E3 2016: Styx returns in Shards of Darkness with a new co-op mode

Styx: Master of Shadows from Cyanide Studio was all right stealth game released in 2014. In my review, I said it was a fine game, but one ultimately hurt by its steady descent into rigid design. Stealth games fall into two camps: the ones that make stealth an option and those that force you down that road at any cost. Master of Shadows tried to court both and it didn’t quite work out. But that’s what sequels are for, right? To take another crack at a solid idea and try to deliver on its promise. Though our appointment for Styx: Shards of Darkness was brief – the whole thing was a touch rushed because everyone was short on time – the glimpse we were shown seems promising.

The demo walked us through a quick mission through a secluded part of a seaside town. Styx’s job was to grab a few valuables and escape. A simple job for an accomplished thief. Our walkthrough of the demo didn’t show off much of the level due to time constraints, but it seemed to have plenty of pathways and methods to complete objectives. The approach the developer playing the game took us underneath most of the buildings, allowing him to move unseen.

He used a few new tricks to get around. Most notable is using clones to teleport. In the previous game, Styx could vomit up clones of himself to distract guards, operate levers, and safely scout ahead. Their use was limited, though, because once you were finished with them, your only option was to destroy them. Now they can be used to access otherwise inaccessible areas, such as high ledges for a quick escape, which the developer demonstrated.

A lot Styx’s other abilities return as well, such as amber vision, which highlights enemies and hiding spots in his immediate vicinity, along with poisoning food and water by spitting in them. Didn’t need to use those, however, as our guide was able to easily reach the objective unseen. Only obstacle he ran into was a locked door. Unlike the last game where you could open any locks without question, this time you need lockpicks, which can either be found lying around or crafted if you have the right materials. In this particular case, though, the locked door wasn’t only one way inside. There were plenty of other paths to take, we’re told. Once inside, he grabbed his target and made his way to the roof where a hot air balloon was waiting so he could escape.

Overall, the demo looked to be more Styx. That’s not necessarily a bad thing since the first game had promise, but it’s hard to say whether or not the game will avoid the pitfalls its predecessor fell victim to. Only time will tell. The developer did say they were adding co-op to the game, but details on the specifics were sparse. It’s easy to imagine how having another player at your side could ease or complicate missions, though.

Styx: Shards of Darkness will be available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC later this year.

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