It is smart that Ember Lab, the developer of Kena: Bridge of Spirits, began out as an animation studio. Just this beautiful world and Pixar-esque character designs tells you that it is a workforce that has a ton of expertise in making unbelievable digital works, together with their Majora’s Mask fan film, Terrible Fate. While Bridge of Spirits’ gameplay doesn’t fairly match the terribly excessive bar set by its visuals for a quantity of causes, together with some bland storytelling and shallow development, this 3D open-world action-adventure continues to be nonetheless a formidable achievement due to its thrilling and deceptively easy fight and a very good stability of motion, puzzle fixing, and platforming.
Kena is a Spirit Guide who helps spirits who’re unable to maneuver on to the subsequent life, whether or not as a result of of lingering guilt or unfinished enterprise. The story follows her as she makes her manner via a fantastic however dying land in search of its sacred mountain shrine, guiding the troubled spirits she finds alongside the best way. Not sufficient good issues may be mentioned concerning the character designs, facial expressions, and animation in Bridge of Spirits, which do an incredible job of making everybody you meet instantly endearing – particularly Kena herself.
She’s so likable, actually, that it truly makes it a bit of a bummer that we by no means actually get to be taught all that a lot about her. You get hints of her background and historical past, however by no means something that permits you to get to know her in the identical manner you get to know the spirits and different characters that she finally ends up interacting with. It’s a disgrace as a result of she’s the one we spend probably the most time with, and every thing else about her is superior and made me need to know extra.
In some ways, Bridge of Spirits is a throwback to the basic 3D Zelda type of video games of having a big overworld that’s break up up into main zones, after which guiding you thru them in a linear style. Each zone will then require you to gather X quantity of Y merchandise, struggle a boss, after which snag an improve that permits you to journey to and discover the subsequent zone. It’s quite simple and formulaic, nevertheless it works elegantly: every space is house to a corrupt spirit that Kena wants to save lots of, and as you discover the area you meet different characters who had been near the spirit, be taught concerning the historical past of how issues went fallacious for them, discover their private results, watch flashbacks, after which every thing culminates in a boss struggle that ties a pleasant little bow on the story arc.
Combat, however, is completely nothing like Zelda’s. It’s fast-paced, deceptively easy, and surprisingly difficult on the conventional issue stage given its cutesy and colourful demeanor. You’ve obtained mild assaults, heavy assaults, and the power to make use of your workers as a bow for ranged assaults, and… that’s about it in phrases of your main offensive instruments, from starting to finish. Combat choices had been so restricted, actually, that I truly was fairly let down within the early goings as a result of most enemies could possibly be killed with only one or two mild assault combos, and I wasn’t given a lot motive to do the rest for lots longer than I’d have favored in a recreation that solely lasts about 9 hours.
Kena: Bridge of Spirits Photo Mode Screenshots
Some nuance is launched within the type of your tiny and lovable Ghibli-esque sprites, unfittingly referred to as Rot. These little dudes support you in battle by swarming an enemy and quickly locking them down, giving you a chance to assault their weak factors, or simply give attention to clearing out the encircling enemies. The means to command them is tied to an amusingly contextualized Courage Meter that builds up as you deal injury, emboldening them to place themselves in hurt’s manner that can assist you out.
What actually redeems Bridge of Spirits’ fight is that after some time it begins to introduce new enemy varieties that strongly encourage you to alter up your ways and discover some of the subtleties of its restricted instruments. Whether that’s making use of your bow’s time slowdown by leaping into the air and aiming at hard-to-hit weak factors, utilizing a parry towards an assault that’s tough to dodge, or utilizing your Rot to immobilize a troublesome enemy so you may assault them from behind. There’s a formidable quantity of enemy selection, and as soon as they began exhibiting as much as the social gathering I felt like I used to be continually being challenged by new and fascinating situations. That’s precisely the way it ought to be in a recreation like this.
You additionally need to handle your sources very rigorously in battle as soon as the problem begins to ramp up considerably in a while within the marketing campaign. Not solely can you employ Courage to lockdown enemies with the Rot, however you additionally want to make use of it to heal by cleaning particular areas in a struggle. There’s hardly ever greater than two of these therapeutic spots in any given scrap had been, which makes each bit of injury you are taking extremely vital, and sometimes you must make the decision of whether or not you need to use your braveness to have the ability to survive one other hit, or use it to money in a bunch of injury on an motionless enemy or boss.
That mentioned, it might have been good to have a bit extra to do in a struggle. Bridge of Spirts’ development system doesn’t present very many engaging choices to evolve your preventing type, and made me really feel pigeonholed in my strategy to fight – particularly as a result of there’s one melee weapon, and that weapon by no means actually obtained a lot better or completely different as I continued to play. You can improve your strikes, however the influence of these upgrades is disappointing to say the least. Three of the 4 melee upgrades are skills that really feel like Kena ought to have from the outset (two dashing assaults and an overhead slam whereas within the air) the post-parry counterattack doesn’t really feel a lot stronger than simply attacking whereas the opponent is recoiling, and plenty of different upgrades are simply small and barely noticeable incremental enhancements. I by no means as soon as thought “It could be good if I may fireplace 5 arrows as a substitute of simply 4,” particularly contemplating how briskly arrows regenerate.
There are exceptions, of course: a charged bow shot that offers huge injury on the value of one bar of Courage, a gradual hammer strike that might take out a bunch of enemies without delay, and the power to activate slow-mo whereas aiming with out having to leap within the air had been the sort of new methods I used to be in search of extra of. But apart from these, I by no means felt excited by upgrades as a result of they hardly ever ever appeared like something that may be particularly helpful or make fight any extra enjoyable.
Fighting baddies isn’t all you’ll be doing in Bridge of Spirits, and the truth that it balances fight, platforming, puzzle fixing, and exploration so effectively is one of its strongest fits. You’re by no means doing anybody factor for too lengthy. After ending up a difficult fight encounter, you’ll sometimes be challenged to resolve some kind of puzzle to open the subsequent space, generally commanding your small military of Rot like Pikmin to maneuver objects with a purpose to press down buttons, or provide you with a platform to face on. Once you get the bomb powerup, you’ll commonly do enjoyable platforming sequences the place you should activate a collection of platforms and work out the way to finest get from level A to B earlier than the platforms return to their pure states. And then on prime of all of that, that is an open world with loads of secrets and techniques hidden off the overwhelmed path, although whether or not a majority of these secrets and techniques shall be of curiosity to you is one other story.
My one gripe about exploration and collectible searching is that, with the exception of meditation spots ( which improve your max well being) none of the collectibles actually made a lot of an influence on my playthrough. For context, I’m somebody that basically doesn’t care all that a lot about cosmetics, which is why I by no means felt tremendous compelled to hunt out Bridge of Spirits’ collectibles when most of the time they simply ended up being both new hats for my Rot or foreign money that I may use to purchase extra hats for my Rot. Sure, there are Cursed Chests, that are enjoyable to trace down as a result of they pressure you to finish a fight problem with a purpose to open them – nevertheless it’s virtually all the time disappointing whenever you undergo a troublesome battle and your reward is… yet one more a humorous little hat to placed on one of your humorous little creatures. So I fairly rapidly misplaced the motivation to do extra of it.
One remaining space that deserves a particular point out is the boss battles, that are some of probably the most intense and difficult I’ve fought all yr. Every struggle feels distinct, the large ones have appropriately epic music, and there are so much of them too. Some of the smaller boss battles even wind up turning into common enemies that you must struggle towards later, and that’s a pleasant technique to revisit some of probably the most enjoyable and tough fights.