Styx: Shards of Darkness is great. It really is. On booting it up, I had almost no knowledge of it or the previous Of Orcs and Men titles; which is probably a good thing.
Going in without expectations meant I wasn’t swayed one way or another from the outset. I was able to enjoy Styx: Shards of Darkness in spite of some clunkiness, some frustrations and the not-quite average visuals.
It’s an earnest game. Playing Styx: Shards of Darkness, I could feel how much the developers put into making it. It was made with care and attention and most of all, to be enjoyed.
Catch You on the Flip-side, Dudemeisters
The titular Styx would probably make a joke about how ‘titular’ includes the word ‘tit.’ He’s foul-mouthed, in your face and full of ‘tude. Luckily, he falls just short of being Poochie and manages to remain likable and (mostly) amusing. Even though many of his pop-culture references are hideously out of date — American Pie, really? — Styx managed to make me chuckle.
Fundamentally a stealth game, each mission is divided into one or two objectives, usually involving thievery or assassination. The tutorial level skims over many of Styx: Shards of Darkness’ features and Styx’s abilities, but it’s mostly self explanatory.
Styx can crouch to move more quietly, become invisible, clone himself and use objects as cover. Taking things slowly and carefully is the best way to ensure you’re not seen nor heard. Conversely, if you’d prefer to make a lot of noise and rush, you can, though it’s a lot harder.
A Lover, Not a Fighter
Styx is not a very skilled combatant and can only parry enemy attacks rather than fight head to head. Taking enemies out from the shadows works a treat, but when faced with more than one assailant, Styx only lasts a few seconds. To get the best possible ranking on each level, you’ll want to avoid killing anyone, if possible.
Each level has four tracked stats; Speed, Alarms, Kills and Medallions. To get the best ranking you’ll need to finish the level within the required time limit, raise no alarms, kill no enemies and find all the medallions. It’s not an easy feat.
It’s not even a feat you’ll likely accomplish on one go. Learning the layout of each level takes time. The time limits for speed are incredibly tight and achieving them means blitzing the level and focusing only on the main objectives. If you rush, you’re likely to draw the attention of guards and soldiers, so you won’t get through without raising alarms.
I Think it was Called, the Bus that Couldn’t Slow Down
These stats contrast from one another essentially forcing you to play multiple times to unlock them all. It’s a clever way to incentise replaying the game. It allows players to experience multiple playstyles and encourages them to explore every nook and cranny.
It’s a good thing that the gameplay is decent enough to warrant multiple playthroughs too. Stealth has become a staple of most games in recent times, but it’s usually flavouring and not the main course. Not so in Styx: Shards of Darkness. This is a hard, stealth game. Failure comes swiftly and often. Learning patrol routes, how best to get through an area unnoticed, how to use Styx powers; these are all must-dos. You’ll definitely come to rely on the right D-Pad button as it quick saves wherever you are.
If you’re more a fan of the light stealth mechanics of say Horizon, Assassin’s Creed and the like, then you may struggle with Styx: Shards of Darkness. If you’re after an experience closer to old school Splinter Cell and Hitman then look no further. Surprisingly, the medieval, fantasy setting works really well with the gameplay style too. Sneaking around derelict and disgusting towns, sewers and castles as a foul-mouthed goblin is even more fun than it sounds.
It’s clear Styx: Shards of Darkness was made on a budget, but it’s by no means cheap. It may not have quite the level of polish of a AAA title, but it’s more than worth your time. Too many games in recent memory, while well made and objectively ‘good’ are too samey, too similar to everything else. Styx: Shards of Darkness is a bold step in a direction that doesn’t guarantee success, neither commercially or critically.
That being said, it’s a great game that stealth fans will adore. I only hope enough people buy it so we get to have another adventure with Styx in the future.
Styx: Shards of Darkness was reviewed on PS4 using a digital download code provided to PowerUp! by the publisher.
Game Title: Styx: Shards of Darkness
Outdated references - 5.5/10
Silent murder - 8.5/10
Turning bodies into goo - 10/10