Could Kena: Bridge of Spirits be the next big story franchise?
When I look back at the PS4 era, two of the most critically acclaimed games seemed to have appeared out of nowhere but achieved phenomenal success. They were new IPs so a huge financial risk to the developers if they got it wrong, but that also meant until the game arrived there was no fan base to support it. Those games were Horizon Zero Dawn, and Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice.
Horizon Zero Dawn proved a huge studio (Guerrilla Games) could make the transition from one established franchise (Killzone) to another and be successful in doing so (I personally rate Horizon Zero Dawn as the PS4 game of the generation). Following the success of Horizon Zero Dawn, Horizon Forbidden West is now one of the most eagerly anticipated titles for the PS5.
Hellblade, on the other hand, although not a world away from what developer Ninja Theory was making anyway, was another risk. Designed as a shorter AAA game experience, it had just a 6 to 8-hour playthrough, however, its price point was more accessible for players, at $29.99/£24.99. Would players buy a cheaper game knowing they weren’t getting anything longer than a few hours experience? Well, when it came to Hellblade, they did in their droves! Unfortunately for PlayStation fans, Ninja Theory is now part of Xbox Game Studios, so the incredible looking sequel won’t be coming to Sony’s new behemoth.
Step up to the plate, Kena: Bridge of Spirits!
During the PlayStation 5’s first games presentation, the visuals of one game, in particular, stood out. I was shocked at first as I simply thought I was watching the trailer for a new Pixar film. Then, when I realized that this was in fact a game, I thought what I was looking at was simply a pre-rendered cinematic trailer and the actual gameplay wouldn’t be the same. Then the new trailer arrived, showing me that what I had been seeing was not a new film or cinematic trailer, but was in fact actual PS5 gameplay visuals. Picking my jaw up off the floor, I then decided to find out which behemoth of the PlayStation studios was making this game? Naughty Dog? Santa Monica Studios? Guerilla Games? None of them. It was a small company called Ember Lab.
“Who is Ember Lab?”, I hear you ask.
Ember Lab, the developer of this stunning looking game, is a small team that has been around since 2009. Set up as an animation and digital content studio, they previously made short animated films or adverts for brands like Coca-Cola, HiSense and MLB. Ember Lab also produced the award-winning short film, Dust, and the critically acclaimed Majora’s Mask fan film, Terrible Fate. The success of these projects has led to them developing Kena: Bridge of Spirits – their first foray into the world of game development.
As we approach the release date of the game, the price point has also been revealed at the welcomingly low price of £32.99 or $40 (£31.99 for PC on the Epic Games Store).
Much like Hellblade, we have a new IP with triple-A visuals releasing at a lower price point. Have we got a mix of Horizon Zero Dawn with Hellblade? Historically, games that hit significantly lower price points than the $60-70 price point that is rapidly becoming the norm, tend to either be expansive but less graphically accomplished, or beautiful but ultimately very short games. Given how good Kena looks, the expectation is that this is likely to be a short but sweet gaming experience.
I myself have been craving a great story-driven game that is not all about death, destruction, doom, and gloom (looking at you, The Last of Us 2). I’m also really looking forward to finding a PlayStation console exclusive with stunning visuals to show off my PS5. At just £32.99, Kena is at an extremely enticing and attainable target: Sign me up now! The fact that Ember Lab describe themselves as “being driven by a passion for storytelling” only elevates the hype-o-meter of expectancy further.
The game itself looks like a magical adventure with very cute sidekicks called “Rots”. The details of the game also reiterate the expectancy of what’s to come.
“A story-driven action-adventure, the game seamlessly blends narrative with exploration, puzzle-solving, and fast-paced combat for a beautiful, immersive journey. Kena: Bridge of Spirits, takes players on a journey of self-discovery as Kena restores balance to an ancient village in a once-thriving environment. Players take on the role of Kena, a young Spirit Guide on a quest to uncover the mysterious story surrounding the demise of the village. Using her staff and the help of her collection of tiny companions known as the Rot, the player will disarm adversaries, unlock new skills, uncover secrets, and restore the beauty of the land”
With such intoxicating visuals, created by a development team renowned for their crafting of stories, albeit in a different form of media, is it any wonder we at Total Gaming Addicts are hoping Kena: Bridge of Spirits will follow in the footsteps of Aloy from Horizon Zero Dawn and be the next big franchise on PlayStation?
Anyone hoping to pick up Kena from the Epic Games Store on PC should be aware that it has some relatively hefty system requirements. Recommended specs include an i7-6700K and GTX 1070 (or equivalent). Although this is older hardware, it still points to needing a capable rig to get the best out of this game.
Join us here at Total Gaming Addicts as we hope to bring you more news and a full review of the game upon its worldwide release date of 24th August 2021, for PS4, PS5 and Windows PC (Epic Games Store).