Ender Lilies is like the Salt & Sanctuary sequel we never got | Early Access preview

by on January 20, 2021

If, like many fans of side-scrolling metroidvania roguelikes, you’re still itching for the probably-never-going-to-happen sequel to Ska Studios’ Salt & Sanctuary, then the upcoming Ender Lilies: Quietus of the Knights, currently in Steam Early Access (but confirmed for consoles and Nintendo Switch), might just scratch that itch. Setting aside a bizarre title that makes my brain ache a little bit every time I read it, the game itself is not only well put together but more fun than you’d expect it to be.

It’s a side-scrolling RPG that borrows visual elements from S&S and gameplay from a dozen other metroidvanias, and mashes them altogether into an enjoyable, challenging adventure. That said, the challenge here never feels all that steep. It throws enemies and bosses at you in quick succession, but death simply returns you to the last checkpoint rather than stealing any XP progress or currency, and so perseverance is often more important than patience. There were multiple times where I ran through enemies, dive-dodging, and double-jumping like a madman to reach the next safe place before back-tracking for missed collectibles.

Ender Lilies: Quietus of the Knights

Ender Lilies is set in a world that has been ravaged by a rain called the Blight that turns people and animals into mindless beasts. You play Lily, the last known White Priestess who has the power to cleanse the Blight and free the souls of those she meets. Unfortunately, Lily is little more than a child and no warrior, so must rely on the spirits of those she has saved to fight for her. And it’s this machanic that gives Ender Lilies its identity.

Each spirit comes with its own strengths and attacks. The first one, the Umbral Knight, provides the basic sword attack and will appear as you take the fight to enemies. Others include a priestess with a huge morningstar, a headless Knight with a tower shield, and a hulking giant whose hammer can break reinforced floors. You can have up to six spirits equipped at a time over two active loadouts, and not only do they provide alternate methods of attack and defence, but also allow you to backtrack and reach new previously-impassable areas. There’s also a cool visual element where your three active spirits will appear to pose beside you when you stand still long enough.

Ender Lilies: Quietus of the Knights

With each life, you have 3 prayers that will restore a portion of you HP, which you can refill by finding white lilies. Alternatively, red lilies will boost your attack damage. As Lily herself can only run and dodge by hurling herself to the ground (which will carry you through most attacks and enemies) you’ll need to rely on your guardian spirits to stay alive. You can only change them at a Rest Spot, where you can also save the game and enhance each spirit with special materials, or equip relics for permanent buffs.

Each boss and mini-boss rewards a new spirit, and so you’re constantly gaining new abilities or attacks while overcoming and unlocking challenges, which compensates for the lack of actual gear or loot. At present though, the levelling system seems superfluous, as you gain levels almost arbitrarily. They don’t serve much of a purpose, neither to upgrade skills or spirits or to access new areas. It’s just a counter that goes up as you kill enemies.

Ender Lilies: Quietus of the Knights

Even in the first few levels there’s a solid variety in enemy types, though. From sword-swinging skeletons, huge brutes, and charging dogs, to leaping slime monsters and flying wizards who hurl magical missiles from the air, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed at times, but you’ve always got the tools to deal with it. Mini-bosses and friendly NPCs appear here and there to impart new techniques and abilities, and there are collectible fragments scattered through areas that increase your stats or reveal snippets of the obtuse lore.

Although Ender Lilies: Quietus of the Knights is in Early Access, it really doesn’t feel like something unfinished. There are elements that need refining; Lily’s dive for example, feels clumsy, but this is a minor complaint. The variety of enemies and guardian spirits is impressive and there’s plenty of time in early access to produce more content and refine what’s here. As it stands it’s a very promising action adventure with a ton to explore and unlock and well worth your time.