If the adorable Rot don’t completely capture your heart, the stunning and rich environments will make you want to never want to stop exploring.
It’s not too often that an indie studio can feature their very first video game and receive such a positive response as Ember Lab has done for Kena: Bridge of Spirits.
From its first announcement in June 2020 at PlayStation’s Future of Gaming event, this magical looking title has held gamers in the palm of its hand since. And let me tell you, there’s a good reason for that as I found out in my hour preview as part of the Tribeca Film Festival.
My hands-on demo began at the start of Kena’s journey as she sets off to help a troubled spirit called Taro. Straight off the bat, the game’s visual prowess came into play as I made my way through a dark forest in the middle of a lightning storm. As the sharp white bolts and downpour of rain penetrated the woodland, I got to grips with Kena‘s combat skills before any action sprung itself on me.
Kena’s combat systems combine a Souls-lite set of abilities incorporating a heavy attack, light attack and, of course, the ability to shield herself from enemies by using a brilliant blue pulse ability that coats her in a ball of protection. But before I got to meet my first boss which proved to be more difficult than I anticipated, I was introduced to two brothers with adorable faces and huge puppy dog eyes who looked like they were instantly snatched from a Pixar movie.
If you have been wondering when I’ll get to the cute little Rot, let me put the record straight now; these tiny and unbearably precious spirits look even better in person (well, as Kena but you know what I mean). The pitter-patter of their little feet is always close by as they aid me in my battles as well as help with obstacles I may face.
At one point, I approached a huge mountain that brought me towards the area where Taco lived and at the base of it lay a stunning crystal clear lake. Obviously, I needed to see if Kena could swim and also if my little rot friends would follow. Kena certainly can swim and, as ever, my adorable companions were right there with me, bobbing around in wonderment at what I was doing.
Before getting to my next destination, I got a taste of Kena‘s fighting skills. I chose to play the demo on medium, thinking that this would give me a taste of the game’s difficulty. I also, naively, thought that many of the boss battles in Kena: Bridge of Spirits would be a piece of cake due to its wholesome exterior but I soon figured out that I really was as stupid as I looked.
This is not to say that the first boss I encounter was extremely hard, but I got my ass handed to me at least three times before I defeated it. In battles, and if you choose to do so, Kena has the rot to help her bring the enemy to its knees. They can also interact with corruption elements that are angry plant-like creatures who block entrances and spit out foes who come prepared with armour.
Due to the rot being sensitive little souls, they can scare easily so Kena needs to collect yellow orbs of light called Courage that is found from defeated enemies. Once this is built up, she can send out the rot to aid her in a number of different ways and they’re always eager to assist.
In no time at all, Kena morphs into Lara Croft as she scales cliffs and hangs off mountain edges as she makes her way to find Taro. This area of the map gives players a really good opportunity to witness the vast and truly beautiful landscapes in Ember Lab’s stunning title.
From my playthrough, Kena: Bridge of Spirits delivers a deeply creative narrative, meaty combat encounters and a wealth of exploration that will be a joy for those young and old. All of these elements come together to offer a magical and captivating adventure that I can’t wait to experience more of and if the rest of Kena proves to be as irresistible as the first hour, Ember Lab’s first game will be on the lips, and fingertips, of players for many years to come.
Kena: Bridge of Spirits is launching on PS5, PS4, and PC on August 24, 2021.