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Styx: Shards of Darkness Review

Attention to detail, a cunning ferocity and a love of chaos is all that's required to make the most of Styx: Shards of Darkness. When all the above ingredients are present, it's an absolute pleasure to play. When just one of those is missing, however, you'll always feel as if something is amiss, and the gameplay won't click as much as it once had.

Don't get me wrong, the moment-to-moment gameplay is beautiful to be a part of. I have yet to experience the same feeling in other games as sneaking up on and annihilating an enemy in absolute silence to then sulk off to the shadows undetected. If you're able to achieve the same result without, say, planning your meticulous killing-orientated route, your time with Styx will never feel quite so rewarding. These moments were far too common for my liking and, for all the wrong reasons, it was able to shine a light on the specific parts of your journey that were able to provide you with everything needed. As and when you start to feel just that bit too comfortable in your skills, the game will throw new enemy types at you to change the pace. While they never varied enough to rethink your game style, that were appreciated nonetheless.

Responsive controls, combined with the aforementioned fluid gameplay, is a delight. Be it ledges, tightropes and the like, you constantly feel in control of the titular character.  When you fail, you usually have a clear idea of where your plan, or lack thereof, failed, and gives you clear indication on where to improve upon the next try. This old-school mentality of 'try until you succeed' is right at home here, and hand-holding be damned, it only enriches the experience. 

RPG elements, including various skill trees, help to show the intricate details in which each environment was created. With one particular skill unlocked, you may choose to poison guards and wait until they take a refreshing drink, and with another, you could send a mindless clone to scout an area, grab attention or, with further unlocks down that path, swap places with the clone in an instant. With stealth games becoming more a playground of destruction, Dishonoured 2 and Metal Gear Solid 5 being stand-out in their mechanics, Styx manages to put it's own spin on it and, whilst not necessarily unique, it still appreciated regardless.

Styx's full potential, however, was never quite realised when it came to both the story telling and the lore. The writing and plot were often inconsequential, occasionally unnecessary such as the much-beloved but equally frustrating fourth-wall breaking references which would often fall flat. Elements outside of direct storytelling are present that are constantly downplayed when, really, more would have been appreciated in such a potentially lore-heavy universe.

Styx: Shards of Darkness is very much alike it's predecessor, Master of Shadows, with just a bit added on. That's not necessarily a bad thing, having enjoyed the balls off of the original 2014 title, it wouldn't have gone amiss to have some more love and care, that's quite so obviously present, added throughout. I hope that, if Cyanide have the opportunity to create more games in this up and coming series, that they can truly achieve what they so clearly envision. That will be something truly special.

Nick Hanchet | @NickHanchet

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