When we talk about games, we tend to think of the world as nicely bifurcated between the AAA titles like Resident Evil 7 and Mass Effect Andromeda and the creative, low budget indie titles like Thimbleweed Park and Little Nightmares. There is a middle layer of games, though. These are games that look like AAA titles but are lacking in either gameplay or graphics. Some of the games are pretty good despite their issues (but that’s not always the case). Lately, though, these sorts of games have been churning out some great cooperative experiences filling a void left behind as AAA titles have stopped including cooperative modes. Sniper Elite 4 has pretty basic graphics and gameplay but provides a fun if superficial experience. Vermintide looks a little dated but gave us the Left 4 Dead sequel we’ve been wanting for years. And now we have Styx: Shards of Darkness, a fantasy-themed cooperative stealth adventure that provides a good if flawed experience.
Styx follows the story of the titular goblin as he tries to retrieve an artifact and save his race from annihilation. As a hero, Styx is unique. He’s a sarcastic, pessimistic thief who’s excellent at burgling but terrible at fighting. He’s great at assassinating unsuspecting guards, but if they spot him, he’s not great at defending himself. In terms of gameplay, that means that you’ve got to stay hidden, watching guards’ patterns and looking for hidden routes through levels. Overall, it works pretty well and, as we’ve noted before, the gameplay is pretty fun. The best aspect, though, is the cooperative gameplay as you and a buddy explore these levels together. The need to scout, distract, and team up make some of these levels real standout experiences. A downed player respawns if the survivor can stay alive long enough, leading to stakes just high enough to keep things interesting.
However, like most titles on this gaming tier, there are considerable imperfections that will limit the experience for some gamers. For example, much like with Vermintide and Sniper Elite, the graphics look very dated for 2017. Boss fights are kind of a nightmare, too. Styx is vulnerable enough in single player mode but in cooperative gameplay he can be killed in a single hit, meaning that boss fights become a nightmare of instant kills and continual respawning. The biggest issue for us, though, was the difficulty curve in later levels in which enemies can suddenly end the level simply by seeing you. This raises the stakes considerably and makes the game much less fun to play by forcing you to adopt exceedingly conservative strategies. Much like other titles in this tier, this is a fun game to play but not necessarily one you’ll want to win.
We’re living in a time in which we have very few fun cooperative options. Cooperative gameplay is often too complex for the indies and not the focus of the AAAs (or is dropped in favor of better graphics). So games like Styx – that provide a fun, addictive, cooperative experience – are increasingly important, warts and all. It’s hard to recommend buying it but it’s definitely worth playing it with a buddy. Just remember, when the game stops being fun, it’s time to move on.
THE BEST PARTS
The cooperative gameplay is fun, easy to pickup and addictive. Also Styx is funny as hell.
THE WORST PARTS
Graphics and gameplay seem a little dated, but it’s the annoyingly difficult final stages that we hated the most.
OVERALL: RENT IT
It’s a fun game to have for a weekend but you don’t need to beat it or repeat it.