Some things are best left hiding in the shadows until the perfect plan can be executed.
What Is It?
Styx: Shards of Darkness is the sequel to Styx: Masters Of Shadow. It aims to be a hardcore stealth game set in a fantasy world filled with goblins, elves, humans and dwarfs.
Styx is the only goblin intelligent enough to speak. He has a lot to say to everyone, including the player. He’ll rip you a new one if he doesn’t like how you’re playing. Whether it’s a cutscene or “game over” animation, you’ll hear his foul mouth one way or another. This goblin has a vocabulary of a sailor and very little patience.
There are a variety of tools and skills that assist you in taking down enemies. Cloak yourself in the shadows or even make a clone of yourself to distract guards so you can pass by undetected. You can also craft from a range of tools that include poison darts, lock picks, and traps. Using these tools allow you to set up your personal play ground to sneak towards the objective.
Why Should I Care?
Enthusiasts of the stealth genre will feel right at home with Styx. There’s no hand holding present in Shards of Darkness. The only advice you’ll get are from the prologue and tool tips. Being told how to play a game step-by-step can be annoying for players that are experienced as letting you become accustomed to your play style is the best way to learn in a stealth game.
Fans of the stealth genre have many mainstream titles to choose from, but not too many depict the pure art form that is stealth. Current games on the market have a theme park play style, but Styx focuses more on sneaking past targets rather than relying on combat to reach your objectives.
Styx is not an enjoyable character by any means. He constantly breaks the fourth wall during gameplay narrative and game over screens. You are punished in every way possible due to poor gameplay mechanics forcing you to load your last save constantly. Styx will make some remark every single time you die or fail an objective. This would be funny and welcoming if it didn’t happen so frequently! One main cause of death is from the clunky controls of platforming–it feels like you’re fighting the controller rather than the enemies at hand.
There’s even a knock at the Assassin’s Creed series, claiming he wouldn’t be caught wearing a stupid tabard with a white hoodie. One game over screen has Styx saying I’ll be back as he melts into the ground, only to stick his middle finger up at you. It’s so frustrating seeing scenes like this after dying from nonsense. The humor of the game would be hilarious if it matched the gameplay.
Sneaking around never feels rewarding or enjoyable due to the clunky AI. There are far too many times when the AI feels broken and unresponsive. Styx has ways to upgrade his senses to better analyze his enemies, but these skills feel useless when AI is shaking in place, stacking on top each others paths or bumping into objects. Sometimes you can walk past the AI with no problem but other times feel you got caught for sneezing.
Skills and crafting are too reliant on materials. The only way to refill your amber meter is to drink a vial of amber. You can craft vials with materials or find them laying around on the map. This really hurts the whole aspect of being stealthy. If you do not have any vials to fill up your meter, then you can not use any skills.
Styx’s skills are suppose to help you distract guards or hide in the shadows, but it’s almost impossible to keep up with the resource management. For a game that wants you to play it your way, it sure does have a lot of restrictions. You’ll never feel prepared for any situation.
The level design is very poor. None of the areas you are in flow in any way. The game is supposed to be a stealth game, yet there’s a whole bunch of levels that have no stealth at all. There are too many times where you are forced into combat.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution had a big issue of forcing you to combat bosses. Many fans complained that you had to fight a boss even if you were building your skills to be stealthy or a pacifist. The developers fix this issue in the sequel by allowing you to play undetected or killing anyone including bosses. In Styx: Masters Of Shadow you are forced into boss fights. There is no way to prepare for it without restarting the level. The boss knows where you are at all times and constantly attacks you, and you’ll die endlessly trying to trial and error your way through boss encounters. It feels so out of place for a stealth game.
What Makes It Worth My Time And Money?
Styx: Masters Of Shadow is very hard to recommend to the casual market. It feels like the developers wanted to make a purist stealth game but deviated from what makes the genre so fun. You’ll end up feeling punished rather than rewarded for playing the way you want to. Boss fights are painfully unbearable, forcing you into combat when it’s supposed to be a hardcore stealth game. For a sequel it doesn’t seem like too many of the issues from the previous game were fixed. The main focus is supposed to be stealth, but the developers added too many other factors taking away from stealth gameplay. There are some nice features present but they never come together to feel fun or exciting. Never do you feel the enjoyment that other stealth games give.