Back in 2014, Cyanide Studio and Focus Home Interactive delivered a new type of assassin, Styx. His wit, sarcasm and overall snark, tossed together with his stealthy abilities, made Styx: Master of Shadows an unexpected standout. The game drew enough interest from gamers to force Focus Home to create another iteration.
Thus, here we are with Styx: Shards of Darkness now available. This second helping of stealthy, goblin action is an exercise in your ability to not be detected, and well, master the shadows. What you will find in Shards of Darkness is an experience that places great emphasis on stealthy gameplay.
While Styx: Shards of Darkness features combat over the course of your playthrough, it is something you’re going to want to avoid. At least, I wanted to avoid combat. This is true simply for the reason of getting pummeled by swarming enemies once I had been detected.
If you are detected, enemies will rush in immediately. Say you happen to fight against three or more enemies, you’re most likely going to die. Gamers do have the chance to counter attacks and then toss in attacks of their own. However, enemies do not take turns striking you, as they fight all at once. It is possible to survive and claim victory in combat against numerous foes. It’s just unlikely, so make sure you stay stealthy.
Styx: Shards of Darkness is what I picture when thinking about the ultimate stealth game. It encourages, rewards and begs you to play stealthy. While you can try to run through levels and complete objectives to net a quick time, playing stealthily is your best bet.
Cyanide has created intricate levels with many different paths you can take. Most levels have the usual avenues and hallways you’d find in a building or location, but there’s a lot more to them than meets the simple glance. Paths can be found through small holes in walls, narrow air ducts above, locked doors and more.
Whenever I stepped into a new level of Styx: Shards of Darkness, my first thought always was, “what path am I not seeing right now?” Given the nature of its combat and how often you die in this game, varying up your approach is key. Finding the less obvious or hidden path will almost always benefit you more than the obvious one.
Oh and by the way, dying is hilarious because Styx is there to greet you with a funny cutscene each time you die. A personal favorite is one when he points at a script and says, I’ve read the script, I know we make it passed here. Narrative cutscenes themselves do maintain a sense of seriousness. However, Styx always makes sure to bring levity to most of them.
Part of finding the right path means using Styx’s amber vision. Those who know the Assassin’s Creed franchise’s Eagle Vision will surely grasp what amber vision is. It’s essentially the same thing. Amber vision highlights enemies in red, resources you can collect and as you upgrade it in its skill tree, additional items you can pick up.
Styx also possesses a number of range abilities. He can toss sand on a burning torch to decrease light in a certain area. This is a great way of sneaking by enemies who stay put. Styx can also shoot bolts that fatally wound targets. You will want to be careful using this weapon because it can draw enemy attention easily.
Lastly, he can pick up glass pitchers, which can tossed at an area of your choosing to distract enemies. These are particularly helpful when needing to sneak by multiple guards. There are a few other abilities Styx possesses and they make him an even more deadly assassin.
The progression system is a very interesting one in Styx: Shards of Darkness. Gamers can assign and reassign skill points from level to level. Prior to each mission, the skill tree is reset and skill points are given back to players. They must then re-unlock the skills they wish to use.
Gamers can choose between any number of skills that enhance Styx’s combat, stealth, crafting, potions and other skills. Even though it might go without saying, upgrading to your playstyle’s strengths is essential. For me, upgrading my stealth and crafting skill trees helped me the most.
I found this to be a very unique and interesting feature, as it isn’t one I see too often in games these days. Often times, it’s a one and done type of decision, but Styx: Shards of Darkness gives gamers the opportunity to experiment with Styx’s skills. I can see the pros and cons for both ways of upgrading, but in Styx, it works great.
The world of Styx: Shards of Darkness has a very unique art style. In fact, it is one I might even closely pair with that of Dishonored‘s. Whether we’re talking about the fashion of the world or the verticality of its architecture, there are some convincing similarities between the two. The game provides players with an excellent color palate to experience, and every mission showcases something different.
Styx: Shards of Darkness is a game for those enthralled by stealth gameplay and it’s even for the most driven perfectionists. Elements like humor, a beautiful and intriguing world, plus Styx himself make this experience enjoyable. The game is available now on PS4, Xbox One and PC. Stick around here at We Write Things for more on Styx.