This week saw the release of Kena: Bridge of Spirits on several systems. The game was developed by Ember Lab, an indie studio comprised of only 14 people who went viral thanks to their fan animation of The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask.
According to co-lead developer Josh Grier, creating a video game after the team's surge in popularity was "the natural next step" for them after their video.
The game was formally announced in June 2020 during the PlayStation 5's official hardware unveiling. While originally being developed as a console-exclusive title for the PlayStation 4, the team eventually received the tools to develop the game for the PlayStation 5 as well, according to an interview with the developers for Game Informer.
After numerous delays, including one caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Kena was finally released on September 21, 2021.
Is 'Kena: Bridge of Spirits' an open-world game? Not really!
The story follows the eponymous Kena, a young spirit guide on a quest across a forest wasteland in search of a sacred shrine in the mountains. Along the way, she communicates with the lingering ghosts of the deceased.
Throughout the game, she interacts with all sorts of spirits and tries to help them move onto the afterlife, while also meeting living inhabitants who help her on her journey. The spirits that she meets can become corrupted and must be dealt with through combat.
Players control Kena in this third-person action-adventure title. Throughout the game, she uses her magical staff and various weapons to fend off enemies and explore her surroundings. She can also collect spirit companions called "the Rot," an expandable group of critters that can help complete tasks or even distract foes.
As your faithful and adorable companions, the Rot can even be outfitted with new clothes such as hats.
Kena's journey, however, is not exactly open-world. The game is played from a third-person perspective and features a hub world in-between explorable jungle-like areas. While there is a degree of free-roaming and traversal throughout this vast adventure, the world itself doesn't feature the wide, explorable spaces that are found in other games like Breath of the Wild.
Like any good next-gen game, however, Kena also features a photo mode that lets players take detailed pictures of Kena's world.
The game is playable on multiple platforms and is currently available on PlayStation 4 and Playstation 5, and also available on PC through the Epic Games Store. The PlayStation 5 version uses the DualSense controller's haptic feedback, which simulates the physical feel of various in-game actions such as Kena using her Spirit Bow.
What are critics saying about 'Kena?'
The game was showcased at the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival through an hour-long playable demo, which received positive reviews.
The game itself garnered good reception. Metacritic calculated an average critical score of 81/100, indicating "generally favorable" reviews. Many critics praised its deep combat, level of exploration, and high-end graphics and visuals.