I recently finished playing Kena: Bridge of Spirits an action-adventure game developed and published by Ember Lab over on Twitch. This is the debut game from the developers, but honestly, it feels like a triple-A game due to the quality. In this game, you play as Kena, a Spirit Guide, who is on a journey to a mountain sacred shrine. During this journey, you come across spirits in a destroyed village that need help moving on. Each spirit is linked to a wooden masks that was made to honor them. Throughout this journey, you will get help from adorable, little rot wisps that you have to find throughout the environment.
The game is an open world experience, so you can go anywhere in the world without needing to load sections or chapters at a time. Though some areas will be locked off until you obtain certain objects or abilities. The story itself is emotional and character-driven.
This game has elements you’ll be familiar with if you’ve played other video games:
- The climbing similar to Uncharted or Tomb Raider franchises.
- The combat is similar to Star Wars: Fallen Order or Dark Souls, as it is souls-like with the difficulty especially when it comes to the bosses. And while they are extremely hard, you get a sense of accomplishment when you manage to beat them. Plus, you get to watch the environment transform from one of corruption to one filled with life (plant-life mostly considering everyone else is dead).
- There are puzzles similar to The Legend of Zelda where you have to complete sequences in order using clues from the environment around you and move objects with the help up the rot wisps in order to advance. Which can sometimes be easily to miss.
However, it still feels fresh as it uses it’s own spin on it. Plus, I love how integrated the rot wisps are. You’ll find them following you throughout the environment either running directly behind you or chilling around the map. And you can collect special hats that they can wear, so each one is unique.
The Rot wisps truly make this game stand out. You have to find them and power them up using Karma that can be found throughout the world. These abilities allow you to get powerful moves that can make a difference between dying repeatedly and defeating a boss more easily. But you can’t just immediately use them in battle either, you have to fill up their meter by dealing damage and killing enemies. Then once that meter is filled, you can either use them to directly attack an enemy, power up your own abilities, or heal using heart flowers. So, you have to be mindful of what you need. If you need health, you need a full meter with the Rot in order to get it.
It’s often essential that you knock out smaller, weaker enemies to build Rot charges so you can distract and take down bigger, tougher ones. It’s also useful to watch out for weak points to make defeating enemies easier.
Also during battle, you can dodge to get out of trouble most of the time, and you can generate a spirit shield with limited power that will stop attacks. Take too many hits, and the shield breaks, sending you flying and dealing you damage, but if you can time your block just right, you’ll parry an enemy and open them up to a counter-attack.
Another thing to note about battles, is that you have to be mindful of where you’re aiming as you might just send the Rot after the wrong thing or enemy, then have to wait for their meter to refill all over again.
Overall, this game is truly stunning. The graphics are amazing and I wanted to spend time exploring every inch of the world to collect all the Rots, hats, and collectibles. Not only are the graphics amazing without a ton of lag or glitches, but the story was also really touching. Even for characters we don’t spend a lot of time with. As it centers around characters who tried their best to help one another, but ultimately failed to do so and have to deal with the pain that comes from failure. The only downside is we don’t learn a lot about the main character by the end of the game. We got hints of her past but not much past that. I hope they make a sequel that expands upon her character.
Did I complete all the trials (optional stages that are similar to replaying elements of the main story)? Yes.
Did I 100% the trials with every little mini-challenge? No.
Some of them were ridiculously hard to achieve. But I still felt insanely accomplished in the end, as I managed to get through all of them to get the special outfit unlocks. And knowing that getting the 100% achievement in those was often a different colorway on an outfit I already had or an additional Rot hat, I didn’t feel like I missed anything.
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