More like shroud of the Snore-igan. Am I right?
We humans are very curious creatures. We are drawn towards the strange, the peculiar and the unexplored. This applies no less to games. When the market is bloated with gritty war shooters and generic fantasy RPGs, we will immediately be drawn to a game with a unique setting or a fresh art style. A game like Ku: Shroud of the Morrigan. Often this urge to try new things can lead to a pleasant surprise but in this case, curiosity killed the reviewer.
Ku: Shroud of the Morrigan is an action adventure game set in a Celtic-punk world. Yes you heard right, Celtic-punk. You play as the young Ku, a boy from a tribe of strange Irish looking people who keep dancing when you try to talk to them. You are tasked by the king to travel to some place to find some ring for some reason. The plot might have been better than this but it was executed so badly that we found it absolutely impossible to pay enough attention to it. The whole thing was conveyed through text boxes, even movements were usually portrayed through the text boxes such as “Ku steps forward and volunteers”. Would that really have been so hard to animate? We’re not saying that text boxes can’t ever be an effective way to get a story across, it’s done well quite often but there are certain things that are necessary to make it work. The most obvious of these things is good, believable writing – which Ku: Shroud of the Morrigan doesn’t have. All of the dialogue is wooden and boring. Another more subtle thing that makes a massive difference to the player is the background music and soundtrack. This should be used to set the scene and manipulate the players feelings on a subconscious level. The importance of this is often unnoticed by the players and in this case it looks like it was by the developers too, as the music fluctuates between bad, repetitive and non-existent.. Another small thing that bugged us, perhaps a bit more than it should have, was the text boxes themselves. The game has a very cartoon-like aesthetic but the texture in the text boxes were photo-realistic making them look completely out-of-place.
The gameplay is your standard isometric adventure fare. You walk around in overly large and all too empty landscapes, you interact with NPCs by talking to them and enemies by smacking them with your sword. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous you can dodge but it’s not really necessary as the combat is about as challenging as playing rock, paper, scissors with a fiddler crab. This formula is occasionally interspersed with puzzles, if you can call them that. The most complex of these that we encountered was a particularly tricky dilemma, the answer to which was to move some animal statues into their bases which were situated a whole five steps away. This gameplay, while painfully easy for most of the game, would have been sufficient if the controls had worked properly. This was probably a problem with the port rather than the game itself but for the most part the game felt like it couldn’t decide whether to take the input from the keyboard and mouse or the controller, forcing your character to suddenly saunter off in completely random directions whenever it got bored with doing what you told it to. This might have made sense if the controller had to be plugged in for it to happen but it did it even when unplugged.
More technical problems presented themselves as we played through the game. Each time we closed a text box it would flash back up before disappearing; a small problem but a problem nonetheless.. A bigger concern was our occasional ability to walk through, and become stuck on, parts of the scenery. Nothing breaks immersion more than walking through a seemingly solid rock.
We also took issue with the game’s irritating sound effects. Striking an enemy results in a painfully loud “boing”. You can turn off the music and the sound effects but the noise won’t stop. We can’t think of any reason that it could have been included other than to punish the player.
It wasn’t all bad though. The Celtic-punk themed setting was unique and interesting. The random bits of alien-looking technology scattered around a mythological celtic setting piqued our interest and made it seem that there must be a deep and rich history to the land. The vibrant and cartoony visuals lend themselves to this aesthetic brilliantly and make a game that’s extremely pleasant on the eyes. Unfortunately the sprites aren’t done quite as well. They are ugly, shamelessly reused and don’t quite fit into the background.
Ku: Shroud of the Morrigan could have been a unique and enjoyable experience if it wasn’t so dull and broken. It features a good concept, but realises it terribly. Due to the issues, as well as its hour-long length we can’t recommend it. Despite the issues though, we still believe that the developer has a great premise on its hands, and it has potential if they give it the time and care it requires.
Ku: Shroud of the Morrigan is available to buy on Steam