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Styx: Shards of Darkness (Xbox One) Review

Styx is back in this stealth-action sequel and Cyanide Games has done a great job of introducing new gameplay elements into the series. The foul-mouthed goblin is back and this time it is personal in Styx: Shards of Darkness.

Do Not Cross Styx

Anyone unfamiliar with the series should know this about Styx; he is the best anti-hero in the last few years. To start with, he is a small little thing. Barely standing three feet tall, Styx is a slimy goblin with an addiction problem. In Styx’s first adventure, ‘Master of Shadows,’ he was imprisoned in the Akenash, a prison unlike any other in the land. Spoiler Alert – Styx gets out, and causes some major damage that  have some far-reaching effects.

Styx: Shards of Darkness
Check out the pretty new levels in Styx: Shards of Darkness.

Try and stay with me here while I give you a brief synopsis of the first game. Styx was just a clone of the real Styx and he commits suicide to only emerge from the Heart of the Tree,which rest in the Akenash, and is made up of magical amber. It is not just one goblin that rises from the amber, but a whole army of goblins emerges from the amber. This plague of goblins runs the country side. They hide in every nook and cranny and a new group of humans has been sent to stop the goblins.

When Shards of Darkness begins, Styx is happy stealing things around his town while avoiding the new group of human soldiers, the Carnage Squat. This group sets up a meeting with Styx and tricks him into helping. The Carnage squad gives Styx a choice, retrieve a magical scepter or face death. He obviously chooses to find and steal the scepter, but along the way he finds out there is a lot more going on in the world. Styx almost completes his task only to find out the human with the scepter is a shape-shifting dark elf and kicks Styx’ butt. Sent back to the group of humans with a hurt ego, Styx vows revenge with the help of the Carnage group, sets off for the elvian-fortress of Koranger. Yeah, stuff just got serious.

Styx Is Off To Koranger

Styx comes back empty handed to the group, but he brings valuable information. There is going to be a secret meeting of important people at the elves’ home of Koranger. Together, the group of humans and Styx will help each other break into the fort.

The mystery unfolds as Styx hunts down the dark elf and starts to put together a giant conspiracy.  Armed with valuable information, will Styx play the ever obedient pet of the humans, or will he find a way to give everyone the royal screw job?

Styx: Shards of Darkness
Get around on the new zip lines in Styx: Shards of Darkness.

Hanging Out With New Gameplay Mechanics

A lot of what made Styx successful is back in the sequel. The emphasis on stealth makes its return as Styx is not good at hand-to-hand combat. This forces players to adapt to the game as it unfolds around them. These new features have done a great job of expanding upon an already solid foundation of gameplay mechanics.

One major flaw in Master of Shadows was the shoddy hanging mechanic. If Styx was in a crouched position, then he would ‘automatically’ hang from a ledge. As a concept it sounds great, but the execution rarely worked. In Shards of Darkness, players will now be able to use a button to further help with the motion of hanging. This is just one of the new and exciting features Cyanide Studios included in the game.

Craft Away Your Worries

The crafting system is interesting new concept and a welcome addition to Styx. Littered throughout the levels are crafting items as well as crafting tables. In MoS, the only reason to explore the levels was to acquire collectible coins. These collectibles provided extra quality other than a few achievements and a higher completion score. With the introduction of this new feature, there is plenty of reason to get out and explore the levels.

Styx: Shards of Darkness
It is not easy being Styx.

This time around the level designs are much more colorful. Akenash in MoS was not the prettiest of prisons, mostly earth-tones and drab colors. While the new areas in SoD are a remarkable upgrade, although the overall game can fall prey to boring color palates. Once Styx reaches the interior of Koranger, the earth-tones make a return. While the drab colors detract from the overall experience, the design of the levels has also gone through a makeover.

 

Throughout the early press of SoD, the developers were especially proud of the new vertical element of the game. In MoS, there were only two paths to each obstacle, either by climbing to the rafters or sneaking on the ground. In SoD, there are multiple levels to explore throughout each area. Now players can climb to the roof, hang out in the rafters, sneak through the main floor, or find other ways to sneak through the levels. The multi-tiered approach to level design improves on the experience. A new story coupled with these exciting gameplay mechanics and Styx: Shards of Darkness is a great game.

Styx: Shards Of Darkness Is A Success

My first experience with MoS was a bit off putting. I was not expecting the type of stealth experience coupled with the tough difficulty. It took me a while to warm up the game but once I made the commitment, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. For SoD, I can jump right in and start exploring. The addition of the crafting table, the new level design and overall improvements with SoD make this sequel quite an enjoyable adventure.

The great part about this adventure is that it stays true to the character of Styx. He is a vile creature whom only cares about himself. This is evident throughout the game and does a great job of immersing the player into the experience. If Styx was tasked with saving the world, the plot would feel off since that is not Styx’s style. In this adventure he wants to steal and he wants revenge and this story furthers accents Styx’s vile behavior.

Styx is quietly a hit

Story - 84%
Styx' One-Liners - 90%
New Gameplay Features - 85%

86%

Fantastic

Styx: Shards of Darkness is a great game for fans or newcomers. The sequel to Master of Shadows, SoD builds on the past success and does a great job of continuing to improve the gameplay. The story is full of turns and twists and helps immerse the player into the experience.

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About Rick Brown

Rick Brown
As a fearful proponent, I agree with out robot overlords on House Bill 10010101 - The Full Extermination of the Human Race. But until then, make sure to check out all my writings on video game stuff.

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  • Ace List

    Yep.

  • Jay

    Still want to play the first one, as tough as it looks. Styx 2 does sound like way more fun though.