Title: Kú: Shroud of the Morrigan
Developer: BitSmith Games
Publisher: BitSmith Games
Its not too often you get an Action RPG based on Celtic Mythology combined with steampunk elements but somebody had to do it eventually right?
Kú: Shroud of the Morrigan for iPad is the first big release in the episodic series from Irish indie game studio BitSmith games. The game takes place in a alternate, futuristic and almost apocalyptic version of Ireland and features an alternate retelling of the classic celt story The Tain. It tells the story of a young ruffian by the name of Kú who goes on a dangerous quest to search for the stolen cores which power his village. A Youngster with little or no combat training tasked with saving a village, sounds like your standard video game affair but as soon as you start the game you instantly see what makes this game unique.
All of the artwork in this game is hand drawn and when you combine the celtic influences with steampunk ideas you get some really good environments and characters. The NPC’s are colourful characters and the enemies designs are pretty standout as well. Kú’s village and one cave area later in the game which features neon foliage are mesmerising moments in terms of how pretty this game can be. Unfortunately this isn’t true for all areas in the game , the wasteland where you spend a lot of game in is boring and a little generic compared to the rest of the game. I’m aware a wasteland is generally bland but given how beautiful other areas of the game are it really stands out for not being stand out.
The gameplay for the most part is solid, the game uses a simple point to move mechanic which isn’t uncommon for a lot of iOS titles. You touch the screen at a location and your character will move in that direction. You double tap in a direction to roll and you tap enemies to attack. At one point in the game you also get access to a hurley that shoots plasma balls which can help you stun enemies and solve puzzles which is pretty cool, you swipe in a direction to shoot them in said direction. It all sounds very simple and like I said for the most part the controls are solid but there are some issues. Moving is good and fluid but on many occasions Kú can easily get caught in the environments on objects such are trees and off the sides of walls, its nothing major but it can be quite frustrating while trying to navigate.
Another big part of the the game is its puzzles, which for the most part are pretty straight forward. Kú has a glove that allows him to manipulate objects in his environment and most of the puzzles take advantage of this gadget. There were only one or two standout puzzles and most were very easy to solve, theres nothing wrong with that but there is something about being able to complete a ridiculously hard puzzle and that sense of accomplishment that’s missing a little here.
Kú is actually quite a linear game, the story moves you along at a good pace through the environments which you can explore but there there really isn’t too much to find outside of the odd diary log or health pick up but they usually aren’t too far off the beaten path. The boss battles range from interesting to mindless, one boss had me avoiding attacks while traversing across a path which I liked, but another boss basically had me just tapping the attack button till he died and again it feels as if that moment of utter bliss at beating the crap out of a hard boss is just out of reach.
Kú favours mostly ambient electronic background tracks which actually compliment the game quite well. Some of the tunes are really good and the boss tracks are especially memorable but a lot of the games music is generic and while it is a solid soundtrack there is nothing really that I would be playing in my spare time.
I feel I am coming across a bit harsh with Kú, on one side the hand drawn characters and their world is one of beauty and flair that would make Bastion jealous. The celtic influences are implemented very well and help create both a story that’s familiar and new and the addition of being able to play the entire game “as Gaeilge” is really neat, but when it comes down to gameplay it just feels like there is something missing. Theres no real challenge to combat. There aren’t too many areas to explore, and with very few items to collect and very simple puzzles it creates a game with little to no replay value. The games problems aren’t all down to the limitations of the touch controls but it has a big part to play.
I’m aware there is a greenlight project for this game to be brought to Steam with the addition of controller support and if a few bugs are ironed out and the gameplay is refined a bit this has the potential to be a wonderful game, but as it stands Kú: Shroud of the Morrigan is at it’s heart a fun iPad game to play on a rainy afternoon, a beautiful clash of Irish mythology, ingenuity and drive.
Hopefully for the next release in the series we will get amore refined game which truly lives up the potential that is so clearly there and if Kú is the game that catapults Irish Indie developers onto the scene the bitSmith games can be proud of their work!
– Wonderfully realised world with interesting characters
– Beautiful visuals
– Controls are finicky
– Combat and Puzzles are lacking that hardcore challenge
. . .
You can download Kú: Shroud of the Morrigan now from the Apple Store by clicking here!
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