Styx: Shards of Darkness (XB1) Review

Ken McKown

Stealth release.

The original Styx game was a pleasant surprise. Something that should have been a forgotten attempt at a niche genre, ended up being extremely competent and more fun than it had any right to be. When I heard a sequel was coming, I tempered my expectations. While the first game was better than I expected, it still left plenty of room for improvement. The sequel does make good on some of that, but it also falls flat in others, while also toting a higher price of entry.

Styx is a stealth game, in the same vein as the classic Splinter Cell series. He will crouch down into shadows, light plays a large role, and he also has a collection of abilities used for distraction. What Styx sets out to do, it does well. The stealth mechanics feel good, and there are plenty of ways to solve every puzzle. However, the drab world and uninspired enemies really drag down the experience. This doesn’t feel like a full-priced title.

MSRP: $49.99
Platforms: XB1 (reviewed), PS4, PC
Price I’d Pay: $29.99

Each level in Styx feels like a giant sandbox with multiple ways to play. The fact that the character controls so well is just icing on the cake. As I mentioned there are multiple ways to handle every situation, and the game even awards medals based on various things such as speed and how many enemies I left alive. It makes replaying levels interesting, and gives players something to strive for. There is detective vision, which allows Styx to see collectibles and of course enemy line of sight, but get into combat and it is pretty much game over.

That was one of the biggest gripes with the game’s predecessor, and the sequel has done nothing to rectify it. If I was seen I had two options: run and attempt to hide, or take the death as a lesson learned. I get it, this is a stealth game, but the parry system is so poorly designed, I am not even sure why it was included.

The world of Styx is also very boring. I never knew exactly why I was doing what I was doing. Enemies are generic and feel ripped out of any common western RPG trope, and the cities feel like empty playgrounds to kill enemies. The lore is also weird, seeing as there is a supposed ‘green plague’ yet I rarely ever saw another goblin roaming around, or why everyone was so upset with them. It just feels bland.

Styx himself is humorous, quipping constantly and even relaying some sarcastic remarks when I died. Some hit, while others missed the mark entirely. It is a fun way to break the fourth wall, but it also showcases how little character the rest of the game actually has.

There is an upgrade system in the game that, for some reason, insists on using larger pools of skill points. Instead of giving one or two, it gives hundreds, and then of course skills cost hundreds, which is just weird. I do like the trees though. Upgrading powers and abilities is addictive, and some of the higher-level ones are super fun and useful to have. Also, being able to replay levels and quick loads upon death also make grinding less of a chore.

Visually Styx is a story with two sides. There are moments when the art direction shines, and I feel it is screenshot worthy, while other times I wonder if I am playing the same game. Performance is fine on Xbox One, with very few instances of frame rate problems. I do wish the worlds were a bit more lively though. They feel empty and sad most of the time, which I guess fits, but it also does nothing for the personality of the game or the world.

Styx is a solid game with polished mechanics that simply fails to justify its higher asking price. Combine that with its release date being sandwiched between so many ‘must-have’ titles and it doesn’t even fill a void of having nothing to play. Still, it is a solid stealth game, and one that provides plenty of entertainment in its solid campaign. I just cannot justify the steeper price for what still feels like a lower-budget title.

Review copy of game provided by publisher.

Good

  • Great stealth mechanics
  • Humor is funny when it hits

Bad

  • Bland world and lore
  • Combat is still atrocious
6.5

Decent

Ken McKown
Ken is the Editor-in-Chief of this hole in the wall and he loves to troll for the fun of it. He also enjoys long walks through Arkham Asylum and the cool air of Shadow Moses Island. His turn-ons include Mortal Kombat, Metal Gear Solid and StarCraft.
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