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Kena: Bridge of Spirits - Playstation Console Exclusive (coming to PC) - 9/21/2021 Release date...

Romier S

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I just beat the first mini-boss and yeah this is going well so far. Absolutely beautiful and it feels like it’s especially set into a balanced exploration/traversal/combat loop with the rot being being the anchor that ties it all together. Quite eager to dig in further as my first impressions are quite positive.

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The Escapist:





I love entering a new area drained of life, infested with enemies, and covered in corrupted muck, knowing full well that I’d be spending the next hour or two slowly completing challenges that rejuvenated the world. Dead trees blossom back to life, poisoned rivers return to their pristine beauty, and color comes back to the world, one piece at a time. Seeing this natural rebirth as a sign of my own progress reminded me a lot of the rejuvenation of Okami and the altruism of Death Stranding. And given how much I adore those two games, it’s safe to say that Kena: Bridge of Spirits is in good company.







To me, Kena: Bridge of Spirits very much has first game syndrome - something with all the right ideas, weakened by their execution. If it does well - and given the fever with which it's been followed leading up to its release, I expect it will - it'll be because we often value AAA looks and mechanics more highly than attempts at innovation. I'm sure with this foundation Ember Lab has a great game in it, but this isn't it just yet.


Gamesradar 4/5:




Any technical issues for me were also outweighed by just how much I liked being in the world and learning how to traverse it, even if occasionally it meant my neighbors heard some new swear words through the walls. Some moments feel crafted by the writers and characters designers to be truly special, like when you free a magical creature called Rufus who was trapped by the corruption, or at the ending which even made my withered old heart beat extra hard. Thanks to its storytelling and visual design there's just something warm and alive in Kena: Bridge of Spirits, which is perhaps fitting for a game that is so focused on death.


Destructoid 8/10:






I wouldn’t call Kena: Bridge of Spirits overly ambitious. More like “strategically ambitious.” Ember Lab avoided biting off more than it could chew with its first game, and I dug it.

I hope there’s a sequel! After a much-deserved break, of course.



Rock, Paper, Shotgun:





If there's anything I want you to know about Kena: Bridge Of Spirits, it's that its simplicity is still beautifully expressive. In particular, Kena has a truly cinematic style, with some breathtaking cutscenes, and it deploys them with real expertise. Not only is the Kena aware of what it does well, it does those things very well indeed. And sure, the combat isn't in-depth or complex, but it's not trying to be. Kena: Bridge Of Spirits is a game about atmosphere, and it's a breath of fresh air.





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From the Gamestar.de review :


Kena: Bridge of Spirit is quite entertaining with its ten to fifteen hours, but every minute is worth it. In contrast to many other action adventure games, Kena manages without annoying side quests or an overloaded game world. It's like balm for a battered gamer's soul that is tired of big open worlds and trivial tasks.


Gamespots reviewer:




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I'm happy to see a performance mode on the PS5. Everything I've seen of the game so far has been 30 fps, and I was concerned that it would be the only option. I'll definitely be playing on Performance Mode. I'll be interested in seeing whether Digital Foundry puts out a video for this one. From that video though, it appears to be solid on both PS4 and PS5, which is great for owners of each console.


Also, thumbs up to Ember Lab for making this a cross-buy game, so PS4 owners don't need to worry about upgrading if/when they get the new console.


As for the reviews, I can't see anything that makes me regret the purchase at this point. The proof is in the playing, of course. If reviews had been universally negative for whatever reason, I might be more concerned. However, they appear to skew more positive. Reviews don't seem head-over-heels in love with the game, but they seem to like it overall.

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I'm well into this game at this point. I have nearly 60 rot collected and am in the second "act", really so I feel like I can speak confidently about its quality. There's so much of this game that reminds me of Jak and Daxter and some other PS2 era titles like Okami, and even a dash of Sly Cooper. Not so much structurally specifically, I guess but in its platforming and "feel" I guess. I can absolutely understand where some players come into this thinking its going to present a more modern take on the adventure game and leave disappointed. It's sensibilities and execution are very much rooted in "outdated" design philosophies but for fans of this type of game, you're going to be in for a treat. In fact, the recent Balan's Wonderworld tried to do something similar though it leaned much harder on its platforming elements and it fell flat on its face in the process. Kena, thankfully does not. It offers an absolutely beautiful and compelling world that vacillates between wide linear environments, and at times just straight up linear paths that are brimming with discoverable items and gorgeous new vistas.


That is not to say that the experience isn't one you haven't seen before. The comparisons above should make it clear that you have played this type of game before. It's well worn and while Kena doesn't offer anything overtly original, I feel as though its level of execution more than justifies its existence. The visuals are no doubt the carrot on the stick here. On the Playstation 5, the support for 60fps just pushes this a level above your average game release and we live in a time where your average game release looks pretty damned good. It's got visual eye candy coming at you from all over the place and part of the appeal is exploring every nook and cranny of its world. There's plenty of environmental puzzles tied to each Kena's upgrades, too that opens up additional areas of exploration.


