Some of you might not believe it, but Styx: Shards of Darkness is the third game with titular goblin. His story began with Of Orcs and Men, where he served as a deuteragonist. With quite good reception of Styx: Master of Shadows, it’s now time for a proper sequel.
It’s even harder to believe in Styx’s backstory, as he was an orc scholar. His current goblin form is a result of an accident – he mutated because of an amber from the World Tree. Now he is centuries-old and proficient in a different occupation – being an assassin.
Once again developed by Cyanide Studio, Styx: Shards of Darkness is now created using Unreal Engine 4. The former title had its weaknesses due to a limited budget. The prequel is greater in scale, with additional mechanics implemented. Once again it’s an infiltration game, which requires you to plan tactically and stay stealthy.
After the fall of Akenash Styx is tasked with visiting Korangar, a Dark Elven city, and Thoben, the City of Thieves. A “heist of the century to expose a deadly conspiracy” is mentioned, but details about the plot are scarce. You’ll surely appreciate this dark fantasy setting with a lot of multi-layered cities, mines and fortresses.
Each mission is a semi-sandbox experience, but the game isn’t an open world one. Instead, you will be asked to fulfill certain objectives with additional side-missions being available on various occasions. It is worth remembering that Styx: Shards of Darkness is a true stealth game and even though it gives you a lot of freedom, a direct approach focused on combat is the hardest, if not impossible. Watch your knife as it lights up when you are properly hidden in shadows – that’s the most important hint.
With more budget and a changed engine Cyanide aims to give you a much more free space in terms of deciding how you want to handle each situation. If you played Master of Shadows, you know the core of the gameplay. This time it’s expanded. If there’s an objective, there are various routes to get to it. Each mission/map contains hidden places and a lot of collectibles. Of course they are optional but it quickly becomes a heaven for completionists. Multiple routes require you to plan in advance and think fast if the situation changes all of a sudden. You will be able to navigate through levels thanks to new movesets for Styx – he’s capable of sliding, swinging and doing much more complex acrobatics than the last time we’ve met.
Styx’s skills are split into five skill trees. Stealth allows you to be quiet – that not only means killing and staying silent, but also making victims temporarily invisible to other guards. The kill tree is all about combat – dodging, improving moves, and targeting and concealing the body in a single action. Perception allows to improve senses and see what’s unseen thanks to Amber Vision. And then we have the Cloning Tree – a way of creating our goblin’s duplicate. You can use it to lure enemies, distract them or even kill. If needed, you can spawn a clone in a distance or even teleport to its location.
Finally, there’s Alchemy. It’s a wide skill tree focused on crafting various items – from Life Vials to acid traps. Styx will be even able to create his own lockpicks and everything that’s handy in being stealthy and dangerous. It’s important to explore each map to find crafting components. You can run through a mission, sure, but remember about collectibles. Searching is much more worthwhile when you combine it with gathering.
And just when you are done with your obsessive–compulsive disorder, you have to think about the surroundings with an additional idea in mind: how to dispose of bodies and use environment to your advantage. There are alarm bells, for example. If you are not careful, they will be used to rope in additional enemy forces. But you can booby-trap the bell and, if noticed by a single enemy, you are safe. And it is not.
Styx: Shards of Darkness is set to release in March 2017 on PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.