Ender Lilies: Quietus of the Knights is the quintessential Metroidvania. This is both a blessing and a curse. It's got a huge map absolutely crammed full of secrets to find, where locations interlink and loop back on themselves in satisfying ways and traversal abilities open up new pathways. It also has several of the genre's most crippling weaknesses and unfortunately introduces a few of its own as well. Sometimes, Ender Lilies is a gorgeous, surprising delight. At other times, it's a frustrating, overwhelmingly difficult slog that feels like a real chore to get through.
It's best to think of Ender Lilies as a mixture of Hollow Knight and mid-period Igarashi Castlevania games. From the former, it takes a melancholy atmosphere, an obscure narrative told elliptically, and a series of difficult but satisfying boss fights. The latter's influence is clear in the combat and the way in which protagonist Lily must gather spirits to build her arsenal and learn new traversal moves. Just because Ender Lilies hews so closely to genre tropes, that doesn't mean it's not a worthwhile experience; formula is formula for a reason, after all. Just know that if you're not a fan of this genre, Ender Lilies absolutely isn't the game to convert you.
Ender Lilies' Story Is Beautiful And Overwritten
Ender Lilies opens on a beautiful scene: a young girl in repose, watched over by a silent spectral knight. This young girl, it transpires, has lost all of her memories, and it's up to her and her knight companion to journey through the world and discover what happened to it and to her. What unfolds is a fairly typical Hollow Knight-esque tale of royal hubris, war, and friendships lost to the ravages of madness and time. The story is intriguing, but the overreliance on cutscenes and text logs means it lacks that all-important emotional punch. There are moments of quietly beautiful environmental storytelling, but they're often punctuated by unnecessary dialogue or a nearby note explaining everything.
Thankfully, the aesthetics and music do a lot to make up for these shortfalls. Ender Lilies wastes no time in telling you that the bosses you're putting down aren't evil monsters, but lost warriors in need of one final act of kindness on your part. The music that accompanies these fights is full of tinkling pianos and swelling orchestral arrangements. Visually, too, many of the bosses and enemies reflect their sad plight; they clutch their heads in pain when attacking you, and thank you as the fight draws to a close and you're able to put their spirits to rest. In these moments, Ender Lilies is at its best narrative-wise. It's a shame the rest of the experience is too expository and explanatory to sustain these emotional highs.
Combat In Ender Lilies Is Satisfying, But Repetitive
Of course, the emotional significance of the boss fights in Ender Lilies would be severely undermined if they weren't fun to fight. For the most part, combat is solid. Though you start with a fairly standard three-attack sword combo, you'll quickly start to build a varied arsenal of different attacks, with ranged projectiles, damage-dealing poison clouds, and long-range melee attacks all useful in different situations. You'll need to experiment somewhat with the combat system thanks to the range of enemy and boss encounters, and while many of those enemies are standard humanoids, Ender Lilies does a fairly good job of making each enemy and engagement feel distinct.
Unfortunately, much like its narrative, Ender Lilies struggles to sustain its early promise in the combat department. While earlier maps are sparsely populated by interesting enemy encounters, the latter half of the game is essentially a series of annoying gauntlets against increasingly ridiculous hordes of enemies. These enemies don't feel like they were designed to be fought together, so any strategy you've assembled using your spirit arsenal falls apart, and you're forced to rely on exploiting cheap tactics to win. This overreliance on repetitive, boring combat encounters drained me of any enjoyment I felt while exploring the map, especially given the limited enemy variation; all too often, what awaited me in the next area was simply another room full of combat gauntlets against multiple shielded warriors.
The lack of enemy variety shows itself pretty early on. Each area has at least one or two new enemy types for you to fight, but it quickly becomes apparent that you'll be fighting combinations of the same two or three enemies for the entirety of that area. Most enemies require the same basic strategy to defeat, too; dash behind them and wail on them until they turn around, rinse and repeat. Occasionally, Ender Lilies will toss something new and interesting your way, but for the most part, you'll be battling either humanoid enemies or variations on fairly well-worn fantasy tropes like spiders or dragons. This is an issue given that Ender Lilies bases itself more around its combat element than pure exploration; you'll be doing more fighting than walking, so the range of enemies really should be larger to keep things interesting.
