From developer adglobe Inc. and publisher Binary Haze Interactive comes a dark, haunting, and beautiful game called ENDER LILIES: Quietus of the Knights. While adglobe, Inc. is perhaps best known for their contributions to mobile games such as Fate/Grand Order, the publisher Binary Haze Interactive is a seemingly new player in the industry. ENDER LILIES is a 2D side-scrolling action RPG with an emphasis on platforming — more commonly known as Metroidvanias.
Players control Lily as she makes her way through a devastated world with her knights at her side. Said knights, or spirits, can be set as skills tied to face buttons used both in and out of combat. With two easily swapped loadouts, solving puzzles and crushing foes is but a simple task. Transportation options are expanded upon as the game goes on, leading to highly rewarding exploration and movement. While ENDER LILIES does have a progression system, you improve spirits through exploration and platforming rather than cutting down foes. While this may seem slightly unorthodox at first, there is narrative reasoning behind the decision to minimize the experience and improvement gained via combat.
The story in ENDER LILIES is the melancholy tale of the titular Lily: the sole survivor of a terrible plague called the Blight, which has reduced the kingdom to ruin. Our heroine wakes upon an altar, cold and alone with no memories of her own. Before the anxiety and loneliness can consume her, she’s met by a cloaked knight in armor, known only as the Umbral Knight. He informs her that she has a duty she must perform but assures her that she will not do so alone. With his blade before her, he promises protection as she sets out into the ruined world.
ENDER LILIES‘ story comes together through recollections of the dead and various texts scattered about. The latter may be haphazardly written notes, personal diaries, or letters to long-dead friends, family, and colleagues. The recollections come from fallen enemies, both through the corpses of your foes and the cold bodies of soldiers and villagers whose journeys quietly came to an end. While much of the story is drip-fed through documents and the like, the real meat of the story comes from defeating the game’s main bosses: antagonists who once fought on the same side as Lily before losing their minds to never-ending rain and a terrible plague.
The story and presentation in ENDER LILIES‘ are reminiscent of Valkyrie Profile’s melancholic tales of sorrow, ruin, and death. Upon putting an end to a foe, there’s a snapshot into their life. The amount of information is contingent on their role in the kingdom and their relation to Lily. Minibosses have a few sentences about their life and death alongside details of their ability. On the other hand, main bosses have gorgeous cutscenes that feel like they came right out of the visual novel masterpiece The House in Fata Morgana. You’re treated to scenes that show who they were before the kingdom fell, what their role was during its collapse, and just what made them become a corrupted monster that’d dare raise their blade against Lily.
ENDER LILIES‘ storytelling and writing is superb on all fronts. Every item has a relevant piece of lore that builds upon the world, every conversation carries emotional weight, and each of the Umbral Knight’s musings gives color to the dreary, Blight-addled world. In the aforementioned cutscenes, powerful lines land while Lily looks and listens on, quietly granting an audience to the fallen. A line that still sticks with me is from one of the first cutscenes following a fallen boss who threw away his humanity to protect his village: “I no longer know the pleasures of joy, but despite this, my cheeks widen in a grin.”
The expertly penned writing and direction lends itself to ENDER LILIES‘ general gameplay as well. When felling a powerful foe and purifying their soul, they pledge themselves to Lily’s cause and stand as her spectral sentinels as she wanders the blighted world. While these bosses do give Lily new abilities, they’re not her abilities per se. They are the spirits who walk with her and provide assistance along her journey. These acts can be witnessed in every bit of the moment-to-moment gameplay. When the Umbral Knight swings his sword, he does so away from Lily while she flinches out of fear. As Lily gains access to a double jump, the wings of her ally lift her higher. As she dashes at full speed, she is picked up and carried by a knight whose spear defends her, and while she hangs onto a wall, she is cradled by a clawed knight who ensures she shall not fall.
The writing melds seamlessly into the gameplay, explaining why Lily’s gained abilities perform the way they do. It’s a rare display of ludonarrative resonance. While in combat, Lily is summoning defenders to her side. Each attack feels like it had a perfect weight to it. The Umbral Knight’s swings are fast and moderate, while the giant warrior Gerrod swings slow but hard. There’s a satisfying impact to every attack, especially using Gerrod to spike enemies from the air and into the ground like a volleyball. As with most Metroidvanias, paths that cannot be accessed without new tools or abilities impede your progress. Mercifully, ENDER LILIES‘ map will show unexplored pathways and highlight the area you are in when you’ve obtained everything it has to offer.
The combat in this game feels fluid and generally great, especially in the boss fights. Thanks to a quick respawn load, the time between engagements with the main bosses is brief. As I’d die time and time again versus certain bosses, I could keep my momentum going due to well-placed checkpoints that minimized the run-up to a boss. This ensured that I could jump right back into the fray. Combat with bosses feels like a test of your abilities, yet it never comes across as a gimmick requiring you to use the most recent ability you received.
