Though there’s been a Styx game before this highly-anticipated sequel, I was going into Cyanide Studios’ latest release Styx: Shards of Darkness blind. Having seen a trailer, I thought it looked like a title I’d thoroughly enjoy and so, picking it up and giving it a go, I’m happy to report that it indeed is a lot of fun. Caution must be taken by fellow newbies, however. This isn’t a game like Assassin’s Creed where, if you’re seen you can engage in an exciting battle to the death. In Styx, if you’re seen, you’re likely going to be killed in just a few seconds.

Available now on PC, PS4 and Xbox One

Available now on PC, PS4 and Xbox One

The combat system on Styx is where we’ll start, as it was one of the few flaws the title has. I understand that the whole point of the game is to get to your objective as stealthily as possible, but mistakes are always going to happen, for which a player shouldn’t always be punished so harshly. There ARE options to parry attacks from alerted guards and soldiers, but on 99% of the occasions we tried to implement the block, it failed and we were cut down. If the developers of the game wanted this to be a tale told through stealth only, then perhaps the ‘parry’ ability should have been removed altogether. It’s not something you can master.

The stealth however IS something you can continue to build on. There’s no two ways about it; if you want to enjoy Styx, you’re going to have to learn not to rush through missions as many of us have become accustomed to. It’s all about taking your time, planning your route and attack, then executing flawlessly. Anything less will likely end you right back at the last save point, being berated by Styx himself on the ‘Game Over’ screen who hits you with a variety of one liners to tell you how utterly terrible you are at playing (in the best way – they’re all pretty funny).

Of course, playing as the little goblin, Styx himself, you’re not expected to simply walk, run and jump your way through the missions. Instead, you’re given a variety of tools and abilities to help you on your way. Need to get past a couple of guards, but not sure how to distract them? Create a clone, pop HIM into the fight and you’re given an entirely new approach to the situation. Out of amber? Find an alarm, food, water or something similar and set up a booby trap. It’s only a matter of time before one of the guards decides they’re hungry or they see you and want to alert the rest of the guards, and BAM – problem solved.

While we’re on the topic of Styx, let’s talk about how brilliant he is as the game’s protagonist. There will be some who don’t like his humour – he’s certainly an acquired taste – but he’s unique in the fact that he’s unafraid to break the fourth wall whenever he feels it necessary. He’s the anti-hero we all need, right now.

Taking him through the 18-or-so hours that the game has to offer never really feels like a chore, because he’s consistent in bringing the laughs. In saying that, there does come a point – around 10 hours in – where you feel older levels are being recycled. The game could use a little trimming around the edges to bring a fuller experience to players.

One of the most appealing aspects of Shards of Darkness is the co-op mode, but you and your friends are going to have to go pure stealth mode if you want to complete missions with one another. Being spotted will end the mission entirely, meaning that there’s no room for misjudgement here. It’s put up or shut up time.

For those who enjoyed the first Styx title, they’re bound to fully appreciate what’s on offer here. For those new to the series, like me, who are wondering whether buying the game is worth the risk, I’d say take the gamble. Ironically, Shards of Darkness feels like it’s fallen into the shadows because of the other huge gaming releases that have taken place around it. To ignore it completely would be unfair, because it’s one of the most enjoyable games I’ve had the pleasure of playing in the past few months.

Styx: Shards of Darkness is available now for PC, PS4 and Xbox One.

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