Great looks, atmospheric scenery, sublime audio, and a promising storyline — is there anything more tempting than a video game that has all these elements? I doubt it, at least not to an action-RPG lover such as myself.
When I was given the chance to play the early access of Ender Lilies: Quietus of the Knight, I jumped at it. Not only because of how stunning the game looks, but because it has the grittiness of a larger RPG like Dragon Age and Skyrim.
Naturally, however, with this being an early access game from a developer still in its infancy, there’s questions about whether the title has enough substance once you delve below its attractive surface.
From what I was able to explore in the early access build, Ender Lilies uses many familiar tropes and plotlines to help us to feel right at home. Although I find this a comforting discovery, it might prove an issue for some gamers; despite my love for lost memories and tragic beginnings (in a game, that is), I also know how tedious it can be if there’s no innovation surrounding it. Arguably, this is the main burden that Ender Lilies carries: it has a lot to live up to.
At this moment in time, you’re able to traverse three of the eight levels that will feature in the final product. Each of the levels takes you on a journey through the world of Land’s End, a place that has been ravaged by something called The Rain of Death (sounds ominous, right?).
We open on a young girl being woken from a long sleep, her glowing pure white form an indicator that she’s to be our main eyes and ears through this world. Unfortunately, she’s unable to defend herself, which is why she has a knight guardian watching over her, there to offer combat support when enemies appear.
The knight and the young girl are polar opposites of one another in both looks and interactions, and this solidifies the games main plot, the ever familiar battle between good and evil, of light overcoming darkness. Many action RPGs lean on this mechanic, but it’s fair to say that Ender Lilies does so in a beautifully haunting way.
In much the same way Ori and The Blind Forest brought a world of both innocence and pain to life through its 2D visuals, so too does Ender Lilies. However, this title has a darker edge woven throughout its masterful aesthetics; even the colourful forest level has a muted palette in order to translate how damaged and broken Land’s End is. Any comparisons made to Dark Souls and Hollow Knight feel particularly appropriate here.
Those shared aesthetics also extend to the difficulty level, with some serious challenges in the shape of the game’s imposing bosses, though largely Ender Lilies is a Metroidvania action-RPG. Your guardian-knight is the one that does all of the fighting – under your control – and indeed some of the traversing, carrying his charge in his arms, while the girl is capable of leaping between platforms and evading enemies, but little else. Your guardian grows as you progress, bringing access to different abilities and actions as you go.
Due to Ender Lilies still being in early access, there’s elements within the game that are set to change and be updated. What is more, if you wish to try the game for yourself, you’ll only be able to do so on PC at this moment in time, though the title is set to be released on consoles as well. Given its 2D gameplay, I suspect it’ll work very well on the Switch, assuming the devs release it there (they’d be foolish not to).
One of the main elements we can hope to change for the full release is the introduction of an opening cinematic cutscene. Not only will this help better establish the story that we’re dropped into, but it’ll help strengthen the depth of the story already at play. Currently, the opening offers little besides still imagery and text-based introductions. In some respects, it works well due to the 2D stylings that Binary Haze Interactive has used, but while they could get away without a cutscene, a cinematic opening will definitely give this action RPG the blockbuster oomph it’s currently lacking.
It’s a game dripping in atmosphere, especially when you take into account its ambient sound. It’s spectacular. The gentle patter of rain as it hits stone, the echoes of the knight’s footfalls — they all create a tangible environment that you feel you’re a part of. Effectively aiding the game to transition from its humble indie beginnings into a creature altogether more formidable.
The only complaint I do have about this game so far, and it’s a small one, is that the secret passages scattered throughout the levels are too difficult to find. Truth be told, I stumbled into most of them. Quite literally. For one, I jumped too far and tumbled into the shadows, which then lit up and showed a different route to take. I like that it wasn’t too obvious, and it’s an element of the Metroidvania genre, but this manner of discovery could make uncovering all of Ender Lilies secrets a tedious affair.
When it comes to wowing its audience from the start, few early access titles have done quite as well as Ender Lilies. Sure, there are areas that could be improved, such as the addition of more cinematic cutscenes to aid the story, but even without those, this has the potential to be a masterpiece.