PlayStation Plus freebie is one the best action-adventure games out there
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Featured Image Credit: Kerde Severin via Unsplash, Sony
Last year was an incredible 12 months for gaming. Between God of War Ragnarök, Horizon Forbidden West, and Elden Ring, there were some stellar new titles released. Amidst this though, I also got around to catching up on a few gems I’d missed the year prior - at least I hoped they’d be gems. Thankfully, I was right, and one such game ended up landing among my all-time favourites. If you just so happen to be a PlayStation Plus subscriber, you currently have access to one of the most enchanting, challenging, and surprising action-adventure games out there. I’m talking about Kena: Bridge of Spirits.
Developed by Ember Labs and released in 2021, Kena: Bridge of Spirits follows a young spirit guide, Kena, who must use her magical abilities to help those who have passed away transcend to the spirit world. The world she protects has been corrupted though by a rogue malevolent spirit. It’s a third-person game, and along the way, Kena is joined by tiny little spirit companions known as Rot. If you need any convincing to play this game, let me just tell you that having 99 of these little guys waddling around after you is the definition of wholesome joy.
Take a look at Kena: Bridge of Spirits in action below.
Upon release, some criticised Kena’s simplicity, but I actually think that’s one of its greatest strengths - and a huge part of its charm actually. It’s a game that made me nostalgic for the PlayStation 2 and Xbox 360 eras in terms of its game design. Kena: Bridge of Spirits has a small open-world for you to explore (although many areas are blocked until you acquire certain abilities), but you’re not bogged down by side quests. You don’t converse with endless NPCs. All that matters is the quest before you, the Rot who are there to assist you, and the enemies who stand in your path.
It’s this prevalent sense of peace and tranquillity that drew me in. Every now and then, Kena will meditate to increase her health. The moment can last for as long as you wish. These sequences allow you to take in Kena’s epic surroundings as you listen to the swelling score, enhanced by the sounds of nature. It’s no surprise that Kena is so content on her own in this world. It’s the definition of zen.
Well, when you’re not encountering the foes that plague these lands that is. With her nomadic look and bow and arrow, Kena reminded me a little of Horizon’s Aloy, but don’t be fooled by the sweet creatures or animated cutscenes that would be right at home in a Disney film. Kena: Bridge of Spirits packs a punch when it comes to combat, with boss battles akin to those you’d find in soulsborne games - and that’s no exaggeration. A friend played this game on my recommendation the other day and the journey from ‘This is really lovely’ to ‘This is like playing Elden Ring’ was rapid.
These boss battles are certain to catch you off guard and while, to begin with, I wasn’t too sure about how these affected the pacing, I soon came to love their intensity. They’re challenging, but it’s a welcomed challenge. For me, the jarring boss battles served as a reminder of why Kena’s journey is so important. As I said, the village Kena inhabits should be rather zen. These boss fights disrupt that in terms of the gameplay, just as they disrupt the tranquillity narratively. I should add, there are several difficulty modifications so if you do want to cruise through the story, that’s totally fine and doable.
I’ve mentioned them briefly already, but I have to delve into just how delightful the Rot truly are. They’re essentially little blobs with eyes. If you know Toothless from How To Train Your Dragon, there’s definitely a similar aesthetic shared, albeit on a much smaller scale. As you journey through the game, you’ll be tasked with acquiring more and more Rot. The more you collect, the more you have following you around - and it won’t be long before you have 99 babies trailing after you.
They waddle. They swim. You can pet them. You can feed them - and in battle, it’s their powers that make the difference between life and death, imbuing your weapons with boosted attacks. They may not speak, but I can quite honestly say that the Rot are one of my favourite gaming companions ever. There’s no way you can look at these lil’ guys and not beam with joy. What more could you possibly ask for? Oh that’s right, you can dress them in various hats too.
Something that works in Kena: Bridge of Spirits’ favour is its length. You can probably complete the main story in around 10 hours or less. Amidst much chunkier games that are dominating conversations right now, like The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom and Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, that’s a nice bite-sized break, so go on. Give Kena: Bridge of Spirits a try. You won’t regret it.