First announced in 2020, Kena: Bridge of Spirits is the inaugural title from independent game developer Ember Labs. Don’t let its indie roots fool you. This charming third-person, action-platformer contains the same quality craftmanship as high-profile franchises such as The Legend of Zelda or Ratchet & Clank. Based on the streamed, one-hour-long demo we played, the upcoming, $39.99 Kena: Bridge of Spirits has a strong chance to become a sleeper hit.
An Epic Journey
Playing as the titular Kena, your goal is to reach Taro, an elder who fell to a mysterious plague that aflicts the land. Assisting you in your journey are small creatures called the Rot. The name is misleading, though. When you think of “rot,” you probably imagine something foul and diseased. However, this game’s Rot is a collection of fuzzy critters that help in many ways.
The Rot can locate collectibles and other hidden items, and they’re necessary for solving certain puzzles. The creatures are most useful for destroying enemies and the giant, red-and black-pustules that jut from the demo’s forest level. Kena needs Courage (yellow orbs dropped from defeated enemies) to control the Rot. When the Courage meter fills, Kena can send her minions to pester foes or attack them. In addition, the Rot can heal Kena when she’s low on health.
Using her trusty magical cane, Kena whacks foes with light and heavy attacks. On the defensive end, she can dodge incoming attacks or enclose herself within a blue bubble that absorbs damage. You unlock new combos in the game’s skill tree as you level up. Kena’s basic attacks aren’t difficult to learn or master, especially if you regularly play action-adventure games. Combat encounters aren’t difficult, at least based on the demo, but they are thrilling and engaging.
Getting to Taro’s home isn’t a straightforward affair. You must employ some serious platforming skills to climb the gargantuan mountain. In fact, the platforming is reminiscent of the Tomb Raider and Uncharted series. Actions, such as leaping over large chasms, grabbing ledges, and shimming, feel intuitive and precise.
Colossal Boss Battles
Although standard enemies didn’t pose much of a threat in Kena’s demo build, the two bosses showcased the game’s more challenging aspects. The first boss was a tall plant monster similar to DC’s Swamp Thing. Most attacks barely put a dent in the monster’s tough, tree bark exterior. As a result, I used the Rot to distract the creature so I could land solid blows. This battle required a fair bit of strategy, since you can only command the Rot when your Courage meter fills. So, the battle required farming Courage from the standard enemies the boss sent after me. Thankfully, it didn’t take long to subdue the plant monster.
Likewise, the second boss encounter balanced attacking the boss with the Rot while farming Courage from cannon-fodder enemies. The main difference is that this boss randomly materialized in different parts of the map and peppered the battle area with explosives when damaged. Both boss fights were enjoyable for different reasons; here’s hoping that the game’s other bosses are just as fun to fight.
Can Your PC Run Kena: Bridge of Spirits?
To play Kena: Bridge of Spirits on your gaming rig, your PC needs at least an Intel i3-3220 CPU, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 650 GPU, 8GB of RAM, 25GB of storage, and the Windows 10 operating system. Due to the demo’s streamed natured, there was no way to test the game’s performance (frame rate, graphical options) on a local PC.
On the upside, Kena: Bridge of Spirits is a beautiful game that legitimately looks like a Pixar movie. Characters ooze personality, with striking designs and fluid animations. The world is lush and vibrant, teeming with impressive vistas. Though an independent production, Kena has the polish of a AAA title. It is, without a doubt, one of 2021’s most visually stunning video game releases.
A New Tale
Kena: Bridge of Spirits offers a fresh take on the classic action-adventure genre thanks to its charming graphics, mesmerizing landscapes, intuitive combat, and precise platforming. With an August 24, 2021, release date on PC (via the Epic Game Store), PlayStation 5, and PlayStation 4, the game can potentially rule the late summer.
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