Review: Styx: Shards of Darkness (PS4)

Formats:

  • PlayStation 4
  • Xbox One
  • PC

Format/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4 Pro
  • HDTV

Extras:

  • DualShock 4 Required (1)
  • Move None
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Title: Styx: Shards of Darkness
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PSN (11.7 GB)
Release Date: March 14, 2017
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Developer: Cyanide Studio
Original MSRP: $49.99 (US), €49.99 (EU), £39.99 (UK)
ESRB Rating: M
PEGI: 16
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

The first game in this series, Styx: Master of Shadows, came out soon after the PlayStation 4 launched and it surprised me. What began as a rough awkward adventure soon blossomed into a brilliantly executed stealth game with a vulgar goblin at the helm. Can the team at Cyanide Studios retain what made the first so fun and addictive?

Gameplay:
Styx: Shards of Darkness retains the clever stealth gameplay mechanics of the first title while refining the controls and lessening the problems that hampered the original.

Not only does it largely solve the jumping and grab mechanics which had me plummet to an unfair death so many times in the older game, it now adds to the climbing and traversal options to make the levels feel more organic.

Most areas are built in a more free-form and fantastical manner, with rickety wooden structures suspended above a mist-covered sea. It’s ideal for disposing of corpses, if I could manage to hurl them over without a limb being caught on the edge, which I couldn’t, much to my continual frustration. The problem is solved after two or so attempts and I am sure to perfect the anomalous bug after a short time.

Styx is just as vulgar and funny as before, especially with the fourth wall breaking jibes to the player when he dies. The story is not dependent on knowing the backstory and you are brought up to speed on the relevant details anyway. The actual story itself is good and will entertain but I’m here for the stealth and cunning which rewards the artful players if they manage to remain undetected and quick.

That does not necessarily mean you have to quickly run through the game. A patient and methodical approach to the first playthrough is best, for me at least. This way I can ‘Josh’ the game and find all the collectibles and posters to tear down.

If I manage to acquire enough of the collectibles then I am awarded a Thief medal at the end of the mission. The gold Mercy medal is awarded for not killing anyone, a Swiftness medal for the amount of time it took, and a Shadow medal for the frequency of alerts triggered.

There are as many varied upgrades for your wise-cracking goblin as there are routes to your goals. You could sometimes sneak by the legs of guards as they turn their back, traverse the soft and quiet straw rooftops, or plunge the rooms into darkness and bludgeon your enemies. The choices are yours and the many difficulty levels give several options to the novice and pro.

A welcome option is the ability to load from one of the last three checkpoint saves, dependent on your chosen difficulty level. This is especially helpful when it autosaves a moment before all hell breaks loose.

… the look of the characters and locations are vastly improved …
There will often be more than one objective to complete and some appear as the level evolves. One instance had Styx following a few guards around the entire level trying to pickpocket their identification while another had me collecting tiles which helped solve an optional puzzle later on.

You have to find an assortment of items to craft your weapons and tools at crafting tables in the levels, instead of just refilling them at your base. This wasn’t an issue for me as I would run sneak around grabbing everything I could until my pockets were too full to stuff anything else in.

Visuals:
The upgrade to the Unreal 4 Engine is well worth it as the look of the characters and locations are vastly improved, especially the lighting, which is even better considering the game is all about creeping around in the shadows and darkness. Flames flicker and dance on the walls and realistically cast shadows on creeping vines and goblins.

I found the original game to be a little on the bland side when it came to the variety of miscellaneous objects and the general aesthetic of the areas. This one however, is vastly improved. Many rooms appear to serve a purpose now and the layout makes more sense. There are plenty of tables to duck under and beams to creep along and the amount of routes you could take is impressive.

Chairs, corpses and a few other things can become stuck in the other parts of the scenery and flip out or look very odd indeed. Not as bad as the last game, but still around to niggle at you like a little paper cut.

… I have had tons of fun with this iteration …
Audio:
You will overhear more guards talking and scheming with the occasional slip of a secret room or anecdotes of the larger story. I already briefly mentioned Styx mocking and criticizing your gaming skills when he is caught and killed or just falls to his death. The jokes are quite weak and I can see them becoming tiresome after a short time but you can always skip them.

Online/Multiplayer:
The developers at Cyanide Studios have surprised us all by adding co-op to the franchise. You can host either a private game with a friend or a public game with a random player. At any point, you can initiate the co-op mode and have someone join your game with you as the host or become a clone from the main menu and join with a player.

This adds another dynamic to the game and if the other player is unfamiliar with the armored guards and their inability to be killed with a standard melee attack, for example, things could get messy very quickly. It’s a good idea to have someone you know and can communicate with as it makes the game quite interesting and different.

Conclusion:
Styx: Shards of Darkness is better than its predecessor in almost every single way. Aside from the weak jokes and funny glitches, I have had tons of fun with this iteration. If you liked the older game then this one will tick all the right boxes.

I’m not sure if the co-op mode was needed as I prefer to go at my own pace and you’ll end up suffering greatly for the mistakes of your partner. Cyanide Studios has taken another step in the right direction and I look forward to seeing what comes next. Now, if you don’t mind I have to try to find the rest of the elusive tokens before I can happily exit the level.

Score:
9.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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Written by Chazz Harrington

Chazz Harrington

You can find me on everything: PSN, Twitter, Wii U, Origin, Steam, etc using my universal ID: ChazzH69

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