Kena: The Bridge Of Spirits: A Magical Journey (Anniversary Update)

  • Chris
  • 0 Comment
  • October 2, 2022

Kena: The bridge of spirits is a cinematic thrill, with its Dreamworks/Pixar style of animation the game feels more like a film that you guide the protagonist through. With so many cutscenes and characters to get to know, it is hard sometimes to forget you are in a game. Ember Lab did a fantastic job of Kena and it clearly shows. Even though this is their first title, with all the experience they have in the animation field -where they have amassed an outstanding portfolio in the world of animation-, they made an outstanding visually appealing game.

You will take on the role of Kena herself, a spirit guide. As a spirit guide, it is her job to help those spirits who do not want to leave: it could be for numerous reasons, may it be guilt or simply feeling like they have unfinished business. It is her job to help them cross over, no matter what it will take. You will explore the once beautiful lands that have seemingly been taken over by something dark and corrupt, while not only helping the spirits you encounter along the way, but also cleansing the darkness that has attached to the surroundings.

The characters you meet, including Kena herself, are utterly breathtaking from facial expressions to the whole character’s demeanour. Every time a cinematic was played I lifted my hands from the keyboard, and just sat back and enjoyed it. I grew to love the characters and was invested in their story and what they had to say. I was saddened after the whole game, I only got to find out a bit about Kena’s story. Sure it was hinted at, that some tragedy happened in her childhood, but as she is the protagonist, you grow an attachment and investment into the character and to only know so little about the person you are playing kind of makes the story feel incomplete.

" The Gameplay Is Simple, Elegant And Most Of All It Matches "

Kena: The Bridge Of Spirits will be a throwback to many fans of the adventure genre as it follows the traditional “Zone” level system. It has a big overworld for you to explore but it is split into major zones that you will complete in a linear fashion. Each zone itself will be a semi-open world, and you will be able to backtrack after clearing out The Rot (corruption) to unlock new places that were previously inaccessible. Each zone is unique and will focus on one of the trapped spirits, which will later become the boss of the zone that you must “defeat”, in order to free them to the other side and purify the area. You will have lots of collectables to find, and parts of the story of that spirit sprinkled throughout the zone. After completing the boss fight it will close a chapter of the story, by showing you another beautiful cinematic, filling in the blanks on what you are missing in the story of that spirit.

While a lot of the game is focused on the traditional platform style of exploration and puzzles, there are also a lot of combat sequences to sink your teeth into. The combat is of a simplistic nature, only adding to the style the game is going for. I feel making the combat fit a game style is often overlooked but, in this case, it was perfect. Early on though it felt a little stale as you only have your light attack, heavy attack and ranged attack. It made the combat feel too much of a breeze, as you were limited in your actions. There has to be a balance of difficulty when it comes to combat or like me, other players will start to not enjoy that part of the game, and would rather just go out and explore the beautiful world.

Once you get the adorable little creatures known as Rot, it really helps change up the game’s combat system for the better. Rot will give you some special moves that help take down targets through the use of the Rot Hammer, a special attack that will let you smash the ground killing multiple targets at once. Then you have got the Rot Arrow, this strong bow shot will pierce through multiple enemies at once, so I found myself in numerous fights lining everyone up perfectly to get that beautiful collateral shot. As you progress more through the game, the combat picks up, even more, giving you more new enemies to face. The fights now require a whole new strategy on how you can dominate over these new foes. Some enemies require you to hit the crit points to weaken or stun them, so you can get those deadly blows in with your weapons, and others may require you to use a bomb to blow them up. Regardless of the means needed to kill the enemy, when I got to this stage of the game, combat felt fun and different, and I found myself using different strategies all in the same fight.

The difficulty ramps up pretty fast when you arrive close to the first boss fight: depending on your difficulty it could be more challenging than it needs to be for a game that feels more about the story and journey than the combat. Most of your damage will come from Rot attacks, but to use the Rot attacks you will need to gather Courage, which is passively gained when hitting enemies. The more Courage you build, the more Rot actions you can use. That being said, using the correct Rot actions at the right time can win or lose a fight. Not only is the Rot used offensively to stagger or damage your foes, but if you need healing, you need to send the Rot over to the healing plant using the Courage you built up for a Rot action. Playing on master difficulty will be exceptionally hard, and even more if you consider that not only do you die in 2-3 hits, but also that if you get hit you lose a chunk of your Courage, and you will not be able to use the Rot action that you desperately need.

“ Managing Courage, And Getting Upgrades Is key "

The key to success however is choosing which upgrades to buy with your Karma points at the right time. There are upgrades that I didn’t feel would be beneficial spending my Karma points on over others, for instance, the strong melee attack upgrades are key, along with you being able to do a super strong melee attack or a running jump attack, as they do a fair amount of damage and will be good for staggering your enemies, or also the Rot upgrades. To put it simply the Rot attacks in this game can feel broken at times, so it is best to have them in your arsenal. On the opposite side of that, however, you have things like one extra arrow that I felt is simply not worth the value when instead I can instead get the slowdown time when jumping for the same cost, which is much more beneficial, as now I can hit those pesky little critical spots. After you get every upgrade that fits your playstyle, you should have a much easier time dodging, parrying and slaying those enemies.

After each fight sequence, you are back to exploring and cleaning the corruption from the world, purifying it back to its former glory. You will also come across multiple puzzles that will need to be solved to progress to the next zone or to clear the corruption. These are fun little bits of the game which I enjoy seeing in platformers and adventure games. Don’t worry, they are mostly very simple and just add to the joys of the game, like getting your Rot to lift a rock to another spot. Watching these little adorable creatures waddle while holding a huge rock is fun and entertaining. There will also be platforming elements, where you will have to make the rocks float and traverse your way up. It really breaks up the game and brings it back to the adventure style.

“ New Game+ Has Arrived ”

Now Kena: The Bridge Of Spirits has come to Steam, along with the anniversary update that brings you New Game+. In NG+ you will be able to carry over all of your upgrades, to fight even deadlier monsters than before. It introduces new enemy types that will require you to fight differently than you did before, and along with the new phases in boss fights it adds a whole new strategy to the way you handle combat. Although I personally don’t know if it is worth taking on NG+ unless you really want a challenge, as for some it may be too difficult and take away from the chill adventure game Kena goes for.

The update also brought Trials, which can be accessed with any difficulty. These will test all the skills you have learned throughout each zone, and will involve obstacle courses that will test your platforming skills and accuracy. Or it could be wave defences to take on incoming hordes of enemies, and you must use your skill to survive. But the best Trials in my opinion are probably the boss ones, as you can now revisit any of the previous boss fights and take them down while coming up with the best strategy to perfect that fight. By completing them you will unlock some nice new outfits for Kena and the new charmstones that were added. They will give Kena a buff in a certain aspect so you can use that to your advantage in the upcoming fights.

Kena: The Bridge Of Spirits is a masterful charm of a game that does well in giving you the cutesy vibe and drawing you into the world. It found a nice balance of exploration, combat and puzzles, to make for a solid action-adventure game. I would personally love to see more of Kena’s side of the story as it was lacking in this game. For Ember Lab’s first title as a game, it is unbelievably well done and I can not wait to see what more they have in store.

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