A young priestess awakens in a post-apocalyptic world with no memory and only a ghostly knight for protection. Searching for answers she ventures out to face the horrors of the blight infecting the land in a MetroidVania style platformer: Ender Lilies: Quietus of the Knights.
First things first, this isn’t a “souls-like”. At first glance it looks like one; hopeless premise — check, mystical fantasy setting — check, massive punishing bosses — check. The trailers and materials pre-release present the feeling of something more like Salt & Sanctuary, especially the boss enemies. But it’s not, Ender Lilies is built around the formula made famous by Metroid and Castlevania and more recently by gems like Hollow Knight and Iconoclasts. Investigate the area, earn a new ability and then use that ability to unlock or allow the player access to areas previously inaccessible — it’s massively effective and in its most rewarding use players won’t even realise a room or area has a feature that can be utilised to create a new path.
Every successful use of this tried and tested formula has also supplemented it with a unique feature and Ender Lilies is no different. As you work your way through the areas you have the opportunity to purify various enemies, some of these standout as bosses whilst others are hidden down side paths. Each one purified not only bestows another ability but post purification will also join you on your adventure. At any time you can have equipped up to three active companions but also have the option of a fast switch to a second set of three effectively giving you six offensive or defensive options at any time.
Strategically, Ender Lilies allows players to build an offensive suited to their own playstyle and strengths. Do you suck at close range attacks and dodging? Then equip a ranged set where you only have to worry about distancing but if you prefer to be in the thick of it then go with a melee companion set. Rest areas or benches are scattered throughout the world and it’s only here that you can reshuffle your deck of available companions and some of your time will be spent returning to reequip your loadout based on the areas you visit. Each companion has a number of charges that needs to be either replenished at a bench or topped up with certain collectables found throughout the map, as you might guess though, those that hit harder have a lower charge total than others.
Benches are also used to upgrade the various souls if you have the resources available to you and you can also equip a variety of relics; again hidden throughout Ender Lilies expansive map; to suit your playstyle or a particular area. Fast travel thankfully also opens up fairly early from the rest areas allowing instant movement between large swathes of the map which comes in very useful for those hunting out the last few percent of completion later in the games story. The map is a standard MetroidVania but helpfully changes the colour of any rooms/areas in which all secrets or collectables have been found. The map also denotes potential exits to an area with a red dot so should you feel at a dead end you can always revisit the dots to try to progress with any new abilities.
The story remains fairly cryptic right until the end and centers around the priestess’ lack of memory and the blight that consumes the land. Mainly told in notes, papers or script collected throughout the game it sets out the often somber backstory but is supplemented by animated cutscenes when major enemies are dispatched or purified. The outcome differs depending on your actions and several quests change the ending dramatically so if you have the patience or just want to see all the alternatives you will need to be fairly diligent in your exploration.
The general run of the Ender Lilies story to its most basic outcome is challenging, enemies hit hard and the boss fights (although pattern based) can be pretty unforgiving. It’s’ not insurmountable for anyone who is a fan of the genre, especially those willing to hunt out some of the rarer companions or resources to upgrade them. The difficulty really ramps up for those aiming for the other endings with some zones or areas not even needed for the default ending. Frustrating is probably too light a description as the enemies here can be relentless and not only are they here in numbers but the conditions for fighting most of them are bordering on unfair.
Although the blight has created some pretty nightmarish monsters, the world of Ender Lilies has an almost serene peace to it. The empty villages, caves and forests continually blanketed by the rain of the blight; but carefully illustrated and illuminated by some great lighting effects; create a beautiful world in which the story plays out. The various chapels found within the ruins of the world are a prime example of the illustrative quality of the team at Live Wire.
Beautifully illustrated with a fair challenge to most players, Ender Lilies tells a somber post-apocalyptic story that will entertain players to the end and fans of the genre for even longer but some balancing issues in the endgame will cause frustration to even the most seasoned players.