Styx: Shards Of Darkness – Fancy a game of hide and seek? no… How about hide and kill?
Ah, that sounds a lot more fun, right? In Styx: Shards of Darkness, hide and kill is your favourite playtime indeed. Shards of Darkness is the sequel to the previously released Styx: Master of Shadows, and begins after the events of the first entry unfold. Developed by Cyanide Studios, Styx is based in a universe full of dark, doom and gloom, suiting a game based around stealth and darkness.
The tower of Akenash has fallen and with it hiding that sweet, precious amber source, some untold events, result in Styx having to infiltrate the city of Korangar, (a dark elf haven), where groups of different races conspire to get rid of all those little green goblin bastards from society. So enter C.A.R.N.A.G.E, an organisation formed by the empire to deal with those scavenging vermin. (Pffft, I’ll protect you Styx). So cue the first level, where Styx will be stealin’, stabbin’ and stealthin’ his way around.
The main gameplay consists of working through missions with different objectives. For instance, you could be sneaking aboard a flying ship to loot amber and other goodies, breaking out of a prison, or taking down a huge monster. There is enough diversity in objectives to keep you interested as the game goes forwards. Generally, you’ll either be sneaking or killing your way past guards. Be warned, Styx does get an ass kicking when encountering groups!! So it’s key to plan your way ahead, scout the map, look for vantage points, and A.I patterns, to suss out the best ways to get through each level.
One useful option is to use the vision enhancer, which basically highlights paths and enemy A.I throughout the nearby area. So when scaling the rock/cliffs around, whack on the enhancer and it helps guide you somewhat. Despite having ropes, and platforms marked out, Styx’s jumping was really hit and miss. Many times I ended up in the depths of Korangar’s ocean, just wishing my ugly green friend took up some swimming lessons. ( X button, Breaststroke, damn it), despite clearly jumping towards and reaching the rope etc. The climbing mechanisms are very awkward and should have been easier to handle.
Sadly while the locations look somewhat visually okay, the gameplay doesn’t always match. A.I is really poor, I was playing on hard difficulty setting and on many occasions, I’d rush past the enemy A.I, who would spot me via a window, panic a little, and then almost immediately return to normal routine. The movements being very static. (Though during latter parts, enemy’s can sniff out Styx on his scent). If the alarm status itself is set off, it’s like a full-blown goblin hunt. Enemies will search high and low, (make sure you disarm those alarm bells). Styx himself, is quite the freak show, looking more suited to an episode of Ru Pauls drag race then as the star attraction of a video game, but his crude, sometimes outright offensive one-liners had me laughing out loud on many an occasion. You just can’t help but like the little guy, and sympathise for his cause. (I want to buy him a beer)
Think you can handle two Styx’s at once? Yes, Styx can clone his way through levels, vomiting a double of himself to confuse the lame enemy A.I, creating a diversion for the real Styx to advance further. Other tools in the arsenal include, an invisibility cloak which gives the gamer a short boost, in a now you see me, now you don’t kinda way! Crafting plays a large part in the game. Collecting rare ingredients as you explore each level, will allow you to craft weapons such as traps to take out armoured guards, darts that help with ranged attacks, or lockpicks to play burglar for the day! Each level brings with it challenging scenarios, collectables, multiple ways, and plenty of crafting to do throughout your journey, search through chests, or hide in wardrobes and baskets, perhaps you’ll fancy sneaking under the floorboards or climbing the rooftops.
Styx really does offer a plethora of different ways to advance through missions and even complete them. And saving the game is easily accessible, (so fear not fans of the first Styx game). For gamers who like co-op, It is in there. You can play the whole campaign with the help of a gaming friend. Though sadly I can’t comment much on this, as I struggled to match up with anyone when I was playing through. The world is large, and sometimes the rendering suffers as a result of this. Close up’s don’t always look easy on the eye, but then equally Styx can look great when scaling up huts and exploring the dark elven city.