ENDER LILIES: Quietus of the Knights (PC) Review

A dark fantasy setting, a blighted kingdom, an amnesiac protagonist, monsters to slay, souls to purify… haven’t I seen this somewhere before?
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Ender Lilies is a tough but fair, dark-fantasy action-RPG, developed by Live Wire and Adglobe, published by Binary Haze Interactive. With a slick blend of 2D platforming, puzzling, and combat, it’ll keep you engaged for the 10 or so hours it takes to cleanse the kingdom of evil and decay. However, the setting and basic premise – think a blighted kingdom, corrupted guardians that serve as bosses, and an amnesiac protagonist – all feel clichéd these days.

The player takes control of a young White Priestess, awoken by a “sprite” – the spirit of a fallen warrior seemingly free of the corruption blighting the lands. The priestess needs to traverse the ruins of her former kingdom – both above and deep below ground – battling lesser mobs, platforming past hazards, and solving light puzzles on the way to the tough bosses. Defeating these corrupted guardians will trigger flashback scenes that slowly reveal the nature of the White Priestesses and the fall of the kingdom. There’s plenty of overwrought dialogue, mournful notes, and obscure descriptions, so it’s hard not to feel a little jaded these days.

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If you stop and look, locations are often packed with small details that hint at depressing past events.

Along the way, you’ll gain levels and learn some mandatory new abilities that, of course, open new paths forward. Observant secret hunters will find optional battles, relics, and materials that allow you to upgrade your attacks.  It’s a basic structure you’ll recognise but still feels well-crafted, slightly streamlined, and accessible. That said, there were several times I found myself backtracking, hunting for a new path forward I could open with a new skill.

What always impressed me was how the movement and combat feel mechanically simple and are easy to master, allowing for skilled players to get through (almost) any battle with just the starting abilities (jump, attack, and dodge). However, you will want to make use of new traversal skills (double-jumping, ground slams, swimming, air dashes etc.) to get around and hunt for optional sprites that enhance your combat abilities.

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Between the mandatory sprites obtained from defeating bosses (which are essential for unlocking new paths) and those obtained from optional tough encounters, there’s no shortage of abilities to complement your preferred playstyle.

New sprites are obtained by defeating area bosses or optional elite monsters. Three of these can be bound to one of two attack quick-slots (that you can switch between on the fly) and range from heavy AoE attacks to summonable creatures that’ll aid you in combat. Several of these sprites have limited attack charges, and you also have a limited number of life-restoring charges. Both of these refill at checkpoints or by finding red or white blossoms respectively.

Ender Lilies is a game that will punish you harshly if you’re not willing to observe attack patterns and wait for the perfect time to strike. Sure, there’s an awkward-looking dodge with plenty of invincibility-frames, but the animation takes a few seconds to recover and you can’t just spam it between attacks. All the combat skills you learn from basic combat against mobs – and some platforming – all set you up for the tough boss encounters.

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Combat against basic mobs can certainly be a challenge – especially against a mix of melee and ranged foes – but you’ve often got more space to manoeuvre.

These multi-stage battles ramp in intensity as you strip away more and more of their health. Slow, telegraphed attacks become quick-fire strikes, lunges, and teleports that’ll test your ability to dodge in a heartbeat. That said, bosses still telegraph their moves and follow distinct combos, so observation, timing, and repetition will see you through. If you die, you’ll be happy to know (or maybe not?) that Ender Lilies has few penalties. Sure, you’ll be sent back to the last checkpoint, but levels gained, sprites and relics found, and shortcuts opened – these all remain intact.

I’ve spent a while talking about the combat – which makes up a lot of the experience and major hurdles – but there’s still plenty of traversal and exploration on offer. Aside from the opening and closing fights, there are typically multiple paths available to you at any given time. To gain all the abilities required to progress, you need to defeat all bosses, but this sprawling structure gives you time to explore, battle basic mobs to gain levels, or find secret relics and crafting materials to buff your character.

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Bosses will test your observation skills and timing. As the fight progresses, the screen slowly fills with projectiles, bosses start to use hard-hitting AoE attacks, and they begin dashing around the arena leaving you little time to land a strike or heal.

