Kena: Bridge of Spirits PS5 Review

 

 
Overview
 

Genre: Action Adventure
 
Rating: PG
 
Release Date: September 21st, 2021
 
Overall
 
 
 
 
 
4/5


 

Positives


- A beautiful world filled with content
- Fun boss fights that aren’t over-the-top
- Adorable Rot spirits!

Negatives


- No waypoint or compass navigation
- Visuals aren’t quite as impressive as we had hoped
- The main story is quite short.


Posted September 25, 2021 by

 
Full Article
 
 

Ember Lab is a studio of just ten employees based in Orange County, California. When they revealed Kena: Bridge of Spirits in June 2020, we were immediately drawn to its whimsical classic style of adventure. Combining a fairly standard combat system with the use of small collectable spirits known as Rot, Kena: Bridge of Spirits is a timed-exclusive new IP to PlayStation consoles where what starts as an innocent adventure in an unfamiliar world soon becomes an enticing journey to the centre of a sacred mountain shrine.

As far as stories go, Kena: Bridge of Spirits is quick to lure you into its world. We felt obligated to find as many of the Rot spirits as we could so that firstly we could cleanse the village, but also clear out the rotting elements found throughout the world. There are several memorable characters to meet along the way, with a surprising story arc that somewhat reminded us of The Night King’s actions from Game of Thrones. Kena: Bridge of Spirits is a tale of life, change, death and grief but does occasionally go a little overboard with its narrative.

From the very beginning, Kena: Bridge of Spirits is a game focusing on magic. The first move you learn is how to activate your shield which you can then release into an explosion of light. Soon after that, you learn the melee basics using a magic staff. Throughout the rest of the game, Kena unlocks more weapons which can be upgraded through an easy to understand menu system. The game comes to life once you’ve got access to all of Kena’s abilities, with the combat becoming both intense and greatly satisfying. Without spoiling too much, we found that there was more than enough variety in combat to keep things interesting, and were able to incorporate skills mastered from other recent games like Assassin’s Creed Valhalla and even Demon’s Souls.

Adventuring through the game, Kena comes across two different currencies. The first is Karma which can be used to purchase the various upgrades for your abilities and for your Rot. The Rot also has a leveling system which increases as you gradually find all 100 of them. In our first playthrough, we managed to find two thirds of them without much trouble, though you may want to look around every corner because you never know where those cheeky little spirits will be! We found that the Rot upgrades were the best ones to focus on as the skills they unlock greatly changed the way you can tackle enemies.

Gems are the other currency in the game and you’ll find them basically everywhere. Though it’s always exciting to uncover a good gem haul, they’re only used for purchasing hats for your Rot which is purely a cosmetic thing. There are lots of different hats to discover throughout the world, but the fanciest ones are found by completing the main story. One of the coolest features with the Rot is that they mostly follow you around in-game, but also they will have already found cute little spots to sit when you enter various buildings. It’s a cute feature that we weren’t expecting, and definitely shows just how much Ember Lab cared about the game’s design and immersion.

Kena: Bridge of Spirits’ whimsical Pixar-esque graphics are probably its main selling-point and they mostly do not disappoint. We weren’t blown away on PlayStation 5, even with the option of the locked 30FPS Native 4K fidelity mode over the 60FPS performance mode, the main difference seemed to be in its lighting. Cut-scenes are also locked to 30 frames, though we did notice that they looked a bit more impressive than the actual gameplay. The game’s photo mode isn’t overly extensive, and disappointingly you can’t enter it whenever you want, and the DualSense’s share button pauses the game, meaning you can’t take screenshots that way either. It was cute being able to take photos with the Rot in various locations though, and you can even get them to perform certain emotes for the camera.

Ember Lab’s very own Jason Gallaty created a beautiful soundtrack for the game with a memorable main theme and different tunes that help set the mood depending on what part of the world you’re in. While we’re speaking about the world, it wasn’t as diverse as we were expecting. While there is a small snowy area, most of the world is dense forest or caves. We’d like to see an even larger open-world if there’s ever a Kena 2, and we also felt a little deceived by the map design, as the world ended up being a fair bit smaller than we were expecting. There are also plenty of fast-travel warp points to discover which make traversing the map even easier, though it would have been nice to have a waypoint or compass navigation instead of having to constantly refer to the map for directions.

Kena Bridge of Spirits

Kena: Bridge of Spirits is an amazing achievement by an indie dev team. Though they did outsource some of their work to other studios, the game itself is a masterpiece for a studio of just ten developers. We felt compelled to stay in the world after the ten hour story was complete to hunt down or rescue the remaining Rot from the forest while completing the various side-content challenges including flower shrines, cursed chests, spirit mail delivery and of course finding more Rot hats! With the added Master difficulty unlocking after the first playthrough, we’ll be sure to revisit the game again soon.

Rocket Chainsaw reviewed Kena: Bridge of Spirits on PlayStation 5 with review provided by the publisher. Kena: Bridge of Spirits is a timed exclusive that is also currently available on Windows PC via the Epic Games Store and PlayStation 4. For more information, head to the official website.

Kena Bridge of Spirits


David Latham

 
David has a Bachelor of Arts (Journalism) from a Go8 university but only uses his unique set of skills writing for passion. By day he's a stay-at-home father of two, by night he responds to the Bat-Signal. Where does he find the time?