Styx is back and he is looking better than ever. By that, I mean the game is looking better than ever. Can’t really tell if a goblin looks good or not (or can you?). Now powered by Unreal Engine 4, and benefiting from a bigger budget, the game looks miles better than the previous title.
You can see that the developers really got to stretch their legs while making this game by the areas alone. They are varied and expansive. They range from shanty towns to Elven cities. A particular favorite of mine was a part of the game that had you traversing between three particularly huge airships while in the air.
Platform Reviewed: PS4
Platform Available: PS4, Xbox One, PC
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Release Date: March 14, 2017
Price: $49.99 (Php. 2,536.29 Play-Asia)
This review is based on a review build provided by the developers/publisher.
Shards of Darkness starts shortly after Master of Shadows. The game’s main plot revolves around addressing “The Green Plague” that started due to the events of the last game. Styx gets thrown into a quest filled with mystery and interracial politics after accepting a job to steal a scepter that can allegedly help stop the goblin menace.
The mechanics of the Shards of Darkness remains largely the same with Master of Shadows except for a few changes they added to make the game easier. For instance, you no longer have to lock pick every door you encounter. Due to how huge the areas are, most doors are not locked. You now can find or create lock picks that you can use on doors that hid treasure or important items behind them. Another welcomed change is to how Amber vision, an ability that highlights enemies and other important objects on screen, works. Amber vision no longer consumes amber, the mana of the Styx universe.
The game also shuffled some of the buttons on the D-pad to make room for a quick save feature for consoles. Now you can press the right directional button to quick save in between checkpoints. This allows players to take more risks since the penalty for death is not as harsh.
Now with all the improvements they implemented, they were unable to address the control issues that plagued the first game. Styx’s jump is still floaty and the ledge detection still leaves something to be desired. While I do understand that a floaty jump is something that most people can ignore, this is something that I can’t. Seeing your character float or seemingly hover for a while in the air just pulls me out of the experience. As for the ledge detections, Styx still fails to grab on to things even if you position him properly. I can’t count how many times I fell to my death or detected because Styx was unable to hold onto something while climbing.
For a sneaking game, Shards of Darkness is surprisingly easy. I attribute this to how narrow the field of vision of the NPCs. There are times where I am sneaking virtually in front of them and they were unable to notice me. On instances that they did, it takes a while for them to react which allows me to continue on sneaking. This coupled with the auto-save feature made it, so with that I completed most areas without being detected or even killing anyone. Cranking up the difficult remedied this a bit. Auto-save was removed and NPC reaction was much faster but the field of vision appeared to still be narrow. I had to change the way I approach situations but the level of challenge presented remained the same.
On the topic of difficulty and challenge, the game has a ranking system that scores you off 4 different things: Speed, Detection, Kills, and Theft. While not entirely a new thing, the problem with this is that it updates you in-game. You are running around trying to be sneaky and suddenly you are notified that you can no longer get a Gold rating on Speed since you spent more than 10 minutes in the area; or you got noticed and your detection rank drops from Gold to Silver. I found myself reseting the level or zone just to achieve the perfect run.
In the previous title, when you get detected, you move on. Here in Shards of Darkness, because of the notification, you just want to start over. While not getting Gold ranking is something other people might let go, the reason I do it, outside a completionist mindset, is that it yields the most XP. You get to unlock skills faster and at an earlier stage of the game when you go for gold.
Styx’s skills are also an issue for me. Styx has a wide array of weapons, straps and abilities that allows him to dispatch of enemies but I found myself not using them. Killing someone meant that you had to sacrifice a gold ranking. This is actually an issue I have with stealth games in general. They provide you with a lot of fun toys but punish you for playing with them. While some titles might lessen this problem by providing stealth specific abilities, that is sorely missing from Shards of Darkness. This is not to say that Styx has no stealth abilities, he does. Invisibility is a starting power which is kinda the problem as well. Most of the stealth related abilities are passive improvements and the ultimate stealth skill is readily available.
Styx: Shards of Darkness improves from Master of Shadows on many fronts and introduced a lot of new features that adds more depth to the franchise. But the failure to completely address control issues from the previous game prevents me from enjoying the game to its fullest.
A RECOMMENDED GAME, IT’S MISSING A FEW THINGS BUT IT’S A FUN EXPERIENCE FOR PLAYERS.
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