One thing I greatly appreciated in boss battles was the freedom of strategy. There was never one method or a best way to handle any encounter. Instead, I was able to freely formulate my own strategies both during encounters and between. I’d swap my spirits and tailor my loadouts to how I liked to play, yet even as I attempted some bosses twenty or thirty times, I never once felt frustrated. The sense of freedom and experimentation did wonders to alleviate stress and frustration in battle despite repeated attempts.
This title also has an astonishing aesthetic. Traversing the cold and lonely world is daunting, yet even as Lily runs across the land barefooted and drenched in rain, she never feels alone. The game is all about the little things, and every slight touch feels incredibly strong. When exploring, Lily’s equipped spirits slowly circle her as if protecting her. They quickly burst to life when commanded to attack then fade away to continue their orbit as guardians. When stopping and standing still, the spirits come out to her side to ensure she’s protected — yet, as most of these spirits appear as gruesome and deformed bodies of fallen allies, such a scene can seem unsightly.
Something is haunting about the idle stance of a young and glowing girl dressed in white, defended by a headless knight, a bloated corpse covered in pustules, and a floating torso of a dead witch. Despite their disfigured and grotesque natures, their contrast with the Lily adds its own strange beauty to the mix. Even when reaching a checkpoint and taking a break, the scene can still feel disturbing, yet Lily has no fear. The contrast between the grim backgrounds and Lily’s bright colors certainly stands out, yet some areas in the game look like they are straight out of a painting. Like a piece of art that someone spent hundreds, if not thousands of hours on, ENDER LILIES‘ visual design is impressive, gorgeous, and full of heart.
The music in ENDER LILIES also adds its touch upon the grim, cold, and melancholic atmosphere. The soundtrack is courtesy of the wondrous and fantastical classical indie group Mili. The band — most recently known for their work on anime such as Goblin Slayer, Ghost in the Shell SAC 2045, and the upcoming Korean RPG Library of Ruina — manage to grant this game a magical soundtrack that evokes the feeling of a grim fairytale coming to life. While the general atmospheric tracks do shine, Mili’s brilliance is on display during boss battles and phase changes where new instruments enter and either strengthen the current motif or add emotional flair.
ENDER LILIES is a game with many high points, yet it is far from perfect. While there are a few low points, they are thankfully shallow. Firstly, the map in the game is great overall, yet players need to take note of areas that they cannot reach, such as a ledge that requires a double jump or a door that requires an ability. Unfortunately, the game will not tell you what you need. It can be a minor pain to receive a new ability like a grappling hook yet have no idea if previous zones had anything to grapple onto, leading to a retread of an earlier area that may prove unfruitful.
Secondly, one of the last zones in the game is difficult to navigate, both in terms of design and visual presentation. Toxic red fog obscures enemies who also glow red and blend into the environment, paths become a confusing mess, and exits require levels from many rooms over. There is also an overwhelming number of enemies with high HP that do an absurdly large amount of damage to Lily. While the area is fitting in a narrative sense, it’s the only time I really felt stressed or annoyed with the design in an otherwise stellar game.
When it comes to Metroidvanias, I’m usually not the biggest fan. I find myself often at odds with their level design. Many times I find the worlds created in platformers and Metroidvanias superfluous and overly gamey. Mercifully, ENDER LILIES avoids most of these general irritations. In fact, almost every floating platform that I saw was attached to something in the background, allowing a sense of verisimilitude and immersion. World design, in general, felt strong with critical thought put into every area. As someone who often asks, “why is this here?” in a game, my questions were usually answered as I looked around the area and noticed what I was standing on was either a former rampart, a piece of scaffolding, or a perilously collapsed stone ledge. Usually, I was able to imagine the 3D world from Lily’s perspective, and more often than not, it made sense to me.
As I went into ENDER LILIES, I expected a 10-12 hour long Metroidvania that would mix gorgeous art with mediocre gameplay. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised with a 20+ hour adventure that looked stunning, sounded fantastic, and played great. It has gorgeous art, a beautiful and melancholic story, intriguing lore, a ghostly and serene soundtrack, and strong writing. The gameplay is tightly designed and never once felt as if there was too much or too little in terms of mechanics.
ENDER LILIES manages to mitigate my issues with the Metroidvania subgenre while surpassing any expectations I had thanks to its story, art, and gameplay. My time with it was so overwhelmingly positive that I found myself struggling to pinpoint things I didn’t like. To those (like myself) who found themselves enamored with Valkyrie Profile’s theater-of-tragedy style of storytelling, I highly recommend giving ENDER LILIES: Quietus of the Knights a look. To all others, I’d highly recommend it as an incredibly strong action RPG platformer with breathtaking art, engaging gameplay, powerful writing, and an emotive soundtrack that is bound to leave its mark upon you.