In Kena: Bridge of Spirits, on a regular basis gadgets are imbued with new, unseen emotional significance. A picket masks is a hyperlink to the spirit of the individual for whom it was made. Objects like a development hammer or a field stuffed with meals are tied to reminiscences of people that have been misplaced. Areas that have been as soon as the websites of vibrant and joyful instances are scarred with the ache and trauma suffered inside them.
Taking a look at frequent issues with new eyes is a operating theme of Kena, and that theme usually applies to its gameplay as nicely. Although the sport is stuffed with some pretty frequent action-adventure style tropes–it has melee fight that feels akin to titles resembling Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order and even Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, climbing sections much like Uncharted or Tomb Raider, platforming that remembers video games resembling Ratchet and Clank, and puzzles like what you may see in The Legend of Zelda–it manages to mix a well-known approachability with some contemporary spins on the concepts. Mixed with emotional, character-driven storytelling, some tough-but-excellent fights, and mechanics that make the world really feel alive round you, Kena is an thrilling, usually heartbreaking journey that may make you need to discover each nook and crevice to see all that you would be able to.
The story and world of Kena: Bridge of Spirits middle on a village beset by tragedy. Its inhabitants are all gone, worn out by misfortune, and their ache has bodily poisoned the once-vibrant land round it. That ache has drawn Kena, a younger spirit information, to hunt out the trauma at its middle and heal it. Her hyperlink to the spirit realm permits her to assist the ghosts of the village discover peace, and in so doing, she’s capable of push again the corruption that has gripped the land, restoring it to its former glory.
In sensible phrases, you do this by wandering the massive, semi-open house of the village and its surrounding environs, battling the corrupted spirits of each the individuals who as soon as lived there and the character their ache has twisted. Most each interplay comes all the way down to a mixture of fight and puzzle-solving. Your objective is often to beat again a number of enemies, liberating up the power to destroy a close-by corrupted “heart”–a form of evil flower bulb–with a blast of spirit vitality you’ll be able to pulse from Kena with the contact of a button. Kill the center, and the corruption recedes, together with the corrupted enemies.
Fight itself is usually acquainted, with Kena combating off enemies with the usage of her spirit workers. You get mild and heavy assaults you’ll be able to combo collectively, however even within the regular problem, enemies hit laborious and may knock you off your sport in the event you’re not paying consideration. Like related motion video games, you’ve got a dodge that may get you out of hassle more often than not, and you’ll generate a spirit defend with restricted energy that may cease assaults. Take too many hits, and the defend breaks, sending you flying and dealing you harm, however in the event you can time your block excellent, you may parry an enemy and open them as much as a counter-attack.
Each Kena’s puzzles and its fight add a twist within the type of the Rot, that are little spirit buddies you will discover within the surroundings. The Rot are a bit like Pikmin or the minions seen in video games resembling Overlord. In fight, you’ll be able to ship them to assault and distract enemies, permitting you to get in a number of free hits or assault a weak level, they usually’re important to creating hearts susceptible in the course of fights, which might permit you to cease enemies from respawning so you’ll be able to advance.
The Rot are the factor that makes Kena stand other than related video games, and discovering them, powering them up, and using them successfully provides a tactical layer to fights that goes past simply dodging and parrying. For the reason that Rot are all fairly small, you should work up their braveness to convey them into the battle. As you deal harm and kill enemies, you fill a meter that provides you a Rot motion, and you’ll deploy them in a combat with a single button or use them to energy up one in every of your assaults for a giant hit. The Rot are additionally essential for profiting from the environment–you should ship them at hearts as a way to neutralize them, and the one approach to heal Kena is to expend a Rot motion.
Working with the Rot in fight forces you to continually be on the assault and to concentrate to your surroundings. It’s good to mentally log the placement of hearts that spawn enemies and the gadgets you utilize to heal, and it is usually important that you just knock out smaller, weaker enemies to construct Rot fees so you’ll be able to distract and take down larger, more durable ones. Deciding how greatest to make use of the Rot in fight retains you balancing a big-picture view of a combat with the smaller, extra intense moments of parrying a giant hit or sniping a weak level.
