Developer: Cyanide Studio
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Styx: Shards of Darkness is a third person stealth adventure game with RPG elements. It’s a sequel to 2014’s Styx: Master of Shadows that is playable in single player or online co-op mode.
You play as a talking goblin named Styx. You are a stealthy thief, and deadly assassin that is always looking out for number one. You wind up making a deal with an unexpected ally that would be mutually beneficial. The story is more interesting than I had expected.
The core of the gameplay requires you to be stealthy, and stick to the shadows. You are fairly squishy, and you need to be aware of your surroundings. You’ll want to keep an eye out for patrolling enemies and alternate routes to your mission objectives. It doesn’t always spell your death if you get spotted, but a lot of the times it does. You can use a well-timed parry, and counterattack to slay the enemy, or run like hell and hide if there are too many. There are a couple missions where if you are spotted at all, you will need to reload. Like most stealth games, patience is a must have when it comes being efficient.
Sneaking up to enemies and brutally stabbing them is satisfying. Slaying enemies causes sound that can draw the attention of others if you aren’t careful. The stealth mechanics are solid, and a variety of tools and abilities make sneaking around more enjoyable. I used amber vision a lot; it’s extremely helpful to see what parts of the environment you can interact with, as well as knowing which way enemies are facing, and to monitor their patrol routes. Distractions can also give you a significant advantage when it comes to displacing enemy movement.
Creating a clone of yourself that you can move and control is a neat skill to use, but I found it was more of a situational ability. My favourite ability is the full cloaking, although, I wish I had found more resources to use it more often. There are lots of resources to scavenge for crafting and collectibles to find in the world.
- excellent stealth gameplay mechanics with various tools and abilities at your disposal to help you make your way through the world unseen
- good character progression system – main missions and side objectives earn skill points to unlock new tools, and new abilities as well as improve your current abilities
- the skill system allows you to focus on specific skill trees whether you want to play passively or kill everyone in sight (completing missions quickly, without sounding any alarms, and being merciful nets the highest rewards) – also, you can unlearn the skill points at no cost at any skill bench so you can test out all of the abilities if you want to
- fairly large levels with open areas that are well designed with lots of different routes to take, and collectibles to find
- online co-op allows players to work together, and it makes the game easier with two players able to coordinate attacks and distractions
- the story is interesting, but not all that shocking in the end
- the environments are visually appealing, and the character design is a slight improvement over the first Styx game
- music is decent, and well suited to the stealth gameplay; the sound effects do a pretty good job of letting you know what’s going on around you
- keybindings are fully customizable, and there is full controller support (I played on the PS4 using a controller, and it worked just fine, but I still would have preferred using a keyboard and mouse and playing on PC)
- AI is inconsistent, and while it’s not that bad most of the time, it could still use improvement. Sometimes the guards seem smart, and very responsive; I like that they will even check inside containers and under cover if they have been aggroed. Then there are other times where they just can’t seem to find me when I run around the same table, hang over certain ledges, or go into some rooms.
- the cheesy dialog lines post death before the save starts loading are extremely annoying (you can skip them, but even then the time between dying and finishing loading is a bit long)
- (nitpick) the character animations aren’t synced very well with the voiced dialog
- (nitpick) voice acting is hit or miss: some of the voicing was done really well, but other times it felt uninspired – voice lines of the guards tend to get repetitive as well, but this is consistent with other stealth games
The game took me about 13 hours to complete in single player. Playing with others is more fun, but both parties will still require patience. I was playing on normal difficulty, but I died a lot in some areas.
Overall, Styx: Shards of Darkness is a good stealth game with enjoyable stealth mechanics and a variety of tools and abilities to use to sneak and/or kill your way through the levels. The AI is inconsistent; most of the time it’s good, but other times it needs improvements. Even though I died quite often, I only had myself to blame for being impatient. I enjoyed playing the game, and I have no doubts that co-op would be even more entertaining. I expect that those who enjoy stealth games to like Styx: Shards of Darkness as well.
Press copy was provided for this review.