It’s not all doom n’ gloom, though; there are a few lighter tunes thrown in here and there.
The combat has a nice spin on it. As I mentioned before, Lily herself cannot fight, but she can summon spirits. Most spirits require charges to be able to function and once you run out, you will be unable to use them until you get them recharged, leaving you temporarily unarmed. Some spirits (like Umbral Knight) have unlimited charges so it’s always smart to keep one on deck. You can equip two sets of three spirits at a time, so as you gain more spirits, you’ll find you have access to quite a few different strategies, making it fun to mix and match. When I first started playing, I stuck to using close-range melee abilities and playing like it was a straight-up Castlevania entry. Later on, I ended up using an effective tactic where I would summon a raven that would follow me around and automatically shoot fireballs at nearby monsters while I led them into a trap where I would unleash a cloud of poison gas and let the cloud and bird do all the work while I stayed at a comfortable range, slashing and dodging away if they got to close. I love a game that encourages creative solutions instead of by-the-book combat. Dodging is an important technique that you better get accustomed to using because Ender Lilies encourages thoughtful tactics rather than button mashing. Some particularly nasty enemies further in the game can turn you into swiss cheese real quick-like, but there is almost always a glowing red tell when attacks are coming so it makes it fair. If you do take a few hard knocks, the only way you can restore health on the go is by using your prayer amulet ability, but it has limited charges much like the flask system from Dark Souls and its ilk. It can be recharged at a respite, but we’ll go more into that later.
While Lily levels up in the traditional fashion of beating monsters up for experience, each spirit can be individually enhanced by using a resource called blight residue, which can be found while exploring the map. Depending on the function of the spirit, leveling up can increase certain parameters like damage, amount of charges, or extra combo hits. As for earning spirits themselves, there are only two ways, and both involve a good beating. You’ll spend a lot of time exploring and backtracking to the various areas as you earn skills that aid in exploring the deeper secrets of the world, and among all the other goodies you will uncover, you will also run into named mini-bosses. Defeating them and performing the purification ritual will net you the spirit of the person (oops, I meant monster) to be used as you please. The other way of gaining spirits is by defeating the big bad boss of each area, which are much more powerful spirits than the other optional mini-bosses. Purifying the guardians unlocks a small little cutscene detailing the motivations and last moments of these poor, ill-fated souls, and they are surprisingly touching. I really enjoy the way that Ender Lilies has a narrative that isn’t just spit out at you in regular intervals; you need to piece together deeper meaning as you explore, find letters and journals, and get glimpses of memories from defeated bosses. It’s very satisfying when you come across the soul you recognize from a letter you read earlier.
One last yet very important gameplay aspect I want to go over is the respite system. A respite is a sanctuary that serves as a checkpoint to return to when killed, as well as having a ton of other uses. Resting here fully restores your health, spirit charges, and the charges of your prayer amulet. Spirits and relics can only be equipped while at a respite. From here you can also enhance spirits and fast travel to any other respite you have already visited. In short, this is where you go when you want to manage your business!
I honestly don’t have a single negative thing to say about Ender Lilies: Quietus of the Knights. With its fantastic visuals and soundtrack, enjoyable exploration, and tough yet fair combat; it is a no-brainer recommendation from me. I’ll end the review here so you can go check it out on Steam or Nintendo Switch. Seriously, nothing else to see here. Review is over, shoo. Go purify some spirits or something.
*Note: A copy of the game was provided for the purpose of the review.
Final Score: 9/10
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