Title: Kena: Bridge of Spirits

Developer: Ember Lab | Publisher: Ember Lab | Expected Release: 24th August 2021


Having settled into the first wave of next generation console games, it is time to start getting excited about what else there is to look forward to. There are the obvious big hitters, such as Horizon Forbidden West from Guerrilla Games and Santa Monica Studio's next God of War instalment, but they are not the only things that have caught my photographic eye.


One of several titles from indie studios shown during Sony's original PS5 reveal, Kena: Bridge of Spirits continues to impress having appeared as one of the headline titles in the recent State of Play presentation from PlayStation. A story-driven action adventure game which looks extremely captivating thanks to an intriguing tale and gorgeous visuals that belie the size of the team involved in creating it. If you haven't already had the pleasure, here's the trailer again...

Lead by brothers Josh and Mike Grier, the California-based creators, Ember Lab, consists of just 14 people with a collective passion for creating character-driven and cinematic stories. Originally formed as an animation studio, their previous work includes the production of short CGI-based films, such as the highly acclaimed fan film Majora's Mask - Terrible Fate and the award winning sci-fi fantasy story, Dust. This storytelling background makes the studio's debut into the gaming world an all the more fascinating project.

Kena's journey of self-discovery will see players pitted against ominous wandering spirits in battle

The prospect of such a disciplinary cross-over, as talented animators and motivated storytellers turn to video games as the perfect platform to create an immersive and engaging experience, is an exciting one. What's more, I can't help but feel that there is a certain parallel between the transition of the creator's work from cinematic to interactive and the way in which photo modes draw players in to connect with their games in a more engaging way than ever before. Far from a simple hunt for graphical fidelity, virtual photography thrives on inspiring content that provokes thoughtful composition and artistic expression, just look at Concrete Genie for example, and Ember Lab's tale seems to have plenty of potential to inspire.

[ concept art courtesy of Ember Lab ]


With very evident influence from traditional Japanese culture, the game world centres on rich forests and mountain shrines that would be well suited to being photographed. Meanwhile, title character Kena's journey of self-discovery will see players pitted against ominous wandering spirits in battle while recruiting help from some more adorable companions along the way. In fact, one of the game's most interesting concepts comes from these helpful, Pikmin-esque fur balls, who were arguably the star of the show in the trailer. Not-so-affectionately know as Rot, Kena's spirit helpers literally embody the life force that is released from the decay of dead and rotting elements. If you're looking for some thematic inspiration, there it is.


Thanks to the State of Play trailer, we know know to expect a release on the 24th August and the game is looking like an amazing example of what can be achieved by a passionate group with a creative direction. It is a testament to the underlying desire of the team at Ember Lab and my only hope is that they have also decide to embrace the creativity of their audience with a little bit of photo mode love. If we're given the chance, this could be a beautiful journey on which to take our virtual cameras.

- Pre-Order Kena: Bridge of Spirits -

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