Often, the mixture of these parts is usually a bit annoying, as a result of it is easy to blow a single dodge or block and have failure cascade on you, or to by chance ship the Rot to assault the mistaken enemy as issues get hectic. With some bosses, you may most likely must die a number of instances simply to determine how badly they’re able to wrecking you. However demise is not the purpose, and at the least with PlayStation 5’s lickity-split load instances, the sport is all the time fast about getting you again into the motion with as little punishment as attainable. It additionally gives a narrative mode problem, which looks as if an excellent addition, given how deceptively tough a few of its fights might be. Kena’s fight is usually robust and thrilling, executing nicely on acquainted dodge-and-parry mechanics, nevertheless it’s the addition of the Rot and the flexibility in how you should utilize them that basically makes battles in Kena really feel enjoyable and clever.
That additionally goes for the sport’s varied puzzles. Exterior of fight, Rot observe you round or pop up on ledges and bridges as you progress by the surroundings, and might be despatched to do contextual actions on the earth, like shifting climbable objects that can assist you attain a excessive platform. Kena does an excellent job of mixing the necessity to give the Rot instructions with good makes use of of Kena’s talents, creating conditions during which options want you to consider what you are able to do with the unlockable bow or platform-levitating bombs, in addition to what the Rot can do to change the surroundings.
The place Kena nails the stability is in offering you with tons of puzzles that principally reward your commentary expertise, with out overly taxing your capacity to resolve them. More often than not, recognizing one thing the Rot can transfer or seeing an object you’ll be able to work together with utilizing spirit vitality is sufficient to illuminate the trail ahead. You could be climbing alongside a wall and see a less-obvious spot the place you’ll be able to bounce down, and each time, noticing one thing like this can take you to a reward.
The one disadvantage is that, with the sport hinging a lot on commentary, it’s extremely straightforward to overlook the one merchandise that might level you in the fitting route. One explicit puzzle, which required taking pictures a number of torches in a selected order, had me wandering the world attempting to determine it out for an excellent 10 minutes earlier than I spotted how easy the answer actually was, however that I hadn’t caught on to the single-use clue the sport had included to point out me what to do. Largely, although, these puzzles are simply tough sufficient to make you are feeling good for catching on. Kena can be brimming with collectibles, together with Rot spirits hidden within the surroundings and hats to customise them, and whereas chasing these gadgets is basically inessential, the addition of all these little facet paths and tiny rewards encourages you to discover and lose your self in Kena’s world.
And it’s a stunning world to discover, because of phenomenal artwork route and a very good, immersive rating, made extra so by the tales of the spirits discovered inside it. Developer Ember Labs has its beginnings in animation, and the sport takes full benefit of that background with cute characters and beautiful cutscenes that assist to take a position you even additional in uncovering what has occurred within the village and setting it proper. You possibly can’t save these folks, however you’ll be able to assist them transfer on and forgive themselves.
In every part of the sport, you enterprise out to seek out one explicit tormented spirit and assist them obtain peace, and your journey by the placement is all about piecing collectively the story of who these individuals are and what turned of them. In every, you are not simply serving to free a human spirit who has been corrupted and twisted into a robust and harmful boss by their trauma–you’re additionally serving to the spirits of the individuals who liked them however can’t attain them. The interactions with the characters you discover in every part of the sport helps imbue the areas in and across the village with a personality of their very own, and although the place has been all however destroyed, you’ll be able to really feel the life that when thrived there.
What’s lacking from the story, although, is Kena herself. The sport hints that some tragedy in Kena’s previous has scarred her, very like the spirits she units out to assist. Close to the climax of the story, the sport digs into a few of Kena’s motivations and historical past however wraps issues up so shortly and neatly that it appears like some facet of her story may need been lower. Kena is kind of in the identical place on the finish of the story as originally, and in a sport the place a lot improvement is given to the tales of the inhabitants of the village, the eye paid to the protagonist feels anemic by comparability.
The act of assembly and understanding all these different characters is highly effective, although. Kena: Bridge of Spirits is finally a sport about making these connections, identical to it is about making a reference to the sport world round you thru the Rot. It facilities on characters who tried valiantly however failed to assist each other, and what coping with that ache did to them. It is about exploring a world and seeing what it as soon as was, and serving to to revive it once more. And whereas Kena: Bridge of Spirits is filled with familiar-feeling fight and exploration, its capacity to seek out alternative ways to have a look at these concepts makes for an attractive, emotional, and thrilling journey.