It’s the Rots that grab most people’s attention on seeing Kena: Bridge of Spirits in action on PS5 (opens in new tab). These little soot sprite-like creatures are cute as all hell but according to Mike Grier of developer Ember Lab they’re also incredibly useful: "The Rot are key to every aspect of gameplay. They can be used in combat, to augment abilities. They can be used to manipulate the environment, to carry things for you, and the more Rot you have, the stronger you're going to be and the more abilities you get to unlock," he explains.
The game sees you playing as Kena. “She's a spirit guide that's travelled to this forgotten village and soon discovers that there are many trapped lingering spirits”, Mike explains. “It becomes clear that there are larger forces at play that have corrupted the environment and stopped things from moving on." And that’s where you and the Rot come in, because Kena decides to help the spirits but she can’t do it alone.
“You ultimately have to get to know what happened to [the spirits] in their past life”, explains Mike’s brother and co-developer Josh Grier. “To do so you're looking for clues in the environment, facing combat challenges and solving puzzles. But ultimately, it relies on building and growing your team of Rot. You see them carrying statues around for you, and attacking enemies, but there really are a lot of uses for the Rot, and abilities you can upgrade. We're only giving you a taste here, there are a lot more tricks up the Rot's sleeve."
That doesn't mean Kena can’t take care of herself though. "With the gameplay we really wanted to show off a bit of Kena's mobility,” Josh points out, "so you see her running and double jumping, which adds a lot to the fast-paced combat.” Having a more capable lead character is necessary as, despite the cuteness, there are “darker elements of the game” we’ve yet to fully see. The moments shown where Kena battles spirits is only the start. “We wanted to use [the trailer] to set this darker tone,” says Mike, “as the player is going to be exposed to some darker themes in the storytelling."
And if you’re wondering when you’ll get to explore those darker themes, as well as building your army of dark cuteness, Josh signs off by telling us, "we're targeting a holiday release, and it'll be coming to PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4 and the Epic Games Store."
If you want to see more on Kena: Bridge of Spirits and other upcoming PS5 games (opens in new tab) then we've got you covered.