Developer Ember Lab’s debut title, Kena: Bridge of Spirits, is out. The PlayStation console exclusive is available for PS5, PS4, and PC (via the Epic Games Store). If you’re jumping in, you may have noticed that Bridge of Spirits is more challenging than the game’s cute art style originally lets on–we’ve got 13 tips to help you be a better spirit guide.
In Bridge of Spirits, you play as Kena, a spirit guide on a personal quest that sees her stumbling upon a deserted village. The village and its surrounding areas are full of the spirits of the people who once lived there, many of whom can’t move on as a result of their individual traumas. Kena’s goal lies beyond the village, but she’ll only be able to reach it if she helps the spirits she encounters.
For those still on the fence, check out GameSpot’s Kena: Bridge of Spirits review, in which Phil Hornshaw writes, “Kena: Bridge of Spirits is ultimately a game about making those connections, just like it’s about making a connection with the game world around you through the Rot. It centers on characters who tried valiantly but failed to help one another, and what dealing with that pain did to them. It’s about exploring a world and seeing what it once was, and helping to restore it again. And while Kena: Bridge of Spirits is full of familiar-feeling combat and exploration, its ability to find different ways to look at those ideas makes for a beautiful, emotional, and exciting journey.”
Blocking Should Be A Last Resort
Kena possesses an omnidirectional shield that she can hold for a pretty long time, which, in a pinch, is a powerful defensive measure. But it’s not one that you want to rely on. Kena’s shield should be considered a last resort–something that you use when all else fails and you know you’re about to get hit.
This is because the shield slows Kena down. Early on, this isn’t too much of a problem, but after the opening hours of the game, you’ll start facing groups of enemies, minibosses, and bosses, all of which are both fast and hit incredibly hard. Standing in place and raising a shield may protect you from the first few attacks, but even once it’s upgraded, the shield can’t withstand multiple blows from groups of enemies or combo platters dished out by hard-hitting minibosses and bosses, some of which can smash through Kena’s shield in a single swing.
So early on, get into the habit of parrying, dodging, and jumping to counter and avoid enemy attacks. Parrying is a crucial skill to get down, and one that can come in clutch later down the line–it’s a skill you’ll just have to practice to get better at. Most of the hardest hitting attacks in Bridge of Spirits have a tiny window of opportunity to parry, so having a solid grasp on dodging is good for avoiding those. Jumping can help too, in that smaller enemies and larger enemies that attack with horizontal swings can’t reach Kena when she double jumps. As you play, you’ll naturally begin to recognize patterns and learn whether to parry, dodge, or jump to protect yourself–and since all three of those actions can lead into attacks, they’re much better than just standing still and blocking, waiting for the enemies to stop pummeling you in order to attack.
When All Else Fails, Stun Interrupt
Beyond just defending, Kena can aggressively stop certain attacks too. As you play, you’ll notice that all enemies–including minibosses and bosses–usually have a couple of attacks with long wind-ups. Parrying or dodging these attacks is all about timing, but there is an easier way of avoiding them: arrows and bombs.
Kena’s long-range arsenal can knock enemies out of their animations (in most cases–not all!), which will stop them from using whatever attack they were preparing. Once you unlock new powers, using an arrow is the easiest way to do so, given the speed at which Kena can fire one off. However, bombs (which you unlock later in the game) can typically work too–the key is that you usually have to hit the enemy in the head, which is easier to do with the bow.
There is a big exception to this rule. You’ll see that some minibosses and bosses have these powerful attacks with huge wind-ups–they’re easy to spot because during the wind-up, the enemy emits a red mist. That red is telegraphing a blow that Kena cannot interrupt nor block–you’re only hope is an exceptionally well-timed dodge.
Maybe this advice came through in the description of the last two tips, but it’s worth saying: be aggressive. Bridge of Spirits may look like a charming experience inspired by 3D The Legend of Zelda games–and it is, in many respects–but, as mentioned in an interview with Game Informer, many of the developers at Ember Labs are huge fans of the Soulsborne games and Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. And that is really evident in Bridge of Spirits’ combat.
In Bridge of Spirits, combat is hard, and the only way to really alleviate its challenge is through Kena’s powerful Rot-based abilities. They are excellent for dealing massive amounts of damage and controlling the flow of battle to give you some breathing room. The only way to use those abilities is by spending Courage, which can most easily be accrued in combat by dealing damage to enemies. There are other ways to gain Courage–on the two easier difficulties, you also accrue it whenever you take damage–but regardless of difficulty, you want to keep attacking and earn more Courage because beyond damage, Courage is also the only way you can heal during a fight too.
So never back off from a fight unless you absolutely need to (like you see an enemy approaching that’s going to self-destruct)–staying in the thick of combat and weakening enemies is crucial for both dealing the most damage and staying alive. Hitting most enemies also knocks them off-balance, so you’ll often avoid most damage by keeping your enemies reeling.
Achieve Ideal Performance
On PlayStation 5, you can determine whether you want to play Bridge of Spirits on Performance Mode or Fidelity Mode. The former targets 60fps at upscaled 4k resolution, while the latter locks the frame rate at 30fps at native 4k resolution.
Though Fidelity Mode makes the game a whole lot prettier, Performance Mode is better from a combat perspective. Sure, the game won’t be native 4k, but you’re getting more frames-per-second, and that makes it a whole lot easier to get that parry or dodge off in the ideal window. It’s not impossible on Fidelity Mode, but it is a bit harder.
