Ender Magnolia: Bloom In The Mist Early Access Review – A Bud Begins To Bloom

A young white haired woman awakens, all alone, in a ruined building. As she explores, she finds monsters, and a knight with a mysterious past who swears to aid her as it suits their purposes. If this sounds similar it’s because developers Adglobe and Live Wire used an almost identical setup for the prologue and tutorial of Ender Lilies: Quietus of the Knights. And for good reason. Despite the very different setting and aesthetic, Ender Magnolia is a sequel to Ender Lilies, set several decades after the events of the first game. In starting new protagonists Lilac in the same conditions as Lily from Ender Lilies, they allow the comparison and contrast between the heroines, and as a result their games, to be immediately apparent and appreciated.

First, let’s talk aesthetics. Immediately upon starting Ender Magnolia, it was obvious Lilac and the world she inhabited are more vibrant – visually and otherwise – than Lily. This is not to say Ender Lilies wasn’t colorful, but it primarily used very desaturated palettes, while Ender Magnolia has decided to expand its color usage, even as it uses many similar colors and iconography to convey concepts like safety, danger, and items of interest. Likewise, while Lily awoke in a world where it seemed she was the only living human around, Lilac very quickly learns that, not in addition to the Homonculi about her, there are also a number of regular living people around her.

You learn about the problems of the world by speaking with your Homonculi companions as well as human NPCs
You learn about the problems of the world by speaking with your Homonculi companions as well as human NPCs

“Hold on,” I hear you say “Homonculi? Wasn’t it cursed dead in Ender Lilies?” And you are correct. Lily had to deal with the Blighted, while Lilac is on a mission to save Homonculi, mostly humanoid servitors who run the gamut from monsters, to cyborgs, to full on robots and even a robotic animal or two. They were created to serve humanity, and sent to work and explore in regions where poisonous red mists rise from the grounds. However, this red mist is slowly driving them to madness, and to lash out against humanity. Lilac must defeat and calm the Homunculi, gathering them to her side or accepting powerful upgrades from them in pursuit of their shared goal to save the Homonculi and humanity. While details have been quite scarce in the areas available in the Early Access version, what details there are suggests a story as intriguing with lore and mystery as deep and complex as Lily’s story. Much of the story in the Early Access release revolves around a small surviving outpost in the mist-choked lower city. Humans and Homonculi alike are trying to survive here and find a solution to the problem of the mists, even as they are abandoned by the upper city. In this small hub town Lily can meet vendors, accept quests, and see the impact her exploration and rescues are having.


Now then, let’s talk mechanics. The immediate first change from Ender Lilies is that Lilac can run. Once you dodge, you can keep holding the dodge button and begin running at a faster pace, allowing Lilac to make larger jumps than otherwise, for example, or run away from aggressive enemies. Quickly Ender Magnolia gives Lilac access to a proper dash and air dash, and this small change greatly improves the fluidity of her movement from moment to moment, both in exploration and in combat. Especially the fact that when Lilac gets her dash she also gets a double jump, allowing her to jump, dash, jump, and dash again. Lilac, much like Lily, does not attack directly, instead getting support from Allies Homonculi, who I’ll talk about later. She heals in the typical souls-like way: with a limited use healing potion that takes time to use and refills at save points, though you can refill uses or heal yourself by finding a Lily in the world, same as in the previous game. Lilac can equip four total pieces of defensive equipment, as well as various cosmetics, and can equip relics, essentially accessories, up to her expandable relic limit. Lilac also has access to a fast travel, though in a very nice Quality of Life upgrade, it can be used basically anywhere to drop her off at any of the game’s sanctuaries.

Lilac can have up to four Homonculi aiding her at once, and leveraging them all is the key to quickly defeating antagonist Homonculi
Lilac can have up to four Homonculi aiding her at once, and leveraging them all is the key to quickly defeating antagonist Homonculi

Speaking of Quality of Life upgrades, whereas in Ender Lilies, many Knights had a strict usage limit that only refreshed when resting at a sanctuary, in Ender Magnolia the Homonculi who serve similar roles instead have their abilities gated via a cooldown. This makes them considerably more useful during exploration, and makes their use more strategic during boss fights where they could simply be spammed in Ender Lilies. In addition, while it seems there might be fewer homonuli overall, each Homonculus has multiple modes that can be unlocked and upgraded, with the caveat that you can only assign a Homonculi to one of the four attack buttons at once. Of the Homonculi available thus far in Early Access there is one melee type, one short range, one long range, an autonomic homonculi who attacks at set intervals, a shield and counter type, and two special types who grant special attacks or non combat abilities. And given that the melee, short, and long range Homonculi each have three wildly different methods of attacks to choose, that speaks loads for how varied the options will be in the final game.

As does the content currently in Ender Magnolia. It took not quite four hours to complete everything on offer in the current build of Early Access, including three major boss fights in three major explorable areas. With the devs promising a continual addition of new and harder content, I’d say that the Early Access version is going to be well worth its $20 price tag.

Tim reviewed Ender Magnolia in Early Access with a review code.

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