Kena: Bridge of Spirits is our most recent cover-story game, and we’ve dedicated 14 pages to Ember Lab’s adventure title in this issue. We’re sure you have plenty of questions about the game, which made its debut during Sony’s PlayStation 5 reveal event. We certainly did, and after spending several days talking with the team and playing the game (on PlayStation 5 hardware! ), we have answers to some of the most frequently asked questions online.
Q1. Who is Kena?
Kena is the game’s protagonist. More precisely, she is a spirit guide — a person endowed with a rare ability who may assist restless spirits in reaching a peaceful conclusion. According to the lore of Kena: Bridge of Spirits, people who have experienced significant trauma or have unresolved business might remain between the physical and spirit worlds, causing trouble for regular (living) people. Kena’s job is to figure out what is preventing them from going forward and to understand them in reconciling previous occurrences.
Q2. Does that mean if she dies in the game she will live on in limbo as a restless spirit because she wasn’t able to help other spirits while she was alive? Unfinished business, and all?
Oh. That is an excellent question. I’m not sure how to respond to that. Perhaps a simpler question?
Q3. How to pronounce Kena’s name?
It’s pronounced KAY-nuh.
Q4. Does Kena talk?
Yep! Although her voice acting was not finalised in the demo, Ember Lab’s chief creative officer, Mike Grier, told us that she had a lot to say. Kena is played by an actress who also sings vocals to several of the soundtrack’s tracks.
Q5. Where are we, anyway?
Bridge of Spirits is set in a fictional place that pays reference to a variety of Eastern locales. You’ll find nods to Japan, Bali, and other places in the topographical features and architecture. Kena is also not from the place she explores in the game. She had to travel quite a way to get there. Mike quips that she didn’t ride her bike over, to give you a sense of how far she’s come.
Q6. What’s up with those little guys we saw in the trailer?
These are the Rot, and they play a crucial role in the game, both in terms of gameplay and storey. As Kena travels around, she can locate them hidden in the world (like hidden Toads in a Paper Mario game), and they’ll join her. This is not a coincidental name. They are in charge of decomposing things, and their dispersal is one of the reasons why this region has become tainted with corruption.
Q7. What can they do?
Quite a few things! Kena can direct them to shift items around to help her outside of combat. Can’t traverse a wide gap? Maybe they can pull a broken bridge back into form momentarily. Are you unable to ascend to that ledge? They can position a block and give her a boost. In combat, Kena can use the Rot to confuse adversaries or inject unique strength into her assaults. The Rot are cautious by nature, however, and players will have to develop their courage by hurting foes before they’ll engage the fight.
Q8. They can enter the fight? Uh oh. Can they die?
Nope! Mike does not want players to view the Rot as a disposable resource; once a Rot is found, they are a permanent member of the squad. You don’t need to bother about digging little little graves or anything awful like that.
Q9. What can Kena do?
She is capable of a great deal. Besides employing her staff’s standard light, heavy, and charged assaults, she can receive an upgrade that bends the staff and turns it into a bow. She can utilise a pulse ability to form a bubble-like shield around herself to defend herself. It has a health metre of its own, which is reduced by enemy strikes. It has its own health metre, which gets reduced by opponent hits. If she activates it at the right time, it will stun adversaries and make them more vulnerable to attack.
Q10. Some of that sounds kind of familiar. Is this like a 3D Zelda?
If the trailer gave you those kinds of vibes, you’re not far off. There’s obviously a 3D Zelda influence in the game, which shouldn’t come as a surprise considering a prior Ember Lab project.
Q11. Is there any kind of character customization?
During our demo, we did not witness Kena change her attire or receive any cosmetic enhancements. Players can dress the Rot with a variety of various headgear, however. These may be found in the world, and players can buy hats for particular Rot crew members by paying gems, which can also be found in the world.
Q12. Are there microtransactions?
Q13. That sounds really cute. Is there going to be a way for me to capture how adorable my team looks?
If you’re requesting a photo mode, the team shares your excitement. Josh says the studio wants to include such a mode, but they can’t say whether that feature would make it in time for launch or if it will come via a later update.
Q14. What engine did they build this with?
Strange question, but Ember Lab created Kena: Bridge of Spirits using Unreal 4. An early version was constructed in Unity, but work migrated over to Unreal.
Q15. Is this an open-world game?
Nope! You’ll come upon a village early on in the game that serves as a centre. From there, you can travel to various connected regions. Consider it to be wide linear. There are secrets to locate and stuff to explore off the main path, but it’s not an open-world game.
Q16. What is the advantage of PS5 vs PS4?
We only saw the game running on PlayStation 5, so we can’t offer any side-by-side comparisons, although there are differences between the PS4 and PS5 versions. One of the most noticeable differences is the quantity of Rot you’ll see onscreen. On PS5, all of them can be visible simultaneously. On PS4, you’ll still be able to gather all 100 of them, but they’ll appear in smaller numbers. They won’t be any less useful in combat or during problem solving, but there won’t be as many of them visible at once. On PlayStation 5, the trees and overall greenery are also denser.
Q17. How long is it?
It’s difficult to quantify this due of the variety of side activities, but Josh says they set out to make something players could comfortably finish over a weekend.
Q18. How much does it cost?
Kena: Bridge of Spirits will not be $60. We don’t know the precise price yet, but it won’t cost as much as a regular full-priced retail game. If you buy it on PS4, you may also upgrade to PS5 at no extra cost.
Q19. It looks cute, but is it challenging?
Mike claims the dev team includes many Sekiro and Soulsborne fans, and that while the game isn’t nearly up to FromSoftware’s difficulty, players will be challenged on the highest setting. On the other end of the scale, enemies won’t be able to one-shot you in most difficulty settings; you will maintain one final sliver of life to give you a fighting chance against more tough enemies. Ember Lab wanted to build a game that families could enjoy together, whether your family merely wants to enjoy the storey or is looking for tougher battles.
Q20. This all sounds good, but I don’t have a PlayStation. Am I out of luck?
That you are not! It will also be available on PC via the Epic Games Store. As for when, Ember Lab hasn’t nailed down a specific release date, but you can anticipate to be playing it within a few months from now.