Price: £34.99 Developer: Cyanide Studio Publisher: Focus Home Interactive Platform(s): PC, Xbox One, PS4 Version tested: PC
I can't stand Styx (the Goblin), and he's a large part of the reason for most of my struggles with Styx: Shards of Darkness (the game) too.
The foul-mouthed little Goblin is the biggest problem in a game that has the makings of greatness. Styx is the true antagonist, a villain that will happily destroy the game's atmosphere, tone or fourth wall to try and get a response out of me.
Every single time you die, Styx is there to rub salt in the wounds, asking if you streamed the most recent death on Twitch, implying you're using the controller with your butt cheeks or making cracks about your sex life. Death comes at you pretty fast in Styx: Shards of Darkness and the best thing the game could offer would be letting you get back into things with the minimum of fuss so you take another swing at its punishing stealth. You'll die a lot battling through the game's nine levels, and knowing Styx will toss turgid insults at you can make it a bitter pill to swallow.
If you can ignore the tiny green Goblin in the room, Styx: Shards of Darkness has a lot of rad elements. It's a stealth game that will evoke nostalgia for Thief, although with added layers of fantasy sprinkled over the top. Most of the game is set in or very near to Korrangar, where the High Priestess Lyssril has a scheme to make her invincible. This is only tangentially related to Styx's quest to get his hands on Amber and pure Quartz. It's a story full of fantasy tropes: betrayal, greed, revenge, tense alliances between characters that should be, and often are, at each other's throats. Our titular goblin doesn't care about this, solely interested in getting his hands on Quartz and Amber as fuel for his own powers and retaining his freedom in a world where Goblins are generally stabbed on sight.
Your first few hours with Styx will be spent stumbling around in the dark, clinging onto ledges by your fingernails and trying to work out patrol routes so you can nip in and grab your target or one of the many emergent objectives that pop up as you waddle your way through the environment. It's hands-off, even in the tutorial level, but you'll learn how the stealth mechanics work through necessity, helped in a large part by Styx's Amber Vision, which highlights usable objects, guards and other useful information. It's a powerful tool and the best weapon in your arsenal in these early levels.
Get a level under the belt though, and your points for performance in the last mission become skill points and you can buy new abilities. Much of these are fairly simple, commonplace in modern stealth games: stealth-kill a man from inside a cupboard (yes), sense nearby items, improve your resource costs. You can even turn invisible, although that's not a unique mechanic in stealth titles either.