Styx: Shards of Darkness (PlayStation 4) Review

By Thom Compton 14.03.2017

Review for Styx: Shards of Darkness on PlayStation 4

Stealth games are typically all about being as effective as possible with the tools given. Unlike platformers or RPGs, there's no crowd waiting at the end, cheering your name. It's a job, quick and effective, and it allows for a lot of interesting moments to be born out of simply not being detected. However, because of the matter of fact nature of the work, many stealth icons are known for being very soft spoken, only speaking when absolutely imperative. Styx did not get that memo.

Styx: Shards of Darkness is a 3D stealth game that is much flashier than many of its comrades. While they may be hiding in a cardboard box waiting for an opportune moment, Styx is throwing sand in a soldier's eye while announcing it at the top of his lungs. If you take your games with a degree of sophistication and classy self-control, you're going to feel very out of place watching this goblin stalk the shadows.

Screenshot for Styx: Shards of Darkness on PlayStation 4

See, Styx has a way with words that might be expected from a movie character called "The Frat Boy." He's incredibly crass, and makes it all too obvious as the game chugs along. When you die, and you will, you are greeted by his face making fun of you for getting him killed, a la the Batman: Arkham series. His jokes range from being mildly funny at best to occasionally annoying. He's not a very likable character, and unlike some characters whose charm comes from how unlikable they can be, Styx just comes off irritating a lot of the time. It's not just him, however, as the other inhabitants of the game are equally crass, and few of them come off as funny.

Fortunately, this is a game, not a movie, and so the focus is the beautiful gameplay hiding within. To this end, Styx: Shards of Darkness manages to be a highly interesting stealth title. It excels at what its doing because it aims to be more gritty and visceral, and it works wonders with the gameplay. As you explore and partake in each mission, you will likely kill a lot of enemies, though the game is prepared to provide rewards if you don't. In fact, the game rewards for performing a lot of the standard stealth tropes, like not setting off alarms or being very quick. These little end mission rewards are interesting, but they aren't what makes the game so exciting.

Screenshot for Styx: Shards of Darkness on PlayStation 4

Styx: Shards of Darkness is at its best when it's lobbing unique enemy configurations at players, forcing them to constantly try new things. As early as the tutorial level, it takes its hands off the handle bars and lets players ride solo. Styx will have access to interesting moves, like turning invisible and creating decoys early on, and these abilities can be levelled up. Deciding whether or not to go in swinging or being more polite and sneaking past enemies is nice, though it would be great to be able to neutralise them without killing them as a third option.

One confusing aspect is how the game allows players to stealth kill enemies, or loudly assault them, all depending on how long the attack button is held down. There's really no good time to just swing wildly, as enemies are much faster than Styx and can kill him with little effort. The loud kill seems more like a punishment for not holding down the Square button. Equally confusing is how easy it is to just walk past enemies. Sometimes enemies will just stare at Styx, seemingly unaware he is present. For instance, early on in the tutorial level, Styx has to poison someone. It's easy enough to just walk in, where that someone can clearly see him, and poison them. It's confusing even more when figuring out that sometimes enemies can sense Styx's presence when they shouldn't be able to, like through a wall.

Screenshot for Styx: Shards of Darkness on PlayStation 4

Despite the confusing AI, Styx: Shards of Darkness still manages to be fun, if a bit repetitive. Missions sometimes seem to go on well beyond what they feel they should, but they manage to remain engaging throughout their playtime. The controls are another point of contrition, as they seem to be a bit off. For instance, hiding fallen enemies is important, and one of the most interesting tactics to keeping yourself safe. One option is to throw them off the side of structures, but that comes with a word of caution. It's very easy to accidentally fall off the structure as you toss them down. This leads to death, of course, and you want to avoid that at all costs, thanks to oddly spaced checkpoints in the levels.

Still, in terms of stealth games, Styx: Shards of Darkness is imaginative and well-designed enough that it should keep players plenty interested through its flaws. At the very least, it's a beautiful game, but again, this is about the gameplay. The gameplay varies from fairly imaginative to weirdly uneven, as you spend as much time hiding from enemies as you do fighting the game itself.

Screenshot for Styx: Shards of Darkness on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

5/10
Rated 5 out of 10

Average

Styx: Shards of Darkness sometimes feels like it's the purposely edgy teenager who doesn't want you to like it. It's, by all means, a game any stealth fan should try, but it's not going to grab and keep you coming back for more. Instead, it feels like wading through mud, and the payoff you're receiving is too small to really gloat about. There's potential here, but behind buggy AI, clumsy controls and a lead character who is more annoying than likable, it all feels for naught.

Developer

Cyanide

Publisher

Focus Home Interactive

Genre

Action Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  5/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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