Ender Lilies: Quietus of the Knights ticks all the boxes for a respectable Metroidvania. It features a huge maze that is fun to explore and you will find cool new skills to open up inaccessible areas as you level up and upgrade your character with powers and equipment. I’m a sucker for the genre so the bare minimum is usually enough to get me on board no matter how many games enter the room. But as I traversed the beautifully realized Gothic kingdom of Ender Lilies, I found his challenging but entertaining struggle and myriad of secrets that helped him stand out from some of his contemporaries. Ender Lilies probably won’t invite anyone who’s burned out on this style of play, but those looking to scratch that familiar itch will find plenty to love here.
Lily is a young priestess who awakens to find her home in Land’s End in utter ruin. A rain called the “Rain of Death” not only ravaged the country but also turned its citizens into undead abominations called Blighted. Only Lily has the power to rid those affected by this disease, but she is not a trained fighter. Enter the Umbral Knight, an immortal protector who serves as Lily’s sword and guide.
Whenever Lilly attacks, she summons the knight who eviscerates enemies with simple but satisfying hack-n-slash moves that can be upgraded to hit harder and perform longer combos. These attacks look sleek, and watching the knight do the dirty work while Lily crouches awkwardly in the background is a lovable bonus. Lily’s list of guardian spirits grows as she searches for other cursed souls and engages them in exciting boss fights. After defeating these monsters, Lily gains vital skills that allow her to access new areas of the map. These powers are nothing new when you’ve played enough of these types of games. For example, expect a double jump, a speed dash, and a wall jump. But I’ve always been excited to get more mobility and unlock access to a new area, thanks in part to the plethora of fun optional mini-bosses hiding in each zone.
Smaller enemies – from disease-ridden mages to undead paladins – may be weaker than the critical path bosses, but defeating these enemies often rewards Lily with powerful new attacks that can turn the tide in your favor. I love summoning a powerful whirlwind to blow back enemies or summoning a fireball-shooting bird for practical assistance. These powers are invaluable because Ender Lilies is no joke in the difficulty section. While the challenge is fun rather than depressing, the game requires above average levels of finesse, as even the simplest of enemies can quickly crush lazy players, and you will quickly learn that you are better off when you have more powers in your hand . Some skills are just better tailored to specific opponents. For example, I found it a great tactic to smother lazy opponents with a poisonous cloud before they could reach me.
While you can defeat any enemy with any of your attacks, Ender Lilies rewards players who experiment with loadouts, and I enjoyed testing different strategies and reaping the results. Combining attacks works well too. It feels slick to summon a monster to hurl enemies down into the sky with its powerful blow, and then impale them with a volley of arrows in the air supported by a fallen archer. There are only a limited number of skills and equipment you can equip, however, and it’s a little annoying that you can only edit your loadout in secured rooms. The excitement of gaining a new power subsides when you have to drop everything to get back to the next checkpoint. Even so, it became a powerful motivator to have as many tools as possible in my belt to search room after room.
The map is a gigantic network of rooms in which I rubbed my hands with relish before each new expedition. Ender Lilies is divided into beautiful, visually distinct biomes, from an underground laboratory run by magicians to a fairytale forest. I enjoyed exploring most of these areas except for one toxic swamp which was stressful rather than fun. A fantastic piece of music for every area sets them apart; I looked forward to revisiting several zones just to hear my favorite songs again.
Unraveling a map of their secrets is one of the genre’s most appealing elements, and Ender Lilies dotted its territories with tantalizing treasures to discover. I was busy finding rewarding upgrades like additional weapon slots, permanent health boosts, and blessings that would make my healing skills more effective. The rooms also hide really interesting notes and diary entries that concretize the world and at the same time describe the individual tragedies of their unfortunate residents. Best of all, Ender Lilies’ color-coded card clearly communicates when you’ve emptied a room of its goodies so you know exactly when to move on. However, some items are a little too hidden and require an annoying amount of tiptoe to see that faint white glow over a spot you’ve walked over several times.
Ender Lilies isn’t revolutionizing Metroid’s decade-old template, but that’s fine. It’s an experience well done and I had a great time investing over two dozen hours in this adventure. The presentation rocks, the action is more rewarding than punishing, and the Gothic world and lore is seductive. Ender Lilies is a great meat and potato experience that shows that simply executing a familiar formula at a high level can be as welcome as reinventing the wheel.