Each new zone is visually distinct, with some unique enemies to keep you on your toes (or simply irritate you if they can fly or swim), becoming increasingly complex in layout as you progress. They’re also packed with secrets, many of which will require backtracking (at least fast-travel is unlocked early). Increasing your level simply boosts the White Priestess’ HP and attack damage, so it’s your choice of equipped sprites and relics – with passive buffs – that allow you to tailor your loadout. There are plenty of secret collectables that health, mana, or add more relics slots, while caches of “blighted souls” allow you to enhance the power of your sprites at a resting spot (i.e. checkpoint).

So far, so good on the gameplay front, but the combat does have one major issue. Elder Lilies provides limited player-damage feedback, something that is especially noticeable when taking successive hits from multiple enemies. With minimal audio or visual feedback, it was common to see my health bar dissipate in seconds without realising the level of risk.

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The map is massive, made up of interconnected zones, and hiding a ton of secrets. Thankfully, the map lets you know when you’ve cleared a zone of all items of interest.

Despite my aforementioned concerns about the cliched settings, there’s no doubting Elder Lilies looks incredible and captures the grim, oppressive atmosphere flawlessly. The beautiful, haunting visuals feature plenty of fine details and hints of environmental storytelling that adds depth to each scene. Sprite-work is highly detailed and fluidly animated, with brutal combat generating splashes of bright red blood. Thankfully, it’s not all dark, ruined grey-brown towns and castles. There are several bioluminescent subterranean caverns and catacombs, with radiant flora, running water, and striking reflections.

Complementing the visuals are the impactful combat sounds, eerie ambient audio, and a wonderful soundtrack. That said, it took a while for the music to grow on me – think tinkling piano tracks and choir-like vocals – but it ended up adding to the unsettling atmosphere as it feels like the soundtrack belongs in a more uplifting fairy-tale.

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Ender Lilies is seriously pretty and atmospheric, pushing the limits of what you might expect from a sprite-based game.

Ender Lilies provides a great metroidvania-esque experience, with traversal and combat mechanics that are easy to master, tough bosses, and plenty of reason to explore the massive, interconnected world. The environments are beautifully detailed and complex, the sprite-based combat and upgrade systems are engaging, and falling in battle is more forgiving than its peers. If you’re a fan of the genre, consider Ender Lilies a must-play. Just be aware the developers have picked a setting and premise that feels done to death, making it tough to follow the narrative without several eye-rolls.

ENDER LILIES: Quietus of the Knights (PC) Review

ENDER LILIES: Quietus of the Knights (PC) Review
8 10 0 1
Despite the clichéd premise and setting, ENDER LILIES: Quietus of the Knights is a slickly made, well-crafted, and visually stunning, 2D action-RPG. The traversal and combat mechanics are easy to master and reward skillful players, while the ability to level up your character and their gear provide a reward for those who invest time in exploration and secret-hunting.
Despite the clichéd premise and setting, ENDER LILIES: Quietus of the Knights is a slickly made, well-crafted, and visually stunning, 2D action-RPG. The traversal and combat mechanics are easy to master and reward skillful players, while the ability to level up your character and their gear provide a reward for those who invest time in exploration and secret-hunting.
8/10
Total Score
  • Story
    7/10 Good
    As compelling as it is cliched, I did enjoy unraveling the fate of the kingdom despite my jaded attitude.
  • Gameplay
    8/10 Very Good
    The traversal and combat mechanics are easy to master, tough bosses will keep you on your toes, and there is plenty of reason to explore.
  • Visuals
    9/10 Amazing
    The beautiful, haunting visuals are combined with environmental storytelling to create an impressive atmosphere.
  • Audio
    8/10 Very Good
    The sound of combat and ambience is good enough, but the twisted fairy-tale soundtrack was the highlight.

The Good

  • Fluid, well-animated combat
  • A customisable protagonist, with upgradeable sprites and equippable relics
  • Challenging boss fights that demand observation and patience
  • Haunting, detailed visuals and a great soundtrack

The Bad

  • The setting and premise are clichéd
  • A lack of player-damage feedback can lead to sudden deaths
Total
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