Ender Lilies Has A Huge, Confusing Map
It's a shame because exploring Ender Lilies' map can be hugely enjoyable. Like Hollow Knight, Ender Lilies has that quality whereby you'll wander down a path assuming it contains only an item and then discover an entirely new area to explore. Each area feels distinct and fills in the lore of the world well. Every single room in Ender Lilies has something for you to find, and while some of the rewards are increasingly redundant by the end, I was still discovering new and exciting items right up until the final boss. The diverse environments, a wealth of rewards, and constant narrative evolution kept things feeling fresh until Ender Lilies' solemn conclusion.
Ender Lilies continues its theme of falling apart during its second half, though, because as the maps increase in complexity, exploring them becomes exponentially less satisfying. Each room is an irritating maze of switches, walkways, and walls, and the sparse, basic minimap is absolutely no help in traversing them. It's hard to want to go back to previous rooms to find things you've missed because there's no way of knowing where in the labyrinth the item might actually be. For the most part, progression is relatively linear, but one of the pillars of Metroidvania is the satisfaction of backtracking with new abilities, and the needlessly convoluted map design undermines that satisfaction significantly.
There are moments of brilliance in level design terms, but they're undercut once again by repetition. One inspired sequence sees you damage-boosting your way through a poison-filled grotto, but there are no significant twists or tweaks to that formula for the entire area, so the concept gets old quickly. Some areas force you to swim for most of your time exploring them, but there are only one or two aquatic enemies to fight across the whole game. Every moment of inspiration here is followed by a lengthy sequence of repeating the same idea over and over again, and this makes both platforming and combat feel tired.
The Balance Feels Off In Ender Lilies
There's also a pretty big balance problem in Ender Lilies. I'm not sure if there was some all-important item I was meant to find - I gave up being thorough because of the aforementioned labyrinthine map design - but towards the end, enemies seemed to deal a ludicrous amount of damage. There is a relic system akin to Hollow Knight's Charms, whereby you can augment things like your total healing item count or your defense, but the combinations of relics I tried didn't seem to make much difference. Some late-game enemies are capable of one-shotting you from near-full health, and given the speed of the projectiles they fire, this became immensely frustrating very quickly.
While boss encounters are satisfying, for the most part, they're also bullet sponges (or perhaps I should say sword sponges), which can make boss battles protracted and tedious rather than exciting and tense. Later bosses punish mistakes so severely that even a slight slip-up can mean instant death, which doesn't feel particularly enjoyable. This is mitigated by the fact that boss runs are rarely long or arduous. There's an abundance of checkpoints in Ender Lilies that means death never feels overly crippling, but that doesn't make the late-stage boss fights themselves any less grueling or unfair.
Ender Lilies: Quietus of the Knights | Final Thoughts
There's a lot to like in Ender Lilies, but it's very much a game of dichotomies. Its first half is beautifully absorbing, while its latter is a protracted exercise in tedium and frustration. All too often, it seems to fall prey to a lack of ideas, choosing to fill rooms with repetitive combat encounters and pointlessly elaborate structural mazes instead of introducing new concepts, enemies, or hazards. At its core, it's a generic if pretty Metroidvania with plenty to divert the hardcore fan, but its weak level design, repetitive combat, and over-embellished story mean it's only for genre devotees.
TechRaptor reviewed Ender Lilies: Quietus of the Knights on PC via Steam using a code provided by the publisher. It's also available on Nintendo Switch and will be coming to PlayStation and Xbox platforms at a later date.
- Rewarding, Varied Combat
- Huge Map Packed With Secrets
- Beautiful Atmosphere
- Becomes Repetitive Quickly
- Unrewarding Map Design
- Too Many Cutscenes And Text Logs