Of Orcs and Men was an ambitious title for its time, and while its gameplay and narrative didn’t quite hold up to the promises made by its developers, its characters stood out. This is particularly true of Styx, who is a wisecracking smart ass goblin with a checkered past and ninja-like abilities that make him a highly competent stealth assassin. Styx stood out so much in that game that he eventually got his own title in Styx: Master of Shadows, and now he has a sequel coming called Styx: Shards of Darkness.
While at E3 I sat in on a hands-off demo of the game, which featured the tail end of its tutorial, and I couldn’t help but be impressed with its visuals and technical presentation. Being a game focused on stealth, lighting and level design are key ingredients for making the experience enjoyable and believable. You can’t really stalk targets in brightly lit rooms, so the world of Shards of Darkness features a great use of lighting to create shadows for Styx to creep in to easily take out his targets. The world isn’t one big shadow though, as there are fires to add a orange hue to the environments and to create the shadows, so the colors aren’t all drab.
The textures in the environment are also top notch thanks to the talented artists working on the game and the abilities of the Unreal Engine 4. The wooden structures that Styx tip-toed through looked lifelike and almost as if they could give him splinters based on how precise they appeared. Styx’s green skin also appeared very detailed thanks to the quality texture work featured in the game. Of course his targets also looked pretty polished even though they’re just in the game for Styx to murder.
The gameplay shown off looked very tight and responsive, and its focus on stealth is undeniable, so at times players will be foiled and have to restart a checkpoint. For me, especially in stealth games, dying and waiting to get back to the area you just perished in would really start to grate on me, especially if this loop occurred during a tough gameplay segment. Luckily in Shards of Darkness this isn’t the case. This game loads insanely fast–like snap of your fingers quick–so waiting to get back into the action if you make a mistake will be near instantaneous and much less stressful for someone like myself.
The fact that a character from a game that didn’t star him, now has two games of his own, is impressive to say the least, so if you’ve skipped out on the first Styx game, or haven’t paid much attention to Shards of Darkness, you may want to put it on your radar. The gameplay looks very strategic and not cheap, but the visuals and load times do stand out thanks to the Unreal Engine 4.
Stay tuned for more updates on Styx: Shards of Darkness, which is due out this fall for the PS4, Xbox One, and PC platforms.
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