Metroidvanias, the portmanteau that describes platformers with a mix of exploration and combat, has become one of gaming's most popular genres in recent years. With the likes of Dead Cells, Guacamelee and Hollow Knight, it's a crowded space – and Ender Lilies: Quietus of the Knights more than earns its place among them.
With a gorgeous, haunting art style, smart combat and more than a few nods to Souls games, Ender Lilies is one of 2021's finest titles.
Players step into the flowing threads of Lily, who awakens in the kingdom of Land's End that's fallen into despair and pestilence. That's thanks to a curse called the Blight, which has turned the region's denizens into unholy monsters, and Lily, a White Priestess, is here to clean up the mess.
Much of Ender Lilies' narrative is doled out through environmental storytelling in a way that'll be familiar to Souls fans, and that's not the only crossover. Land's End feels, in many ways, like a 2D homage to FromSoft's iconic franchise in all of the best ways, with multiple, distinct regions, and unlockable routes that link everything together.
While there is a fair degree of backtracking as you'd expect, I found myself itching to see more of this gorgeous world. While Ender Lilies' 2D nature means there's arguably less to interact with, it never ceases to be visually interesting.
A Hop, A Skip, and A Jump
Navigating these environments is a joy, too. Lily is deceptively nimble for a character that is ostensibly a child, and she leaps from platform to platform with responsive controls. Along the way, you'll be guided by an in-game map, and while that arguably removes some of the joy of exploration, I found it useful for charting my pathway through some of the game's darker, less easily discernible rooms, and colour-coding helps easily identify where you're going, and where you've been.
Whether you're deep underground, atop a mountain peak, or anywhere in between, Ender Lilies is one of this year's most gorgeous games to look at. Not since the iconic Hollow Knight has a Metroidvania world felt so well realised and left me with a desire to explore every inch, every alcove, and secret area. Expect to tear down breakable walls, unlock doors, and more, all while a sad but stunning soundtrack teases the game's themes of loneliness and ruin.
You've Got Spirit, Kid
Lily is accompanied on her quest by the Umbral Knight, one of several collectable Spirits that offer unique powers when collected. Lily's own movements are limited to jumping and dodging, but Spirits allow her to swing a hammer, create tornadoes, and more. As with all great Metroidvanias these are just as viable for exploration as they are for combat, but you'll need to use every tool in your arsenal against some of the game's larger enemies.
I say larger and not tougher because, unlike Souls-style titles, Ender Lilies' bosses lack in difficulty. That's no bad thing for many, and certainly makes it more approachable, but it does also result in fewer 'puffed out cheeks in relief' moments. The bosses are, however, gorgeously designed and animated, and while their moves are easily telegraphed, they still look great – even if you're able to dodge most of them.
Ender Lilies: Quietus of the Knights is that rare example of a game that melds classic game design with modern narrative sensibilities. It's at once a slice of platforming, exploration and combat that'll feel familiar to all, while also tacking mature themes with every beat.
It's a treat to play, a sight to behold, and well worth your time.
Reviewed on PC
Review copy provided by the publisher