Will this horrid rain ever stop?
|ENDER LILIES: Quietus of the Knights (2021)|
|Developer(s)||Adglobe & Live Wire||Publisher||© BINARY HAZE INTERACTIVE Inc.|
|Platform Availability||PC (Steam), Nintendo Switch, Xbox Series, PS4/5||Genre||Metroidvania, Action, Platforming|
I have played dozens of Metroidvania games, and I always find some good qualities that make them very enjoyable...interesting characters, great story, beautiful music, eye catching visuals, or just amazing gameplay. It is rare that a game scores high in all of my internal scoring criteria, but Ender Lilies is indeed a rare game that I feel exceeds my expectations in each of those categories. I initially was going to pass picking it up because I was looking for a more upbeat game to playing during my Extra Life 2022 stream, but something pulled me back to this game...I am so glad it did.
For those not familiar with the term "Metroidvania," Metroidvania is a genre that has been created by fans of the Metroid and Castlevania series. Essentially, they made popular a style of exploration and character advancement where elements of the world are closed off until new moves or items are obtained.
I typically embed my stream video for game reviews here, but because both Amanda and I were streaming at the same time, the stream wasn't very stable and was split into many clips making it difficult to watch. Here is the first hour of the game you can watch before the stream became buggy. I plan to re-play this game and will post the video in the future.
Let's jump into some of the details about the game without going into too many spoilers.
The game starts setting the stage for a dark, depressing world that has been inflicted by some sort of magical disease that leaves the people of Land's End "blighted." They are blessed with immortality, but they lose the control of their body and slowly turn into monsters. Early game, it is unclear what the source of the blight or the dreaded rain that spreads the disease, but through memories of spirits you save, notes, and some cut scenes, things slowly piece together.
Despite all of this darkness, a single light still exists in Land's End. A young priestess with the power to purify those inflicted by the blight, but she has no memories of her past (yes, that trope). She is protected by the Umbral Knight who is sworn to protect her even after their own death. The two travel across Land's End releasing the spirits of those who have been inflicted and uncover the mystery of the rain.
Lily is the main character of this game that is directly controlled by the player; the secondary main character is the Umbral Knight, whom is a spirit accompanying Lily. Beyond these two, it appears as most of the people of Land's End have been blighted.
Lily is not the first of the White Priestess', but she does appear to be the last that is currently alive (and maybe the last truly living thing in Land's End). She has the power of purification, but she is unable to fight for herself. She must rely on the spirits that offer their support to her after being released from their blighted bodies. This will range from spirits who take the form of animals to humanoids. You can pair with three spirits at a time, which can be swapped at save points. This can create some unique combinations that are really tailored to your playstyle.
While Lily does not speak herself, you really get a sense of her emotions through her actions, memories, and the music. It is very interesting seeing her changes over the course of the game.
Anyone who has played a 2D platformer and a Metroidvania, should be very familiar with how this game plays. Essentially, you start with limited attack options, and over the course of the game, you will unlock new abilities that allow you to decide your preferred fighting style and open up new paths. You initially have the standard move set of walking, jumping, and attacking, but you eventually gain the ability to double jump, grappling hook around the screen, air dash, guard/parry, and more. You gain access to these new options by purifying spirits that have been trapped in their blighted forms. Normal enemies provide experience points that allow you to level up, but mini-bosses and bosses provide you functional spirits providing the new abilities and mobile skills mentioned above. The bosses also have story elements that come out in memory videos. Most of them are tied to the priestesses or other characters mentioned throughout the game.
As for which moves I enjoyed the most...while I loved grapple hooking around as I do in most games that offer it, it is easy to overlook how much of a difference in game play a simple double jump and air dash provide. Since Megaman X, these are the moves I always welcome and fully expect to find early in games. It makes travel more enjoyable but also combat so much more strategic because you can always jump and dash...you can't always use grappling hooks if the grapple points aren't nearby. The next time I play through the game, I should really focus on learning how to parry better though it is tied to a piece of equipment and two spirits and are not available until you unlock those. I failed to learn this important skill early enough in the game, HunterX that I recently reviewed, and when I played through it again, I made sure to learn its timing and it made a world of difference.
In terms of how well the controls are, there were times I have to learn to adjust to the speed of attacks since Lily is not the one actually attacking, but once I got over that initially oddness in the first hour, I had no major issues with the controls. It is definitely not a game for someone who prefers slower game because bosses do require a fair bit of reflexes and learning their timings.
The game is not exactly easy but it is also not really too difficult. You will need to learn the enemy timings and their "tells" that warn you about which attack they are about to use...so, expect to die a few times for sure. However, even after dying, you don't actually lose the progress you made; you keep the experience points, the items, and map progress. You only lose the time you spent since your last visit to a save room. It is very reasonable when you consider how many other games mimic the Dark Souls mechanics where you have to retrieve what was lost before dying again...otherwise, that progress is all gone.
This was the part of the game that initially caused me to pass on it. I was looking for an upbeat game for my Extra Life stream, and this game simply looked too depressing. While that ended up being true in many respects, I learned just how fitting it was to the story the game was telling. Now when I look at it, I see the light and the hope that Lily brings to an otherwise grim world. I cannot sit here and try to convince you that this game has the graphics of a Triple A game, I can say that from an artistic standpoint, it truly helps bind the other elements presented to the player together. It amplifies the feeling that the music is conveying that is often dreadful except when there are small glimmers of light. It paints an image of a world that has been cursed and has lost all hope except for a small girl who still carries the dream of a world free from the suffering of the blight. If you are the type of gamer looking for a game to make your graphics card cry as it is slaving away to give you each and every frame, this game is not for you. If you are the type of gamer looking for a wonderful story portrayed by a unique art style, this game may suit you very well.
Oh my god...I often comment on games saying they have a decent soundtrack and sound effects...but this game...after 20 hours of playing it, I already bought the soundtrack. It has a somber soundtrack that has occasional glimmers of hope when Lily begins humming (the song Harmonious demonstrates this very well). It adds to the visuals that show she is the last bit of light in this land so well. You hear the bit of hope that shines through the amazing piano and stringed songs. It is so haunting...
While in boss encounters, it starts off very light and sad, but the intensity rises as the encounter amplifies. To me, music really sets the mood for a game even beyond visuals...and wow, I felt so connected to the world, the characters, and the story thanks to the amazing score they pulled together.
It is the rare game that I felt about as connected to the story and characters as I did when I first played Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. At this point in time, I feel this soundtrack may become just as memorable to me as Castlevania has been after 20~ years.
Simply Amazing. That is the first thing that comes to my mind when thinking about my experience with this game. I am sure it will not be for everyone, but for me...it may be one of the best Metroidvania games I have played. Almost everything about this game ties together perfectly to present a tragic story that has been swallowed by dread, and you are the only one who is able to restore some degree of hope and light. It was definitely not an easy game, but it was also fair at the same time. If you invest the time to explore enough to level up and find upgrades, you really should have no major issues with the bosses. For anyone who enjoy a good platforming action game...specifically those who enjoy Metroidvania games...I highly recommend checking out this game. You won't regret it if you are up to a bit of a challenge from time to time.
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