STAFF REVIEW of Styx: Shards of Darkness (Xbox One)


Friday, April 7, 2017.
by Brent Roberts

Styx: Shards of Darkness Box art If you fancy a test of your nerves and creativity, then stealth games are a true test of your mettle. Such games rarely let you take a breath before you're thrown right into the next section of danger, all the while setting your nerves on edge with suspense. Recently, developer Cyanide released another entry to the popular smart mouthed, stealth series starring a Goblin named Styx, and this game is aptly titled Styx: Shards of Darkness. Now there are a bunch of boxes that need to be checked in order to claim that you have a quality stealth game on your hands, and the big question is does developer Cyanide tick all the right boxes?

If you have never played a Styx game before you're in for a treat. Well that is if you like a stealth game that doesn't take itself too seriously in the plot development or execution. Styx, for those who may not have heard, is an assassin/thief Goblin who seems to have a substance abuse problem for a potion drink called Amber.

Styx is contracted out through various missions, and mission types, where there are not only multiple pathways to complete each mission, but multiple options as to how you can eliminate your adversaries. This type of direction already lends itself to creating a smooth stealth experience, but then you take into account the "attitude" of Styx and you have a real memorable character. Even when you die, and you will a lot, Styx has some form of derogatory quip about you, or he may mock a scene from an iconic movie. Either way this type of humor is felt throughout the entire game and helps provide some levity even when under tremendous pressure.


Pressure is what you'll encounter throughout the entire game. The backstory is that Styx has decided to take up residency in a town called Thoben. It's here that the human residents are engaged in an active conflict called "The Green Plague", which ultimately is a battle between humans and goblins trying to cohabitate with one another leading to many failed outcomes. This won't stop you from pillaging various homes and buildings and relieving those righteous humans of the very valuables they so cherish, including their lives. Remember though, should you take the life of someone else, you must be a crafty goblin and hide the body before they are discovered and your cover is officially blown. Now, there is a twist towards the end of the first level and after that you feel like a powder keg has been lit and every level you complete gets you one inch closer to the big boom at the end.

As mentioned earlier, Styx: Shards of Darkness provides multiple 3D platforming levels for which you can chose multiple directions to reach your objective. Now, the one key thing you absolutely must have in a game like this is proper gameplay mechanics. Since stealth games pride themselves on giving you scenarios that require precise timing and judgement, this reason alone is why it's so important.

Sadly, I didn't find that Styx's gameplay was that on point or precise in this area. Granted there wasn't much in terms of hand holding as the game itself unfolds before you as you're thrust into a level right away. There were also some issues with the cover system, and transitioning out of it, that were a little disorienting, and when executing something simple such as swinging on a rope, I found that the mechanics involving this action felt unpolished.

Other little quirks that felt unpolished were the combat system should you be discovered. Pressing the X button when you're sneaking up on an enemy allows you to do a quick kill, however it won't be silent. To make it silent, instead of pressing the X button you have to HOLD the X button down. Now, should you go for the quiet kill, you'll notice that the animation sequence lasts for a few seconds to make sure that if you decide to engage in a silent kill there aren't any other enemies nearby that could be on patrol and see you as you're going through this motion (which for some reason still generates noise, but apparently not noises your enemies can hear?). If you're caught you're going to either have to run away and hide or face your opponents in combat. You'll have to time your X button to parry the enemies' attack or you can expect to be cut down in no time.


To counter this reality, you're given options as to how to eliminate your opponents. Instead of taking on a group head on, why not push an explosive barrel off a ledge above or cut a chandelier's chain and watch it drop on them. Better yet, if you have a bunch of enemies eating at a table, why not try poisoning their food? This creativity allows Styx: Shards of Darkness to be played a multiple of different ways and gives variety which helps keep the game feeling fresh as you look for new ways to eviscerate your targets. While I did appreciate the ability to either kill someone outright using my blade or use a different creative outlet, these are just a couple of examples of what you can expect.

Even though the gameplay might be imperfect, there is still a lot going for Styx: Shards of Darkness. One of the biggest improvements you will see resides within the new skill trees that you can upgrade. Branches such as Stealth, Kill, Perception, Cloning and Alchemy will give Styx a much needed advantage over his adversaries. There's many reasons to love this new skill tree setup.

First, you're not set in any sort of direct linear path so you can cake different paths should you choose to do so. Second, you can see how the development really improves from the previous game. Take for instance your clone. Styx used to be able to create a clone that was solely used as a distraction. Now, Styx can manipulate the clone to cause havoc, or even leave it as a quick warp point should you find yourself in danger and need a rapid exit. This type of development and improvement is a welcomed addition to the game and goes a long way to creating a more enjoyable gaming experience.


You'll be happy to know that the graphics of Styx Shards of Darkness are finely detailed and look very nice, adding to experience when playing. Now granted the environments seem a little "cookie cutter" but they lend themselves to the fantasy time period and that goes for all the characters themselves. While you're traversing you'll also notice things like Styx's dagger sheathe glowing to give you a visual indication that you're hidden. It's this environment that will have you praising your Right Stick, as clicking it will give you an overview of your immediate surroundings as it highlights what is friend, foe, interactive items, and collectibles.

To help solidify the atmosphere of the game, you're given what I'd like to call a brooding soundtrack. This isn't some high energy retro synth onslaught, but a very melancholic sweeping soundscape that ties everything together in a tremendous package.

Styx: Shards of Darkness offers more improvements upon it's original than most other sequels you'll find in gaming today. This is due to the painstaking process of finding out what needed improving, how to improve it, then executing it properly. If you are a fan of games that thrive on creativity and stealth, then Styx: Shards of Darkness should be on your gaming radar. While there are a few issues that plague the game, the overall gaming experience is one of quality and craftsmanship. Earlier I asked if developer Cyanide ticked all the boxes that make up a quality stealth title, and the answer to that is yes.




Overall: 7.0 / 10
Gameplay: 7.0 / 10
Visuals: 7.5 / 10
Sound: 7.0 / 10

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