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I'll admit, I never played Of Orcs and Men, where Styx made his first appearance or Styx: Master of shadows, Styx's first main game, and one I've had in my library for a little while. I've always enjoyed stealth games, games that require you to sneak around, have done since i played Metal Gear Solid for Playstation. I was never particularly great at them, but the thrill of trying to reach your objective without being spotted and if you are, having to then fight your way through or flee. Needless to say I was rather excited to get my hand on on Focus Home Interactive's latest title, Styx: Shard of Darkness and see what this game was all about. Despite having no previous experience in Styx's universe, I thought i would be perfect for this job as it means i can judge the game not only on how it plays, but how easy it is to access for newer players.
Styx is a very fun protagonist. His snide, sarcastic remarks, his comments as he looms out of the smog when you die and his general personality are great. They really make you feel like your learning about the type of being Styx is. A stealthy, small creature full of hate. Fast, nimble, able to fit into small spaces yet strong enough to kill a human. His size is an issue in fights however and he wont be winning many face to face. Once an Orc Scholar, he was accidentally transformed into the first goblin while trying to study Amber, a magical substance which is created in the heart of the World Tree.
Styx:Shard of Darkness does have some issues for me however, as a player new to the world, I found it slow to reveal the story behind Styx or his universe. The controls took a long time to adjust to, having to press A while hanging from a ledge instead of being able to simply push the directional stick into it to climb was frustrating. I found the game very dark in places, as a stealth game, that is what you want, but when you can't see the path, its very frustrating and meant i kept to lighter paths. There is no hand holding.... at all. you get a few basic hints and directions about what Styx can do, but for a new player, you are left to figure it out, I didn't know I had magic powers until i checked out the upgrade bench. With what i know my Xbox one can do, i was disappointed in the load times between levels. Granted, this means the game feels seamless when your in a level, but even then, the game isn't without its glitches, A number of times I found NPCs floating and I know these things are hard to avoid, but for the time you have to wait, I feel each level should be perfect. I also found, while there was a level of difficulty when spotted, for the most part, the NPCs were rather stupid. Their line of sight was poor and they often clipped through things or simply walked into one another pushing other NPCs away. They didn't seem to look inside hiding places, even in the open barrels you were quite clearly inside.
Now we have the bad out of the way, lets focus on the good. The game is incredible. The levels are well thought out. With side objectives to keep you busy, lots of ways to approach your objectives. Focus Home Interactive have done a great job at balancing Styx, He's fast, can jump extremely high and he has just the right tools, from traps to body melting acid, to help you remain undetected through each level. Styx can take out humans quietly, but if seen, he struggles to fight back, due to size and strength. This helps to encourage you to stay hidden, as you should. Its a true stealth game and nothing like the hide until seen and then fight your way through the hordes of guards to your objective. You have to been sneaky, smart. I found myself back tracking several times to see if i could find another way through an area.
You have a level of customisation too, you're able to spend points you earn from each level in upgrades to Styx to help you with your style of play, he has unlockable outfits as well. The HUD is nicely laid out, with a good visual display. The brighter Styx's dagger glows, the darker the area for instance, or the small circle, which when filled with light, means you can be easily seen, it also pulses when you move to give an indication of the noise you're making. There is a lot of emphasis on this mechanic, from items in the environment that make noise when bumped into to needing to put out torches to help make sneaking past NPC's easier.
In all, for anyone who has played Styx: Master of Shadows, or simply likes the stealth genre of games, I highly recommend Shards of Darkness. Styx is a great playable character, who really brings his game to life, the maps offer great vantage points to enjoy the views on some of the maps, the detail and adventurous game play is a breath of fresh air into the middle market stealth franchise. With plenty of hours to be had finding your path, completing side quests and achieving a gold medal rating in each level, you'll find yourself scuttling around in the darkness for a while to come.
If you're interested is getting your own copy of Styx: Shard of Darkness, it can be bought from the Microsoft website here.
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