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Just like Arsenal Football Club, all AA titles are simply bang average. Riddled with complacent game design, and more often than not, a bagful of glitches, AA titles are nothing more than discount bin pick-ups. £3 to £10 impulse buys which have only ever been played once or twice, and since then have spent their time rotting on shelves in your home, or now, in the year-of-our-lord 2017, on the shelves of your digital library. However, it looks like now, after years of 5/10 complacency, the streak of averageness has been broken, and an above average AA title has finally been made, a title which is not only satisfying to play, but is also technically immaculate, and that particular title is Styx: Shards of Darkness.

Just like the titular character, Styx: Shards of Darkness, has crawled out of the deepest of shadows, and unveiled itself in order to plunder the pockets of gamers around the world, with its low price tag and an array of improvements upon its predecessor, Styx: Master of Shadows. Where Master of Shadows was a rather dull, and monotonous affair, plastered over with fifty different shades of brown, and a single shade of green, then Shards of Darkness, is a complete opposite.

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The world of Styx: Shards of Darkness is built around a fundamentally stable plot, which through application of ever new complications, allows the player to traverse a plethora of diverse and distinct environments.  Within the first couple of hours, Styx will rob a treasury located within a dark, sea side slum, he’ll then board and plunder a magnificent airship, and simply moments after that, he will be sneaking through beautifully crafted elven architecture. And despite the fact that each and every location can be completed within 15 minutes, as the game indicates through the skill medals mechanic, it doesn’t necessarily mean that players will fully explore each of the locations within that time. And this is because each and every location has a range of different routes, which can lead the player through multiple, completely different worlds within the same level.

Despite the high quality of visual fidelity, which Styx: Shards of Darkness holds, the same cannot be said about the rest of the title. Throughout an eternity of the game, players can find a multitude of traversal related objects, which either seem out of place by being in a certain location, or by simply not being where one would expect them to be. For example, all levels feature goblin-sized holes, and ventilation shafts which allow Styx to travel from one location to another without the risk of detection, however, at times such can be found in places which simply lead to nothing more but baffling confusion. Some levels will feature a ventilation shaft located in a middle of a cliff face, which does not only seem out of place, but can also lead to some bafflingly odd locations. Whereas at other times, players can find two or even three such shafts right next to each other, leading to the exact same location.

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Sketchy level design aside, it has to be stated that in comparison to other titles of the AA quality, Styx: Shards of Darkness is the proverbial light in the dark. It’s a feels and plays like a title which has been made with actual effort, unlike other AA titles which I’ve played in the past. It features a plethora of additional features such as a profoundly broad skill tree, and a handful of helpful abilities, such as the ability to clone Styx, and an option to turn him invisible for a short period of time. And to top it all off, Styx: Shards of Darkness, is the most stable title which I’ve ever had a chance to review, as throughout my playthrough I haven’t come across a single glitch, and unlike Dark Souls III, it hasn’t crashed a single time, which is extremely surprising for a title published by Focus Home Interactive.

In short, Styx: Shards of Darkness, is a massive improvement, not only upon its predecessor, but also the AA category as a whole. It is a title which offers the variety of gameplay which even some AAA games lack these days, and the inclusion of the co-op mode only further promotes it up the ladder of desirability. However, despite its strong technical and artistic foundation, Styx: Shards of Darkness, is not a perfect game by any stretch of the imagination. And what prevents it from reaching the upper echelons of the grading scale, is the fact that at its core, Styx: Shards of Darkness, is a title which suffers deeply from its mechanical shortcomings, which are so brazen at times, that they take all the joy away from the title.

Wonky rope slinging, counter intuitive climbing mechanic, and seemingly RNG based hostile npc detection, all contribute towards the bitter taste, which comes with Styx: Shards of Darkness. And the latter, while being highlighted as a negative, can be a doubled-edged sword, as sometimes hostile npcs will spot Styx from a mile away while he’s hanging down a ledge in complete darkness, whereas at other times, they’ll fail to spot him while he’s walking past them in a completely lit room. But even with all the aforementioned negatives, aboard the Styx: Shards of Darkness airship, it is still a highly enjoyable title, which I would, and I will recommend to every fan of the stealth based action-adventure genre.

 

 



Author

Kamil

My name is Kamil, and I'm the 'Feature Man'. I write news, and reviews just like everybody else, however, feature articles are my true forte. And this is not because I'm another self-centered, pseudo-intellectual games journalist, but because there are many discussion worthy matters which go unnoticed in the flurry of other video-game related articles. If you want to read more of my #HotTakes and #Opinions, or if you simply want to fight me over the internet, you can follow me on Twitter @Kama_Kamilia.