|Styx: Shards of Darkness|
|Publisher||Focus Home Interactive|
|release date||March 2017|
At one time, the goblin Styx appeared in the mediocre role-playing game Of Orcs and Men, where he was the most striking and interesting character. As a result, the hero deserved a separate story and a personal game Styx: Master of Shadows, and a sequel to Shards of Darkness has recently arrived. The master of stealth and stealth returns to his beloved craft to empty several treasure chests and embark on another big adventure.
The story of Shards of Darkness starts in the City of Thieves, which consists of stone chambers and shacks that surround high cliffs. This is a cozy gloomy little world in the spirit of dark fantasy, where there are only renegades and dregs of society around. So, this is the best place for the goblin Styx, who will always find something to do in such muddy waters.
After another case, during which we are introduced to the controls and features of the gameplay, Styx receives an offer that is hard to refuse. The new employer turns out to be the commander of a special squad for the extermination of goblins, so cooperation goes without much enthusiasm. Each has its own goals and benefits. At some point, the heroes get entangled in elven intrigues, which threatens with new dangers, since these comrades in the local world do not at all fit into the usual cute image, but resemble some kind of greedy dangerous fanatics.
Along the way, the main opponent and rival appears on the stage. A certain elven thief manages to rob Styx himself, depriving him of his prey, and periodically puts sticks in the wheels. The elven fraerok does not recognize authority at all, and serious goblins do not do this. So this is a personal matter and additional motivation for Styx.
The authors perfectly captured what the players liked in the image of Styx, and continue to beat his criminal charisma. The goblin loves to caustically comment on what is happening, and even meets death with caustic tirades, referring to the player on the other side of the screen. The game universe also looks interesting, since the usual fantasy races appear in unusual roles in it, there is a certain originality and atmosphere in the visual style.
The gameplay is based on stealth, since in an open clash the protagonist is almost helpless against armed soldiers. Therefore, we use the cover of shadows and find workarounds. Styx can climb walls and cornices, can make his way through small manholes, climb various structures. The levels themselves offer many options where you can advance in different directions, moving through the upper or lower floors, go through the rooftops, use cover, hide in closets and barrels.
Missions are built around stealth and theft, where you need to explore the world and look for different paths to the final goal. Locations are large, and their design is very intricate, which gives great freedom and variability. In the course of moving towards the main goal, side and optional tasks arise. All this stimulates a more thorough study of locations. There are also various collectibles scattered around the game area. Treasures can be accessed on individual levels, which is associated with a series of additional sorties, and sometimes requires solving riddles.
Along the way, you get rid of extra eyes by killing enemies from behind and hiding corpses. Traditionally, a quick loud kill or a quiet but long neutralization method is used.
All this has its own conventions, which is why what is happening sometimes does not look quite correct. For example, kicking a guard into an abyss attracts more attention than hanging around his neck for a long time trying to stab him. In multi-level locations, it is sometimes difficult to notice if there is someone extra in the vicinity. Alert markers above the heads of computer doodles that pay attention to the noise help to orientate. There is also a special amber vision that highlights enemies and important objects.
The best choice for an inconspicuous thief would be sabotage tactics. Somewhere on the guards you can drop a barrel with a poisonous substance, somewhere bring down a chandelier and an alarm bell, and someone can be poisoned through food. The corpse will attract the attention of partners, but they treat the accident with a certain fatalism and after a while return to their normal state. If the goblin still managed to light up for his tricks, the pursuit and search for the hero will immediately begin. We’ll have to quickly run away to knock the hunters off the trail and return the state of incognito. The sensitivity of the enemies in different states is different, after the alarm they are more attentive and show better vision.
Some enemies are resistant to direct attacks due to their armor. You can’t tickle them with a dagger, you need to avoid unnecessary collisions or use tricks and tricks to kill the victim with the help of the environment. There are episodes in the new game with underground beetles that do not see anything, but react sharply to noise. There will be more skirmishes with huge monster bosses. And our thief will still use stealth skills to evade attacks and retaliate.
Rock climbing and a faithful dagger set of Styx’s capabilities is not limited. In difficult situations, temporary invisibility can save. The created goblin assistant allows you to distract the enemy, controlling which you can perform an action in one place, and then quickly take advantage of the turmoil and realize your plan in another place.
During the exploration of levels, we collect various ingredients, from which we create restorative potions in special places and make throwing darts. After the mission, the earned points are spent on pumping skills and abilities, which are divided into five areas. You can improve the invisibility skill, increasing its effectiveness and reducing the consumption of amber, or train the hero to better parry and kill in a jump from a height. Improves potion proficiency and the parameters of the spawned goblin doppelgänger.
The place of action periodically changes, the hero acts in different scenery. Individual levels look interesting and attractive. And if sometimes we go out into open spaces, they delight us with views of large cities, pleasant landscapes or unusual technical structures. Particularly pleased with the mission on aircraft.
On the other hand, the game has many dark episodes in caves and underground labyrinths. Sometimes they look too uniform, which is why Shards of Darkness is visually boring.
The game switched to the new Unreal Engine and supports DirectX 11. Improved detail, more textured and more complex surfaces, more glare, better lighting. On bright unusual locations, Shards of Darkness gives a good picture, but in dark locations the game can look rustic. The system requirements are moderate, although in large locations or in the presence of lighting sources in the frame, budget cards can show serious fps drops.
To evaluate the performance, a small comparative test of several AMD and NVIDIA video cards was carried out. The frame rate was measured at the level with flying ships («Diplomatic ships»), where there is a decrease in overall performance. The maximum graphics quality is set to 1920×1080.
Good results are provided by the GeForce GTX 1050 Ti, slightly weaker than the GeForce GTX 960. More powerful models will provide 60 fps and higher in the most difficult scenes. The Radeon RX 480 is on par with the GeForce GTX 780 Ti, while the Radeon RX 580 is weaker than the GeForce GTX 1060.
We recommend not setting the maximum anti-aliasing quality. Judging by the effect on the image, the game uses the TAA algorithm, which has a minimal impact on performance, but blurs the image at high intensity.
Styx: Shards of Darkness develops the ideas of the first part without resorting to drastic changes. The levels are more interesting in terms of variability, better graphics, more sarcastic phrases from Styx. The game has its own distinct style with some of the levels being beautifully designed, but there are too many dark mazes that get boring quickly. The result is a solid and original stealth action. This is not a game of the Dishonored level, where everything is a cut above and better, but fans of the genre will also be pleased with the new Styx.