Skulk through the shadows as the goblin and master thief Styx. Styx: Shards of Darkness is the sequel to the 2014 game Styx: Master of Shadows both games were created by the French development studio Cyanide. It is the third game in the Of Orcs and Men series which the main focus of the story has been to tell the tale from the side of a species that generally gets killed a lot in video games, the goblins.
The tale begins in a shanty town called Thoben. Styx the talking goblin has become a wanted criminal since the previous game and his robberies of the town guard’s payments have earned him high infamy. This infamy has prompted the creation of a special goblin hunting squad known as C.A.R.N.A.G.E. which has been tasked with hunting down and destroying all greenskins including Styx. As you might imagine Styx is not best pleased by this development however he does not appear to be worried either what with him being a master of the shadows and having a load of amber powers at his disposal. After his initial job Styx will be drawn into a plot that takes him deep into the city of Korrangar during a diplomatic summit to put his well-honed skills to use. The player must traverse linear levels with multiple routes through each part in order to reach the end of the level and advance the story. Each of the main levels will include a main objective to complete as well as some secondary objectives that the player can discover as they move through it. In between levels the player will have access to lairs of various designs each of which will have access to the same upgrade and crafting tables to prepare for the next mission the player will undertake.
Styx: Shards of Darkness is designed to be very stealth based as the main character is not designed for combat with him being a goblin. In fact the option for parrying and combat is only available in the first two difficulties. As a result the games stealth has received much focus during development this fact shows a lot during the game. There is clearly much thought in the enemy’s sound detection of the player as sounds can be caused in a variety of ways. This allows the player to utilise the usage of carpets to reduce sounds when landing. The player is also required to avoid items in the environment that might rattle and make sound and attract enemies to your location. Despite this the enemy’s sound detection is very sensitive in some areas and other areas it can suddenly change and be dulled. As Styx the player has access to many different tools and powers in order to aid him in his adventure. Including Amber powers that let Styx create clones that can be switched to and controlled by the player to cause mischief for the enemies without drawing them to Styx himself, he can turn invisible and also use Amber vision to track enemy movements these skills are upgradeable in many ways to help the player. The various craftable tools that Styx can utilise include lockpicks, darts to fire at enemies, sand to throw at torches to put them out, and poisons that Styx can use to add to enemies food and drink. As well as these some other unlockable tools can be unlocked by purchasing upgrades. The games upgrade system is based on using skill points that are obtained by completing objectives, secondary objectives and challenges within missions the player will then be able to spend these points in between missions. These upgrades can be changed at will by the player allowing them to test each upgrade before selecting their favourites. There are some minor climbing elements to the game that the player can use to get around the map this however this doesn’t appear to be very well designed and is troublesome at times. There is also a coop mode for players to enjoy which has the coop partner play as a Styx clone as they go through levels together.
The game has a complex design of the characters and levels in both the models and the textures. Great care has gone into the main character as every wrinkle, scar and skin imperfection is clearly visible on the weathered face of the goblin. There is also a great amount of design that has gone into the goblins clothes with each piece being having an outstanding amount of quality to it. There is clear distinction between even the tiniest amounts of details from cloths to leathers to metals. The environments have the same level of detail within them making the art all round superb in its quality from the woods more grainy textures to the cracked stone slabs used to line walkways to the roughness in the mountain side stone. The only problem I can find with these textures which is just a slight gripe is that some appear too clean and could use more wear and tear added to them. The downside to the textures unfortunately is the shadows themselves which appear too bright and unfortunately the player gets too much stealth from too little shadow. What I mean by this is that as the player’s level of stealth is shown in how much Styx’s dagger glows and this glow is filled way too much in the smallest amount of shadow making him look more shadowed than he actually is. This graphical choice unfortunately causes problems later on in the game when trying to hide in a shadow that appears to be thicker than it is according to the dagger. When performing a kill the game has a load of well designed and easily identifiable objects to hide bodies in. Although this proved to be pointless at most points of the game as the guards unfortunately tend to be a bit dumb unless they see or hear you and unless the body is out in the complete open the guards tend to stick to one route.
The Voice acting for Styx is done by a man called Saul Jephcott who has been an actor since 1985 and it has to be said he has done a phenomenal job at portraying the main character Styx. His delivery for the character sounds grouchy and annoyed while also being able to make this tone work for comedic purposes during some of the more comedic lines of dialogue in the game as well as his fourth wall breaking moments. The rest of the characters within the game have also been well done and have different tones between each of the other races. This is true for story based characters and enemies each of which have distinguishable voice acting compared with others for example human based characters sound kind of rough whereas elves sound a dignified and posh. The only thing that brings down the delivery of the dialogue is that some of the characters mouth animations don’t match what they are saying exactly in a few places which distract from what they are saying. While the dialogue for the game has been expertly done and there are no visuals that would be a problem for younger players the choice of language for some parts of the dialogue is not suitable for younger players. Another great thing to note is that the ambient sounds used within the game are used tremendously well for example when Styx walks he doesn’t wear shoes and the slap of his feet is very clearly audible and if say the player starts slowly walking over wooden areas noticeable creaks can be heard coming from each step. The music that has been composed for the game has been well selected as it makes the game feel tenser by contributing to the atmosphere of being a thief sneaking through the shadows.
Styx: Shards of Darkness should take around 15 hours to complete the story mode of the game with additional hours being required to complete all bonus objectives and challenges. The game is designed to be a true stealth game by making your character easy to kill and by making the combat extremely difficult. As such it is more suitable for people who would like to completely take advantage of this and use all of the available traps and abilities the game provides. The visuals used are a pleasure to the eye and the use of sound creates a great atmosphere. Hopefully the studio will keep on improving their techniques and refine them into some even more stellar games.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 4 code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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