Kena: Bridge of Spirits caught everyone’s eye last year when it was unveiled at PlayStation Future of Gaming event alongside the PS5. After missing out on its initial 2020 launch window, developer Ember Lab confirmed that the game was set to release on Aug. 24, 2021. Ahead of its launch, I got to take part in a hands-on preview of the game for an hour, getting to explore the world and seeing what it has to offer players this summer.
Kena draws inspiration from beloved franchises like God of War and Pikmin.
As I set out on my adventure, it’s clear that Kena draws inspiration from beloved franchises like God of War and Pikmin. The God of War comparison may seem strange given Kena’s charming animated look, but it’s apt once you get a feel for the gameplay. I’m tasked with helping a pair of siblings defeat corruption that’s plaguing the land and harming the spirit of their brother Taro. Kena has access to light and heavy attacks with her staff, but she can also dodge out of the way if need be. Even playing remotely over a streaming service, the controls felt responsive and satisfying to use. I never felt like I was unfairly hit by an enemy — though they can pack quite a punch.
What helps with combat are the little creatures by your side called Rot. Despite the unfortunate name, they’re instrumental, much like the titular creatures in Pikmin, helping you solve puzzles and battle enemies. They’re an integral part of Kena: Bridge of Spirits, allowing you to cleanse corruption and progress, and you can even buy little hats for them to wear throughout the journey.
Source: Ember Lab
It feels like Ember Lab has struck the right balance with its gameplay.
Much of your progression is tied to an upgrade tree that allows you to unlock various skills: the Rot Hammer. As you can expect from its name, you can command your Rot to bash enemies into the ground. By upgrading your abilities, you’ll be able to take on more significant and more challenging foes. Time your Pulse ability just right, and you’ll not only be able to shield yourself, but you’ll dodge the incoming attack as well. Near the end of the demo, I even unlocked a bow to use against the Wood Knight, which has specific weak points across its body.