Rather a lot rests on the shoulders of a recreation’s protagonist. In spite of everything, the participant has to embody that character and ought to be drawn to them and their world. In Ember Lab’s Kena: Bridge of Spirits, we’re transported to a superbly animated non secular realm simply begging to be explored. Kena is our information. She has an aura of thriller round her, but additionally radiates a sort heat. Plus, she’s bought to be fairly superior if all these lovely Rot need to assist her. Whereas studying extra about Kena: Bridge of Spirits for this month’s cowl story, we couldn’t resist discovering out extra about our main woman and the story behind her creation.
Selecting A Protagonist
Imagine it or not, Kena was not all the time the star of the Ember Lab’s debut recreation. Early prototypes targeted extra on the black critters known as the Rot, experimenting with them because the antagonists after which relying closely on them out and in of battle to drive the sport. The truth is, Kena was not even within the crew’s first prototype. “She was a part of the subsequent one we did, and it was fleshing out her story and the story of what makes her distinctive and why the Rot trusts her and connects together with her; that was a giant a part of her improvement and the look of her and the talents that we needed her to have,” says chief artistic officer Mike Grier.
In earlier prototypes, Kena was a lot youthful, round seven or eight years previous, however that modified because the crew thought extra in regards to the story and what was on the core of it. “As we developed extra of a narrative and the themes and we knew we needed her to be a spirit information to assist these spirits transfer on, she wanted slightly extra expertise to do this,” Grier explains. “She’s nonetheless a youthful spirit information, nevertheless it didn’t really feel proper to have her being a baby attempting to empathize with these darker, extra grownup themes.”
Ember Lab favored the thought of getting Kena and the Rot come collectively for a standard objective of restoration, and the evolution began there. “As we began growing her character and the thought of her guiding spirits and serving to out different people, that’s when she began to essentially get her personal identification, and we needed to make her so on her personal she will stand toe-to-toe with these greater spirits. And I feel that offers her a variety of what folks join with once they see her and why folks like her a lot.” Grier says.
Getting Kena’s Look Simply Proper
As soon as Ember Lab had settled on Kena and a few of her core traits, it was time to start out placing collectively her design. The crew enlisted the assistance of its lead character designer Vic Kun, a longtime Ember Lab collaborator who has been constructing a reputation for himself within the Chinese language animation scene. “Since she is our predominant hero, we developed many variations and explored variations in coloration,” Kun says. “We struggled a bit to discover a steadiness between Kena’s design becoming into the world whereas nonetheless permitting her to face out. Our general temper and tone of the setting is often very forested and generally fairly darkish within the shadows of timber.”
As a consequence of these challenges, some concessions wanted to be made earlier than deciding on Kena’s look. “We determine to make use of 60 p.c off-white on her garments and blend in earth tone as a lot as attainable,” Kun says. “Mike and I additionally tried to work in an extended cape ingredient to assist Kena stand out a bit within the foliage. However when Animation began including pure motion to the piece, it ended up being distracting. So, we modified that right into a tighter scarf. It nonetheless has some motion and helps break up Kena’s define.”
Even the little particulars mattered, comparable to ensuring the needlework was seen on Kena’s scarf and pants. “The primary concept of the design for her costume is asymmetry in each element and including a handmade ingredient, Kun explains. “We tried to make her garments really feel handmade, sensible, and practical.” The crew additionally added particulars to the symbols to create a singular tradition for the sport. “We drew inspiration from Japanese and South East Asian cultures to tell the designs of our symbols,” Kun says.
One a part of Kena’s look that can get extra explored within the narrative is a scar on her arm. “You simply see slightly bit on her hand nevertheless it really runs up her entire arm onto her shoulder,” Grier says. “It represents this traumatic expertise she had together with her father.” As a result of it’s a giant plot level, we gained’t spoil something on how she will get it or the way it impacts the plot, however she does kind a particular reference to the primary Rot she meets on account of it.
A Purpose To Combat
At its core, Kena: Bridge of Spirits is a extra peaceable journey that has her being one with nature and on a quest primarily to revive peace and assist troubled spirits in want. Nonetheless, Ember Lab needed her to have some battle and funky powers to deal with it. The crew experimented with a variety of completely different concepts; at one level the Rot ran your entire present, “Initially, she didn’t have many skills of her personal, she was form of mainly like A Boy and his Blob; you may’t stand by yourself, you want the blob to do every part for you,” Grier shares.
Nonetheless, because the crew performed round extra with completely different ideas, they settled on one thing that felt proper and made sense for Kena as a spirit information. “One of many ways in which we’ve carried out that was ensuring that Kena feels powered up together with her spirit power and with the Rot, so it doesn’t really feel like she’s the Hulk by herself,” says designer Liz Fiacco. “There’s this magical edge to our fight. Attempting to make enemies threatening so it appears like she must defend herself versus she’s come right here to put waste to all these threats within the forest. I feel these two appear to be the angles we’ve used to maintain Kena constant by way of fight.”
Ember Lab additionally needed to make sure that fight felt lifelike to Kena’s skills and energy. In spite of everything, she is dealing with off towards enraged spirits. “She battles some fairly massive spirits, and we wish them to really feel intimidating,” Grier says. “A design objective for each fight recreation is: What would you like the fight to really feel like? Once you’re with Kratos, you’re simply final energy. However Kena will get tossed round rather a lot. If she will get hit by a giant assault, she’ll go flying and we needed to make her really feel weak in that sense. She’s sturdy, however she’s not this brutish type of [combatant].”
Kena will not be overpowered, however she will make up for it in attention-grabbing methods. She will be able to name within the Rot for assist to break and distract enemies as soon as their braveness meter is excessive sufficient, use her pulse capacity to provide a bubble that acts as a defend, or smack enemies with mild and heavy assaults utilizing her employees. She will be able to even flip mentioned employees right into a bow for ranged assaults.
Kena is not as massive because the spirits she faces, however she will use her agility to her benefit as effectively. “Kena’s mobility is one thing that I’ve been pushing for, and it’s been a problem making enemies with the ability to sustain together with her, as a result of she will dash, run, double soar, however I feel her mobility is de facto enjoyable,” Grier says.
Making Kena’s Journey Matter
Whereas Kena: Bridge of Spirits actually appears like a whimsical journey, teeming with childlike surprise in discoveries and lovely characters, it additionally offers with some extra severe and contemplative subject material. Kena’s journey might be an emotional one at instances. “Kena’s connecting with these spirits and having to allow them to go, and we’re attempting to place that very same type of emotional weight within the participant’s arms as a lot as we are able to,” Grier says. “If we are able to nail that and nothing else, I’ll be joyful.”
“As Kena helps out others, she learns about herself and positive factors one thing hopefully past sympathy, however extra towards empathy and understanding issues,” provides designer Jessica Kernan. “That may form of assist her additional her personal private improvement, which in flip helps her assist different folks. So we’re relating these massive, lofty concepts of how expertise, even the unhealthy issues, can lead us to relating higher to different people, mainly.”
It appears like Kena: Bridge of Spirits has loads of knowledge to supply, and we’ll study it by way of Kena, who Ember Labs clearly put a variety of thought into creating and making distinctive.