Kena: Bridge of Spirits – We Need More Mid Budget Games – Magazine

It’s not that I dislike big budget productions. On the contrary, this year I caught up on a few PS4 highlights, such as Horizon: Zero Dawn. Really great game. But Kena shows me, once again, why I like mid-range titles so much these days. The title is by no means perfect. If there had been enough time for a test, Kena would probably have ended up in the low to mid 80s for me. Plus, it’s about as innovative as grandma’s cheesecake. But that doesn’t matter.

Bye-bye, Ubiworld

Well, I’m sorry, but the French just have to act as the bad guys for a moment. Why? In the meantime, most Ubisoft titles seem to be based on a clear blueprint that can be used for single players as well as for MMOs. To do this, you combine an open world with plenty of occupational therapy tasks, enough building elements and GaaS such as weekly and monthly quests, cosmetics and other (micro) DLCs into an overall package that keeps players on the ball for as long as possible. The whole thing then please packaged suitable for the masses. In general, that’s not a bad thing, at least not per se. But with the big budget titles, the independence often falls by the wayside. Triple A now simply has to be sales-optimized, the sometimes three-digit million budgets just have to come in again. At this point, by the way, the ironic fact should be noted that Horizon was actually the best Ubiworld game ever, but unfortunately it’s not from Ubisoft.

Practically speaking, the ‘middle games’ don’t need this to the same extent. Kingdom Come: Deliverance, for example, easily made it into the profit zone with its more or less realistic Middle Ages and without dramatic world rescue. By last year, 3 million units had been sold, and not that fast. For a triple A franchise, we would probably be in doomsday scenarios here, in the middle segment, let’s call it the A to AA budget world, that’s enough. And the mid budget simply offers more freedom of development.

The slightly different gaming experience

Back to Kena. As I said, it’s not innovative. Instead, there is a relatively linear action adventure, also not a real open world but semi-open areas, as they already existed in the days of Jak & Daxter. In fact, the game structure is also reminiscent of the blissful PS2 and Gamecube times. The combat system also borrows from Dark Souls or Zelda. Speaking of Zelda, one or the other task to unlock the little Rott is a little reminiscent of the Krog tasks in Breath of the Wild. Or other Zeldas. By the way, Kena is also pretty crisp on normal. Even the story mode is not a sure-fire success here. Even if it makes life drastically easier. No, Kena is not innovative in terms of gameplay. Not even if we use the Rott to use some kind of switch or to remove the rot from things. But playfully it is always rock solid to really good. Most importantly, it does something in terms of gameplay that Triple A titles are increasingly shying away from.

But the world, design and plot are just as interesting. You can actually see enough of the former, with the successful character design, sympathetic heroine and cute Rott, Kena can definitely score all around. A story like that in Kena would almost certainly not come from a Triple A game. Restoring the spirits of the deceased is not the most typical game task anyway. It’s even less so when you actually make friends with the spirits of children, for example. The narrative style here is rather undramatic and leisurely. You only save the world for a short time somewhere else. By the way, that doesn’t have to be pleasing, but I always find it very pleasant when a game goes its own way here.

Of course, there would also be the strongly Indonesian influenced music and the graphic design of the game world, which clearly borrows from Southeast Asia. Everything together makes Kena: Bridge of Spirits a very unique gaming experience. Practically speaking, it doesn’t have to be as popular with the masses as a big budget title.

More other please

Mid budget games might be enough if the niche is big enough. In contrast to smaller indie productions, there are already higher production values ​​and often longer playing times. But also more independence than with the really big and correspondingly mass-compatible titles. It doesn’t have to be an indie studio that tackles such games. You can probably locate both Ori parts or Metroid Dread in this area. The most interesting thing is definitely the complexity. From Metroidvania to the not-so-bombastic role-playing game or action adventure to mech action or the off-road truck simulation, everything is in there. Incidentally, Ubisoft could also take this as an example, one or the other suitable hero would even be slumbering in the backlog if you don’t dare to do anything new.


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