The plot and setting of Kena: Bridge of Spirits are centered on a small village that has recently suffered a great deal. A wooden mask serves as a memorial to the person for whom it was made and served as a connection to their spirit. Combining character-driven storytelling with tough but excellent fights and world-shaping mechanics, Kena is a fascinating and, at times, a heartbreaking journey that will have you wanting to explore every nook and cranny to discover everything there is to find.
By helping the village’s ghosts find peace through her connection to the spirit world, she can fight back against the corruption that has overtaken it and restore it to its former splendor. In most cases, your goal is to defeat a large number of enemies to gain access to Kena’s spirit energy, which can be used to destroy a nearby corrupted “heart.”
Even in the most accessible setting, enemies can deal a lot of damage and knock you out of the game if you are not paying attention. With a dodge, you can usually get yourself out of trouble, and you can generate a limited-power spirit shield to stop attacks, just like in other action games.
Kena: Bridge Of Spirits’ puzzles and combat have a new twist thanks to the Rot, which are small spirit companions you can find worldwide. With the help of these creatures, you can get a few free hits or attack a vulnerable point while the enemy is distracted. The Rot is also essential for exploiting the environment, as you must send them at hearts to neutralize them, and only a Rot action can heal Kena.
When fighting the Rot, you must always be on the attack and aware of your surroundings. Keeping track of where hearts spawn enemies and what items you use to heal is a must, and it’s often necessary to defeat smaller, weaker foes to build Rot charges, which you can then use to distract and eliminate larger, more powerful enemies.
You must balance your big-picture view of battle with the smaller, more intense moments of parrying a big hit or taking out a weak point by using the Rot effectively in combat. When those two elements combine, it can be a pain because it’s easy to miss a single dodge or block, causing failure to cascade on you or accidentally send the Rot after the wrong enemy when things get crowded out.
Even if you die, it’s not a big deal because, thanks to the PlayStation 5’s lightning-fast load times, the game continually gets you back into action as quickly as possible. It’s the Rot and the variety of ways you can use them in Kena: Bridge Of Spirits battles that make them feel fun and intelligent, even though combat in Kena is generally challenging and exciting due to well-executed dodge-and-parry mechanics. While you are not engaged in battle, Rot will follow you around the environment, appearing on ledges and bridges to assist you in reaching higher platforms.
There are situations where you must think about what you can do with the unlockable bow or platform-levitating bombs and what the Rot can do to alter the environment. Kena does an excellent job of combining this with the necessity to give the Rot commands clever uses of Kena’s abilities. Seeing something the Rot can move or an object you can use spirit energy to interact with illuminates the path forward most of the time enough. However, the puzzles are only challenging sufficient to make you feel accomplished for solving the most of the time.
To top it all off, Kena is chock-full of collectibles, such as Rot spirits that can be found hiding in plain sight and hats that can be used to customize them. They are lost, but you have the power to guide and assist them in moving forward by forgiving themselves. Your journey through each section of the game is about piecing together the backstory of the people you will meet along the way and learning more about their lives and what happened to them.
When you play any of these games, you are not just assisting a human spirit that has been twisted and corrupted by their trauma into a dangerous and powerful boss; you are also helping the hearts of those who cared about the character but could not reach them. Although the village has been largely destroyed, you can still detect signs of life thanks to your interactions with the various residents you will meet throughout the game.
The game’s plot implies that Kena, like the spirits she sets out to help, has been scarred by some tragedy in her past. As you will discover when you play Kena: Bridge Of Spirits, it’s all about making connections with other players and the game world around you via the Rot. It’s about characters who tried their best to help one another but ultimately failed, and what dealing with the pain did to them.
It’s about discovering the past of a world and working to bring it back to life. While the combat and exploration in Kena: Bridge of Spirits are familiar, the game’s ability to find new angles on those ideas makes for a more beautiful, emotional, and fascinating journey.