Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Platform: PC, PS4, Xbox One
Tested on: PC
Styx: Shards of Darkness – Review
Cyanide has released a third game in the Of Orcs and Men series and a sequel to Styx: Master of Shadows, called Styx: Shards of Darkness. Styx is green, funny and best of all… He’s back! Loaded with humor comparable to the famous Deadpool game, mixed with Assassin’s Creed-ish game play, it has a lot of potential of becoming a real classic.
The events of the first game have not gone unnoticed by the other races in the world in which Styx resides. Styx, who is in reality the first of his kind, the goblins, has set many events in motion in the past, which caused the Elves and Dwarves to find something they have in common, namely the hate for the green and slippery race, which you just happen to be the patriarch of. Nonetheless, you’ll have to sneak your way into dangerous territories once again, to uncover the truth and perhaps in this case even prevent a war from happening.Even though Styx had gone into hiding after the first game, he is lured out of his safe place when he hears of a diplomatic summit that might have influences for his race, but when he finally makes his way to the summit, he learns it’s all a scam to lure him out of hiding.
Overall the story remains rather straightforward and never runs extremely deep, but it’s a rather enticing plot nonetheless, that makes you like this green goblin, to a certain extent. Don’t expect a plot that runs as deep as a Witcher game, and you’ll certainly have a lot of fun plowing through the story value of this one.
Being powered by the next-gen Unreal 4 engine, this game is packed with real life-like graphics. Of course the game is designed to be grim and dark as Styx is a goblin and an assassin after all. Most of the game will find place in the night and inside caves. Still, the game packs quite a lot of breath-taking views (for example, the great valley you have to cross) and all the NPCs and enemies are well developed, but they aren’t all as detailed as Styx himself.
Overall it’s the use of colors that make this game truly shine, and add an extra layer to the fantasy setting of this title. You’ll be treated to a very colorful atmosphere, given the otherwise grim topic of Shards of Darkness, which creates a fun an very appreciated contrast to prevent the game to become to heavy. This is probably designed in sync with the voice acting of Styx, which is also rather goofy at times.
The medieval music, playing in the background, adds to the gameplay. Light violin playing when you’re sneaking and walking around, while the music gets more intense by adding a war drum beat while encountering enemies. The true beauty of the sounds lay in the humour of Styx, making fun of you when dying (it almost makes you want to kill yourself, just to hear these jokes) or his reactions to some in-game events, which are often rather witty and more than once it’ll make a smile appear on your face.
Styx is a half-open world and is designed to be a real stealth game, in fact it is really advised to play stealthy. Starting a close combat mostly ends up with a dead Styx and/or a real frustrated player. Our goblin can make use of shadows, small cracks in the walls, coffins, barrels, etc. to hide in. Most enemies are only able to see and hear Styx, but some enemies are also able to smell him. Most strongholds are equipped with bells, so when they find or hear you, they will sound the alarm. Enemies also respond to dead bodies of their allies, so remind yourself to dispose them.
Killing enemies was already possible in many ways, and this time the developers added a few new weapons to Styx’ arsenal to spice things up. You can make use of poisoned darts, sneak upon your enemies, poison traps, puke in your enemies water (which seems to be very poisonous), push them of ledges but the newly grappling, zip wire and so on, add a lot of extra mobility to this title, it’s easy to say that the possibilities are numerous. It’s a fun way to keep it fresh. The ability to clone himself is also a very cool technique as it allows the player to explore the level, to save him from death/traps or simply to create distractions. Another used technique is Amber Vision, comparable with Eagle Vision from the Assassin’s Creed series. It allows Styx to see his enemies and to reveal resources. Shades of Darkness also uses a skill tree, providing new combat/stealth and crafting techniques. Using these skills, Styx can craft health potions, poison darts or new traps at the work benches, available at different places. Co-op is also a very fine addition to the game, giving people the chance to team-up with a friend to complete harder levels.
The only thing that can be a little frustrating from time to time is the fact that some controls are a bit lagging and sometimes Styx will be jumping in a wrong direction, followed by death… Luckily, the developers added a quick-save function, allowing the player to save almost instantly. This option is not possible when the enemies are alarmed or when you’re fighting a boss. The game aims to have a gameplay of about 18 hours, but this depends on the gamer’s style and if you want to tackle the full 100%, the length can be even doubled.
Styx: Shards of Darkness is a very cool addition to each gamer’s collection, especially for fans of the Assassin’s Creed series, Deadpool-like humor and of course enthousiastics of the first Styx game. It is a very addictive title, almost pushing the player to finish it as soon as possible. Adding all those different techniques and soundboards, also makes the game very re-playable, at least if you want to try new killing methods, if not, then this game might end up as a one trick pony. In short, it’s a game that should be highly recommended.