On the subject of enemy encounters, Kena surprises. Not so much in that its doing anything new. She offers a pretty typical array of easily executable combos and upgrades. Each time you hit an enemy it fill Kena's courage meter which lets her use her rot companions. They can create more powerful arrows for Kena's bow, they can enhance your staff to perform a powerful hammer blow, and they can even be used to bind enemies in place. The more rot you acquire, the higher your rot level which adds an additional meter so more rot actions can be performed.  All of that said, what surprise here is the level of challenge the game offers. To be fair, I am playing on the hardest difficulty right out of the gate and even then standard enemies don't provide too much trouble. However,  the bosses are downright Dark Souls-esque! You need to have a really strong handle on how to parry (hitting the L1 button to pop your shield right before you're hit) and how to use your arsenal to survive these encounters. I've read impressions online from folks playing on "Normal" even having issues getting past some of the mini-bosses. The good news it that the game does offer a "Story" mode for those that just want to enjoy the game without hitting much of a wall. Personally, I'm very much enjoying the challenge level! I never expected it from a game that looks like this and whose story is much about the peaceful passing of spirits and general healing of the world.


The story is one area of the game where I feel as though Kena does falter a bit. Each of the spirits you encounter are fine and their stories interesting but Kena herself is an enigma. Perhaps that will change by the end of the game but I want to know more about her! Why does she want to get to the Mountain Shrine? How did she come to be at the village? Who is she?! It's certainly possible much more will be revealed as the game progresses but I do wish it was doled out a bit more judiciously throughout. Each of the spirit encounters is well done, thankfully. The first one you complete ends on a very emotional note and with a rather surprising revelation that's both a mixture of happiness and depression. It's effective but  just lacking because you don't have much connection to its main character.


I would also call out the structure of the game a bit. It doesn't offer much variance at all. You are introduced to a new mask/spirit to help pass, you need to find three relics to "free" them, and then you face the boss encounter. Rinse and repeat. It's not a major problem per se but you do start to see the seams from a repetition standpoint soon enough. It's also a little disappointing to find a well hidden path to only end up finding a chest or barrel with money. I love the level of exploration here but money is really only used to buy hats for your rots and frankly, I'm not finding that to be a terribly compelling hook. I mean, I'm enjoying the exploration and gorgeous environments enough that I'm making every effort to see everything but I get far more excited finding a new rot companion than I do yet another container with money!


This isn't a game that will leave you "mind blown" or reeling from its originality. It does offer a very specific kind of adventure game experience that isn't as common these days and if you're in the right mind set, it's a game that may completely hit the mark for you. I think its a very good game thus far that's just shy of being great (I reserve the option to change that opinion after the credits have rolled!) but considering this is Ember Labs first game? I'm very interested to see where they go with it in the future. There's a good foundation here and I like it enough that I'll no doubt double dip for the eventual physical release.

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6 hours ago, Romier S said:

All of that said, what surprises here is the level of challenge the game offers. To be fair, I am playing on the hardest difficulty right out of the gate and even then standard enemies don't provide too much trouble. However,  the bosses are downright Dark Souls-esque!


Let me translate this for those of you with Normal gaming skills: "Regular enemies are super tough, and the boss encounters will have you crying to your mommies!"


Seriously though, combat is indeed tough, even on Normal difficulty. I just did the first major boss last night and it took me a while to finally best him. I think I made the right move by buying the ability to slow down time when drawing the bow. It made things a little bit easier, but he was still no pushover. My biggest issue with the combat seems to be getting the timing down for parrying and evading attacks. I'm successful at parrying some of the time, but by no means is it consistent. Enemy attacks come at you fast (albeit after a moment of winding up, of course), and the window in which you can successfully parry (or evade for that matter) is very narrow — at least it seems that way for me.


Everyone has (rightfully) talked about the gorgeous visuals, but I wanted to give a shout out to the sound design. I'm playing this on my 5.1 home theater system (B&W speakers and sub with an Onkyo THX receiver) and this game brings it to life in a way few others do. It's a game with some decent dynamic range. There's plenty of quiet moments during normal traversal and exploration. But when something big happens — particularly during a battle sequence — you really feel it. In that way, it actually feels more like you're watching/playing a movie. I love it.


Overall, I'm very much enjoying this. As Romier said, it's nothing new or groundbreaking, but I don't expect it to be either. This is a solid amalgamation of different games mixed together into something both familiar and new. I can't wait to play more of Kena this weekend.

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4 hours ago, Romier S said:

@JFo The parry counter is now easier to perform. 

Oh good, it wasn’t just me then. Definitely downloading this patch ASAP. 


EDIT: Or… I could just let my PS5 automatically update the game while I’m asleep, which is what happened. 😁

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