Don’t Heal Until You Have To
Kena has a “just one more hit and you’re finished” state. You can tell when you’re one hit away from death by looking at the health bar–it will be red and flashing. Kena will always enter this state before death. So even if she only has a tiny sliver of health left, if it’s not red and blinking, you have at least one more hit before you’re one hit away from dying.
To maximize the effects of healing, it’s better to wait until you’ve entered this state before you send the Rot to grab more health–you can usually only heal a few times each fight, so just healing whenever is not an ideal strategy. Wait until you really need to heal before deciding to heal.
Listen To Your Senses
On PlayStation 5, the DualSense controller will vibrate with a soft heartbeat-like frequency when you’re close to a hidden Rot. The frequency will increase the closer to the Rot you are, so while you’re exploring, be sure to take stock of when your controller might be trying to tell you something. Though you don’t need to find all of the Rot, you’ll have to discover at least 65 of them in order to unlock all of Kena’s abilities.
Though Kena’s spirit pulse is primarily a tool for solving puzzles, lighting up dark spaces, and unlocking collectibles, it has offensive potential too. You’ll learn about the most useful aspect it has in combat early on–using it will send out your Rot to collect pieces of gold energy on the ground that fills your Courage gauge. And that’s important to remember!
But the pulse can be used for a lot more in combat. Most notably, it causes your bombs to explode, which helps if you don’t want to wait for the bombs to go off or you want to save your arrows (shooting a bomb with an arrow will also blow it up). One of the best ways to deal with a group of enemies closing in is to throw a bomb into the mix and immediately pulse, damaging the group. Just be sure you’re a distance away, as Kena can damage herself with her bombs.
Even The Playing Field
In most combat scenarios, you’ll have to kill all the enemies in order to reveal the source of the corruption and cleanse the area–you know you’re done with combat when enemies stop spawning. However, there are a few moments where you’ll be put into a fight where there are multiple points of corruption you’ll need to cleanse.
In these instances, one or two points can usually be cleansed right from the start and they’ll just keep spawning enemies indefinitely until you stop them. Try to get to these points first and close them as quickly as possible–they usually spawn smaller enemies that are meant to pester you and distract you from the larger main threat. So getting rid of them early on will make the fight so much easier.
The Enemy Of Your Enemy Is (Kind Of) A Friend
There’s friendly fire in Bridge of Spirits. So even though that unfortunately means that Kena can damage herself with her own bombs, it also means that the bigger enemies in the game–especially minibosses and bosses–can damage and even kill smaller enemies. So if you’re having trouble dealing with a group of enemies, try to angle a larger enemy’s attack to strike the smaller enemies around them. Once the herd has been thinned, you can move back in and finish off the weakened stragglers before focusing on the biggest threat.
Aim For Weak Points
The weak points on enemies, minibosses, and bosses are always marked in yellow–you have to shoot them with your bow, as they require a precise strike. Usually, that yellow is a crystalized chunk of amber and shooting them will knock that crystal off the enemy, which transforms into the gold energy that you or your Rot can collect to fill the Courage gauge and use your Rot-based abilities.
There are a few instances where these weak points can’t be shot at immediately–later on in the game, you’ll start running into foes encased in thick armor or rock and the only way to reveal their weak points is to bomb them. One of the bosses encases her weak points in armor too, so if a tough enemy doesn’t seem to have a weak spot, try bombing them. That will usually reveal what you need to hit.
The True Rot Hammer
Early on, you’ll unlock the ability to have the Rot interact with specific flowers in the environment, called Forest Tears, transforming the Rot into a mass that can water crops, clear corruption, and help solve certain puzzles. But it can be used as a weapon, too!
In instances where you can use that ability in combat or use it outside of combat and bring it to a fight, go for it. Both the spinning and slamming action that the Rot can do deal a lot of damage. Be careful though, as any hit–whether to Kena or the Rot–will immediately cause the Rot to scatter. So get in as many hits as you can before the enemy can touch you.
Don’t Be Frugal
You unlock a whole lot of in-game currency throughout Bridge of Spirits. So don’t feel like you have to be frugal when it comes to buying hats and masks for your Rot. You will be swimming in currency throughout the game even if you don’t spend a lot of time looking for secrets and collectibles, so spend at your leisure.
You’ll also earn plenty of Karma points, from killing enemies and doing things like feeding fruit to the Rot or fixing statues in the environment, to unlock new abilities for Kena at a fairly steady rate. You won’t earn enough that you can just buy whatever you want–unless you plan on searching off the beaten path and completing optional quests, you won’t finish the campaign with all of Kena’s skills unlocked. So if you’re not down to explore, you do have to be a bit more selective there. But when it comes to dressing the Rot in cute outfits, the sky’s the limit.
Pay Attention To The Environment
Though a majority of the puzzles in Bridge of Spirits are pretty straightforward, some–both mandatory and optional–aren’t. They had us scratching our heads, anyway.
But we quickly noticed that almost every puzzle incorporates some sort of hint for how to solve it. In most cases, that’s as easy as noticing that there’s a target in the distance, hinting that you’ll need your bow to unlock the way forward. But in a few cases, the hints are environmental–forcing you to look at the world around Kena in order to figure out what you need to do next.
So if you’re struggling on a puzzle, look at your immediate surroundings–are there crystals that look like they’re leading towards something, an altar where items have been displayed in a specific numeric order, or anything glowing blue you could shoot? You never have to leave a puzzle and go somewhere else for a hint towards the solution. If you’re stuck, the answer is somewhere there in front of you.