Ender Lilies: Quietus of the Knights proves that if you go to sleep in a fantasy video game, you should barricade the door.
Not because of the danger of being torn to pieces by the undead – though shambling, twisted abominations do figure into this 2D platform hack ’em-up. It’s because there’s a good chance you’ll be woken up by some shadowy figure or disembodied voice insisting only you can save the world.
As the pale protagonist of Ender Lilies you find yourself in just this situation, tasked with freeing the land from a supernatural plague. Though, based on what I’ve seen so far, there’s not much worth saving. The first piece of good news is that, blighted or not, the world you roam is absolutely gorgeous, in a gloomy sort of way.
The second piece of good news is that you’re not on your own; you’re accompanied by a spectral companion dubbed “The Umbral Knight” who attacks enemies for you. Essentially, he’s your attack button, though making him technically a separate character is a neat twist. You can almost guarantee he’ll be taken away from you at some point, leaving your ethereal child unsettlingly vulnerable.
It also raises some interesting moral questions; sure, the knight’s happy enough to help but when you defeat your first boss and are able to use her spirit as a second attack, is she really helping you freely, or have you enslaved her soul? Ender Lilies is currently in Early Access, so by the time the full game is finished, will you have a whole team of howling spirits anchored to you? Getting to sleep at night must be a trial.
Surprisingly, while Ender Lilies has a Bloodborne vibe it’s more accessible than From Software’s hack ’em ups. You don’t have the strength to block an axe from a 20-foot-tall armoured abomination, so dodging is the order of the day. Combat can still be tense, but it’s because, during the chunk of the game I got my hands on at least, you’re baiting your foes. Common sense tells you to get out their reach and take your time, but… you can get at least one more hit in there, right? One messy death later, and you remember that patience can be a virtue.
The one snag I did run into, one that’s not entirely my fault, was that because you’re dodging in a 2D plane it’s not always clear when you’re past the enemy. I learned to over-dodge rather than under-dodge, but it’s something I’d like to see tweaked in the final game.
Ender Lilies: Quietus of the Knights kept me suitably engaged and I’m looking forward to getting my hands on the final release. Even though, thanks in part to the haunting soundtrack, I have the suspicion that misery is lurking just round the corner.
Ender Lilies is available in Steam Early Access from today, with the full game arriving on PC, Xbox, PlayStation and Switch later this year.