Styx: Shards of Darkness is the third game set in the Of Orcs And Men universe and the direct successor to the Styx: Master of Shadows action RPG. The crafty thieving goblin Styx returns after the fall of the Akenash tower and swoops players into a new adventure. This is our Styx Shards of Darkness review.
Our ugly green protagonist can do everything a self-respecting thief can, but better. That includes sneaking, climbing, jumping, picking pockets, offering snarky remarks about other stealth titles and more. His special abilities also include the use of Amber, which allows him to become invisible for a short period or create a clone that player (or a friend in co-op) can control. It can be both amazing and a nuisance if used in a wrong place or time. The origin of those abilities is thoroughly explained in the previous game, Styx: Master of Shadows.
In addition to all of the above, Styx also comes with a hefty arsenal: from distracting objects like easily breakable on impact glass to weapons of destruction varying from his trusty knife to proximity mines. However, those players who wish to accomplish all possible achievements in the game can kiss the most fun choices goodbye after tutorial.
Goblin of Mercy
After watching an energetic cinematic, players find themselves in control of Styx and… that is pretty much it. If you expect the game to offer you directions besides the marker for the quest objective, it is not going to happen. Each mission has various paths leading to the objective and different ways to approach it complete with side-quests to rip off plaques or pickpocket guards or something else. Whether you want to do them is completely up to you. The game’s levels are nicely designed and have a lot of vertical space. For someone as geographically challenged as me the biggest problem was to find a path – any path – leading to the objective. Usually, after a lot of time spent poking around corners, I managed to succeed in one way or another.
At the end of each mission, you will receive a total score to see how well you managed to do. There are four Insignias, coming in three variations: Gold, Silver and Bronze. Insignia of Swiftness indicates the amount of time you required to finish off the mission. Insignia of Shadow shows off how many alerts triggered throughout the map. Insignia of Thief requires collecting tokens, which are usually laying somewhere conveniently in line of sight of couple of guards. And the last, but not the least, Insignia of Mercy, which grants you the higher score the less enemies you kill. Mercy grants Gold only if you have not killed a single enemy in the mission. Completion of side-quests adds to the final score. In the end, the score of mission converts into Skill Points that can be spent in Styx’s base for upgrades.
Styx’s skills are split into five loose categories: Stealth, Kill, Alchemy, Cloning and Perception. Make your choice to enhance your own way to play. After all, who cares about medal for Mercy if it locks you out of the most entertaining way to play? The most interesting Styx’s ability is called “Amber Vision”. It changes the goblin’s perception and lights up interact-able projects with orange. In addition to that, it also shows the guards’ line of sight. The catch is that ability obviously has limited range, does not see through walls and there is an achievement for finishing the game without using it.
The Mouse + Keyboard controls in Styx: Shards of Darkness are very intuitive and easy to pick up. However, to me it felt like the camera lacked certain reactivity. Even with sensitivity placed to maximum, it from time to time feels a bit sluggish and slow to follow.
Apart from that, the only problem there is to speak about in terms of controls is an issue any game with single button being required for many actions can speak about. Spacebar is something you will become intimately familiar with during the course of the game. Players will get to use it virtually every few seconds. While, in general, not a bad thing, it can backfire in a game that requires a precise line of jumps, hops, climbs and more to reach an objective, especially in an area densely packed with interact-able objects like crates, ropes, etc.
However, do not worry, if you miss a jump or spend too much time jumping from rope to crate and back to entertainment of passing guards, Styx will always offer a generous advice and gently nudge you into the right direction (not really).
Story & Dialogues
The start of the story in Styx: Shards of Darkness would be familiar to those who have previously played any kind of stealth-thief games. A new (seemingly easy) order from unlikely subject, protagonist overcoming obstacles on his way to his goal, and then things not going according to plan. However, not everything is quite as simple in the story, as it might seem. Otherwise, how would you explain an unlikely alliance between the Dark Elves and the Dwarves who now have Styx’s objective?
The story has a nice pace and offers enough plot twists while remaining coherent enough to not lose the original idea. Styx will offer his valuable remarks along the way, giving insights to the situation he finds himself in. Cutscenes and chatter between NPCs also adds details to what is going on.
The game does not shy from cursing, rude gestures or crude humor. It is refreshing to see a witty, chatty protagonist who is not a virtuous paragon of justice, serious professional or a gracious elven ranger. Styx embodies many wrongs in the Of Orcs and Men Universe, and he makes it look good. As much as an ugly green goblin can look good, anyway.
Summing it up – Our Styx Shards of Darkness review
Styx: Shards of Darkness is everything you could expect this game to be and more. It offers hardcore stealth gameplay for those who are interested in it while simultaneously lowering the skill cap for those who just want to finish the game and do not shy away from a messy slaughter or alarm or two. It is hard to resist Styx’s wits and cockiness even in the middle of situation he gets into.
If you were waiting for a sign that Styx: Shards of Darkness is an amazing game worthy of your time, consider this to be just it.