Over 2 years since the last game, Styx returns in Shards of Darkness, following the breath of fresh air protagonist Styx the goblin. Skulking around complexes, cities and castle, you will have to either sneak your way past enemies or silently assassinate any who get in your way. Following on from the previous game, Styx: Master of Shadows, Shards of Darkness aims to polish the rough edges as well as enhancing gameplay and story. I reviewed the first game back in October of 2014 and that got a 3/5, let’s see if the sequel beats that score.
Thankfully, Styx no longer suffers from amnesia, or at least he no longer goes on and on about it from the previous game. Picking up sometime after the last game, Styx still works for people to steal items of interest, killing his employers if they go for a backstab or fail to pay up. His latest job is to steal some guards pay, leading to a commander of C.A.R.N.A.G.E ambushing him as he takes his cut. Talking with this Helledryn, she hires Styx for his next big job, to steal a sceptre on a transport ship.
The story spirals from that point on, with new enemies, trickery, locales and struggle between the races. We infiltrate the Dark Elf city of Korrangar, delve into mines and find new ways to improve Styx’s abilities that he thankfully retained from the previous game.
While it can be due to Styx’s abilities he kept from the previous game, Shards of Darkness feels a tad bit shorter. While its length isn’t as good as the last game what is contained within that game time is much better. With achievements and medals for speed runs, no kills, no alarms, collectables and side-missions there is a ton of replay value to be had. Again you can choose any mission from your hub, allowing easy access to levels that you might have messed up.
Styx is a hard stealth game, you won’t survive more than 4 hits, 2 if the enemies are heavier targets, forcing you to rely on stealth kills, poisoning food or dropping chandeliers on your foes. Crouching will reduce sound to almost nothing, while running will announce your position to a wide area, allowing with knocking over objects. Styx can also toss diversion items to get enemies attention or throw sand into torches.
As you complete missions and objectives Styx will acquire skill points, to improve his abilities and unlock new ones, along with new crafting recipes. You will be able to improve his senses, to smell and see through walls, his stealth, kills, crafting and clones. Shards of Darkness also inputs special Quartz you need to gather to unlock ultimate abilities. You can deselect these skills at any time in the workstation, giving you even more customisability when it comes down to specific missions.
In the beginning you can only craft bolts to shoot at enemies or chandeliers and health potions, with skills you can unlock amber vials, traps and acid to burn away bodies. The crafting ingredients are scattered throughout the levels, in abundance, you will find it hard to ever run out unless you are a madman with items.
Overall thoughts and feelings
Sadly, like it’s predecessor, Shards of Darkness only really plays music while in cutscenes or fighting, leaving a lot of the levels feeling devoid of music, ending with silence filled with ambient sounds or that of movement. While it does allow for easier sneaking, making it easier to listen to footsteps or talking, it does lead to the game becoming quite dull. It does use music more often than the last game, as well as the music retaining its high quality. If you prefer immersive sounding games, then this style would suit you more.
The graphics and style of Styx has improved immensely from its last game, while still looking a bit archaic. Character models for background people or lower-end enemies are disappointing, lacklustre and sometimes lacking definition. While Styx and Helledryn stand out completely, due to the dedication put into their design and quality. It can be quite jarring when Styx, who looks so aesthetically pleasing and well done, fights against in-cutscene or in-level enemies who can sometimes look like play dough at least in the earliest levels.
There seems to also be some problems with the cutscenes, where movement of characters is lacking some frames or it skips around. Fight scenes look the worse, with movement of arms and legs causing a weird flow. There are a few cutscenes that feel like they end too soon, leaving you with questions or throwing you into the next missions without a lot of exposition. This problem seems to get better as you delve deeper in, but can be quite off-putting in the earlier stages.
One of my gripes with the first game was the starting difficulty, combined with the lack of skills or abilities a thief should have as standard. Shards of Darkness allows you the majority of skills from the first game which rectifies this problem, while still giving you even more progression into those abilities. Patrols and level design have been focused on a lot more, while still maintaining an adequate difficulty. All-in-all this sequel does what sequels are meant to do, improve on the first game.
Styx: Shards of Darkness gets an 8/10, it still needs some polish to its background models, music and effects but the ones at the forefront are brilliant. It is a good kind of difficult and gives plenty of options when it comes to killing enemies or slipping past them. The collectables are well planned and medals add in another element to gameplay. The story is somewhat cliché but can be overlooked, the stunning visuals and vistas can more than sway your angry mind. If you liked the first game, then you will love this sequel.
Styx: Shards of Darkness Was review on PC via Steam, the game is also available on XBox One and PS4