It’s hard to beat a good Metroidvania game, both in the sense that they are difficult and the genre just lends itself to very fun games. Many of the best games ever released are Metroidvanias with stunning artwork, beautiful soundtracks, and compelling stories, and ENDER LILIES is doing its best to be included in the list of greats. Currently on Steam as an early access game, ENDER LILIES: Quietus of the Knights has a full release planned on Xbox One and Xbox Series X.
It bills itself as a dark fantasy 2D action RPG that takes place in a destroyed kingdom with many enemies to defeat and mysteries to uncover. As a Metroidvania game, much of the world is locked until you progress the story and acquire new abilities that allow you to do and see more.
The current build of the game includes three out of a minimum of eight areas that will appear in the final game, which means depending on how development goes this could turn into a rather expansive game.
You begin as a young woman named Lily who awakens in the basement of a ruined church. Her white visage is in stark contrast to the debris scattered around her in this ruined world. You are initially aided by a spirit simply referred to as the Umbral Knight – a soldier who has pledged himself to help you – and with him at your side the game can begin.
The first area eases you into the combat. Prompts appear showing what buttons to press, with X as your primary attack and RT allowing you to dodge. You’ll do some light platforming as you get used to the controls while a few weak enemies block the path. It doesn’t take long to reach the first boss, Guardian Siegrid. Upon beating her, she is purified of the blight that consumed her and she joins you in your cause. Her spirit now acts as a second attack that can be bound to X, Y, or B, and when used she is summoned to perform a prolonged attack with her flail. Her defeat also grants the ability to perform double jumps, allowing you to progress further in the game.
This is the structure of any classic Metroidvania game and is what can be expected for the entirety of the playthrough. As other bosses are defeated, their abilities are added to yours and their attacks can be rebound to any of the action buttons. Some have unlimited uses, like the Umbral Knight’s attack, while others like Guardian Siegrid’s have a total number of uses before they need to be regained by resting at a bench. There are also optional boss fights that can be discovered. Defeating them will not only expand your arsenal but build on the lore of the world as well.
ENDER LILIES has strong similarities to other games in the genre; the most prominent to come to mind is Hollow Knight, particularly in how the save system works through conveniently placed benches that are scattered throughout the world. These benches also serve as the hub where you can upgrade the spirits who join you, equip items, and fast travel between other benches that have been discovered.
In spite of its appearance though, ENDER LILIES does not have the same level of difficulty as other games in the genre. However, this could very well change during development as things are refined and expanded upon.
Beyond the combat, ENDER LILIES really develops itself with its world-building and ambiance. The world is decayed and destroyed but in a hauntingly beautiful kind of way. The rain is unending and the sounds of it tapping against the ground can be heard almost everywhere you go. As you explore, there are notes scattered about filled with the tales of those unfortunate enough to live in this world, consumed by a rain that brings only death.
Among all of this though there is a certain tranquility to things. The towns are decayed and ruined but there are also respites from death in the form of the aforementioned benches. And the environments they can be found in can range from a barely standing home to large reflective pools of water that are incredibly beautiful. To top it all off, the sound design is absolutely phenomenal – so far.
The title theme is a very somber piano that accompanies a monochrome menu. The pairing works well together and it’s not hard to get lost in the melancholic beauty of it all.
The music isn’t restricted to just the main menu though. The background tracks are designed to fit each area they are in and there are a lot of little details, such as the fade-ins and outs, that just help everything come together. This is still early access so one of the things I am most excited about is experiencing the rest of the soundtrack. Sound design is a huge part of atmospheric games like ENDER LILIES, and from what I have heard so far they are giving it the proper attention.
Metroidvanias are never in short supply. They’ve been around for decades and there is no reason to expect them to stop being developed anytime soon. What that means is games like ENDER LILIES will need to work hard to differentiate themselves from the noise. As it stands though, I think ENDER LILIES has the potential to be, at the very least, a beautiful addition to anyone’s game library.
ENDER LILIES: Quietus of the Knights is available on Steam in Early Access and will be coming to Xbox, PlayStation, Switch and PC in Q2 2021. Huge thanks go out to Binary Haze Interactive for the chance to go hands-on with the game.