Ender Lilies is a Metroidvania title that is emerging from Early Access this week, developed by Live Wire and Adglobe and published by Binary Haze Interactive. With hand-drawn visuals, a haunting soundtrack from Mili (Goblin Slayer, Ghost in the Shell) and intimidating but forgiving combat, there’s something special here.

There are some frustrating pain points, but my experience with Ender Lilies has been… well not positive, but affecting.

Ender Lilies: Quietus of the Knights Review

Despite the genre, this is not an adventure. Ender Lilies doesn’t revel in the excitement of filling out a map or making colorful discoveries in an unfamiliar space. No, this game is about survival, faith, guilt, grief, all the different flavors of human sadness you can think of.

The player, much like the young priestess in the thick of things, has to drown in the aftermath of a disaster. You also have to help those who didn’t survive the event… but didn’t necessarily leave, either. 

As Ender Lilies begins, a young girl in a blinding white dress wakes up with no memories of what happened, just her dilapidated surroundings and the worn spirit of a knight who offers to help her. The entire community here was demolished by something called the Blight, a supernatural rain that corrupted all it touched.

Their minds are far gone but their flesh remains, altered into violent, inhuman forms. Naturally, the girl is the sole survivor and a priestess with the ability to help these victims pass properly.

Despite the carnage there are remnants of humanity about, such as the aforementioned knight spirit. The priestess can also save souls of other, more powerful enemies (bosses, minibosses, etc), who will then join her by helping in combat.

As you collect these spirits you can build two swappable loadouts, as well as gain the powers you’d expect from a Metroidvania (double-jumping, etc). Most of these spirits have limited uses, but they are restored/upgradable at rest points.

But in Soulslike fashion, resting revives all the Blight-ridden corpses roaming about. The protagonist herself is not physically capable. She can only run, jump, climb small ledges and dodge. By “dodge” I mean “fall forward with i-frames.” But for anything else, from abilities to combat, she relies on her spirit companions.

So while your “primary” spirits don’t run out, much of Ender Lilies’ challenge lies in managing resources versus surviving tough encounters versus risking save point resets.

This sounds difficult, and it can be. Enemies deal large chunks of damage, and you have limited healing resources. Dodging is purposefully awkward and doesn’t transition in and out of attacks well. You can also simply run out of spirits and therefore options.

That said, if you do fall you’re simply sent back to the last save point with all your progress intact. So while Ender Lilies utilizes Soulslike affectations to push forward its bleak atmosphere, it isn’t nearly as punitive. Combat is creative and involves making choices, but it never feels particularly difficult.

Some enemies can trip you up the first time you encounter them, and bosses do take some time to grind down. But surviving and avoiding damage doesn’t test you much overall. Ender Lilies is more concerned with telling its story and feeding its tone than attracting combo videos. And that’s what really helps this game stand out.

Ender Lilies is not a pleasant experience. It’s dark, dour and not exciting at all. But all of that happens in service of the story being told and the experience intended from the tone. The visuals and music are not naturally appealing in a “fun” way, but the fidelity, talent and style are high shelf efforts.

The combat is precarious and awkward, but you’re playing as a stumbling little girl who is relying on ghosts for protection. 

The map isn’t detailed as finely as a Castlevania title, nor are the RPG elements or collectibles more than a means to an end. But that end is what’s important here, and everything coalesces together to make Ender Lilies much more than another indie Metroidvania.

The discomfort of tragedy and survivor’s guilt, combined with the burden of faith and responsibility, make this a unique, memorable experience.


Pros:

  • Evocative atmosphere takes Metroidvania to a darker space in mind and body
  • Resembles Soulslikes in some ways but is far less punishing
  • Nothing like Goblin Slayer despite the credit nod

Cons:

  • Might be off-putting if you’re expecting something more Metroid-y
  • Vague mapping can be frustrating at times, especially when backtracking
  • Combat kinda rides in the back seat

 

Score: 9

 

A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review