Styx: Shards of Darkness is a shadow clad stealth RPG. You play as Styx, a Brooklyn Goblin with Amber on the mind.
Mission based, stealth orientated, free roam platforming make up the majority of the game play. Urban and despotic is the scenery you venture. Utilising the city decay, Styx scrambles from wall to beam to belfry like a scurrying weasel. The free climb elements are one of the greatest strengths of the game. Multiple are the paths you can take to reach your destination. Swing like a monkey on the boards beneath the brothel. Clamber as a gecko as you brace yourself against the walls. Zip through streets using the urban terrain to hide your presence. And presence you must hide, for when alerted, an enemy can cut you down in one sharp blow.
This freedom of environment is also granted to how you play a mission. Do you distract the guards, and whizz past? Or poison the wine of the dwarven guards? Or do you slither up, dagger in hand, waiting for the perfect opportunity to assassinate. This flexibility blends gratifyingly with the RPG levelling elements of the games. Skills to turn you invisible, to forge poisons and traps and to create suicidal smoke detonating clones of yourself are but a short list of the arsenal you have to command. The game design forces the player to think outside the box and think like a rogue.
The liberation of movement and routes so different, offers much replay value. As said there are always multiple paths to reach your goal, and I never felt forced down a single one of them. And did I mention the maps are littered with loot? Everyone loves loot! Furthermore I only played on Initiate level of difficulty. And I found it hard. That was 2/4 on the scale. I’ve now got Goblin and Master mode to conquer.
Clever, loud and hilarious is the voice work in this game. Not only does Styx’s slick accent add to the Goblin’s gritty flair but the game holds jovial jam-packed 4th wall breaks. “Yeah, that’s right, keep ignoring what the developers want you to do!” is the sardonic reply Styx relays when you kill him. And he makes sure you know, YOU are killing him. “How about this? I go through there (points at screen) and pick up the controller and you come in here and die! Painfully!”
Potent as the voice acting, the story is engaging and each chapter leaves you ravenous for more. Grounded in low fantasy; it is the elves, dwarves and men who are the true villains in this saga. Of course, Styx is no saint himself, which makes the muddy grey water all the more treacherous.
Though the graphics are cartoony, it fits the gameplay, reminding me of platforming stealth classics like Sly Cooper. The artwork melds sinisterly with the dark urban backdrop. Boarded up broken homes and crooked narrow alleys not just exhibit a dismal dystopia but also gifts pools of shadows for Styx to sneakily wade his way through.
There were some hiccups that stopped the game from becoming as polished as the Amber Styx craves. The animation was lumpy at times, chunky badly rendered guards moving oddly. Despite good voice acting the lip sync was off, the characters churning out the words a heartbeat to late, or saying words the NPCs mouth’s did not make.
Not only this, but despite being a great environment with amble options to climb, the central mechanic of the game sometimes gave something to be desired. Jumping and running felt clunky at times. Jak & Daxter clunky when I needed Assassins Creed smooth. This frustrated me, for I had found a protagonist as cool as the shadows he dwells in and saw him flounder about map like a tadpole.
Despite all this I loved my clandestine experience as Styx and would highly recommend the game to any wants who wants a stealth experience. But be warned, there are requirements needed to play.
1) Rouge Reflexes
2) The Creativity of a Crook
3) And a very loose moral compass.