|ENDER LILIES: Quietus of the Knights Review|
|Publisher||Binary Haze Interactive|
|Release Date||January 21, 2021|
|Time Spent Playing||6 Hours|
|Game provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review|
I feel like there are genres and types of games that we talk about more often than others here at Level Down Games, and one of those just happens to be one of my personal favorites, the soulslike experiences inspired by the formula FROMSoftware has perfected throughout the years. The latest game to tackle this formula is coming to us from developers Live Wire and publishers Binary Haze Interactive in Ender Lilies: Quietus of the Knights. Being touted as a dark fantasy 2D Action RPG, Ender Lilies attempts to take the satisfying combat found in those games and mixes it with a gameplay loop pulled straight out of the Koji Igarashi era of Castlevania games. The result is an overly dark and moody gameplay experience that, while gratifying at times, often feels like something is missing. Please keep in mind that as of the time of publishing for this, Ender Lilies: Quietus of the Knights is currently releasing in Early Access form, and this assessment reflects everything that is currently available to do as of the release date.
Being a metroidvania at heart, Ender Lilies will have you backtracking and revisiting previous areas consistently as you gain new skills and rewards that will help you further along in your journey. Fans of more recent hits in the genre, like Ori and Hollow Knight, will likely find a lot of similarities in Ender Lilies and a lot to love. Seeing where you’ve been before and where you might still need to explore is as simple as opening up the in-game map, which does a good job in providing information to the player. You’ll easily be able to tell which areas you’ve fully explored, which ones still have things left to be discovered, and which routes and paths still need traversing. Thankfully, a fast travel system is in place to make getting from one area to another relatively easy.
And then we have the soulslike formula, and it’s here where the combat in Ender Lilies draws most of its inspiration from. Throughout the course of the game, you’ll encounter these guardian spirits that act as your weapons. Most of them begin as an enemy encounter or actual boss battle. Defeating them will allow you to walk up to their body, which has since turned to stone, and begin the process of purification. This unlocks new weapons and skills for you to use, which can be equipped in one of several slots.
You have two sets, each one with three different slots that can be occupied by a guardian spirit weapon. Each one of these will be mapped to one of your face buttons on the controller, and switching between the two sets is as simple as pressing the shoulder button. This theoretically allows for several varying combinations consisting of six different weapons, and it’s here where the combat can be truly satisfying. Mowing down various enemies all while dodging attacks and trying to stay alive can be a nightmare at times, but when approached with care, is quite fun in Ender Lilies. Certain weapons and skills have cooldowns and a certain amount of times that each one is able to be used, which will add layers to the strategy of certain encounters and make you think twice about using an awesome new weapon you may have just picked up.
Weapons can be switched around and relics, which act as items that change certain mechanics of your gameplay, can be equipped when resting. This is done at various spots like benches and occasionally a chair, and these act like the lanterns and bonfires in Dark Souls, Bloodborne, etc. You’ll also be able to upgrade your individual weapons with a currency that you’re picking up off of defeated enemies, but be careful, since it is borrowing a lot from the souls formula, resting will of course bring back all of the previously defeated enemies for another go around the block.
Graphically speaking, Ender Lilies is a gorgeous looking game. A lot of the implied narrative beats and just the way the main protagonist appears, this glowing White Priestess, reminds me a lot of a recent roleplaying game I spent some time with, Crystar. The backdrops are wonderfully detailed and are incredible to look at, and the enemy designs work well for this particular setting.
Featuring a soundtrack composed by the musical group Mili, a classical Japanese indie group consisting of Yamato Kasai, Cassie Wei, Yukihito Mitomo, Shoto Yoshida, and Ao Fujimori, Ender Lilies: Quietus of the Knights has some truly hauntingly beautiful piano pieces. When the music is present, it’s insanely powerful and moving, but for some odd design choice reason, the music only plays in certain areas, and oftentimes you’re left with nothing more than the footsteps of the Priestess running about through the areas, the rain or sounds of water moving in the background, or the clash of combat with an enemy. In certain encounters, the music would start up halfway through, other times not at all, and I’m not entirely sure it’s working as intended. If it is, I do hope this is one of the changes that will be made throughout the Early Access period, as the music that is there is freaking awesome. It’s just not available nearly as often as it should be.
And that’s going to lead me to a bit of the negative that I encountered when playing through Ender Lilies. After I defeated the first major boss and purified him for access to a new weapon, the game cut to a black screen, and I honestly thought it had crashed or froze. I was still able to pause the game, and it gave me the option to skip. But skip what? I had no idea, as it was just a black screen. After skipping, I realized some lore and a cutscene was supposed to be playing there, but it just.. Didn’t. There also appears to be a spot where cinematics will play when you’re learning about a new skill or weapon, but again.. It was just a black box with nothing in it during our playthrough. This isn’t to say that cinematics never play… Because a few did pop up throughout the few hours of content that will be available initially at launch. So I have no idea what was going on there, but I think it’s safe to say that the issues will be addressed after launch.
But that’s the case when it comes to Ender Lilies. The game just feels a bit unbalanced and like it needed some more time in the oven. Regular enemies are more or less a pushover, especially after you acquire a few upgrades, but they pack a mean punch and can hurt you for almost a fourth of your entire life, so simple mistakes or poorly timed dodges will often mean your demise and you being sent back to the latest bench you’ve rested and saved at. Boss encounters, on the other hand, feel more in line with the souls formula and are tuned much more difficult, but several times on different encounters, the boss would lock up or just stop doing things, and it made for taking them down at that point a joke.
I’d like to see Ender Lilies thrive during its Early Access period, and I hope that a lot of these problems and balance issues can be worked out quickly because I do think there’s a promising game to be had here. At this stage of Early Access though and with so many other options available on the market that feel almost identical to this game, it struggles a bit to keep its head above the water. The graphical style and unique presentation will certainly set it apart from the more realistic looking offerings out there, but for now, I think the early consensus can be to wait for some updated and additional content before jumping in.