If you can't tell by how we eagerly voted Dishonored 2 Game of the Year or my personal playstyle in most games, #Stealth's in. Recently we were given a demonstration of one in particular that we're terribly excited about, the upcoming stealth game #StyxShardsofDarkness.
Following the demonstration we had the opportunity to chat with Julien Desourteaux, the lead level designer on Styx: Shards of Darkness, where we got to discuss how the series has evolved their little green goblin and the influence co-op has on the overall experience.
We Talk Co-op, Story And The Unreal Engine In Styx: Shards Of Darkness
Now Loading: I know you're trying to avoid too many spoilers, but where does Shard of Darkness pick up?
JD: Okay, it's a sequel to Styx: Master of Shadows. I'm gonna spoil Master of Shadows, I don't want to spoil Shards of Darkness.
After the fall of Akenash, the huge tower, Styx created the goblin races, these are spreading like a green plague around the world. It's a huge problem for the different races living in our universe, so they try to hunt them.
Styx is living in a city of thieves called Thoben, off smuggling and assassination contracts. But he will get caught by the adventure pretty quickly. The call to adventure is kind of a twist, so I don't want to spoil much more about the story.
Now Loading: You're a level designer, and one of the things you've shown to us is the ability to tackle a level in multiple ways. At an average guess, how much of a level would a player see in one run?
JD: That depends on how he likes to play. For example, I like to hit every corner of a level, but if he just goes straight for the objective without exploring, I think he will see maybe 40%. It depends which objective he will choose, if he chooses one he will see that pass, I honestly can't answer that question.
Now Loading: One of the things that encourages you to see more of the level is the crafting system and all of the items spread around the world. Would you mind telling us how the crafting system blends into gameplay?
JD: So in the first game, we wanted the player to explore the full level, but we didn't have a reward to give him. So the crafting system and ingredients were a good reward.
You can listen-in on conversations as well, by exploring and trying to find conversation, we encourage the player to explore.
Now Loading: That's thrown in with the fact you can collect medals for completing a level without killing anyone or clearing it within a certain time limit, encouraging replay-ability. One thing I wanted to know is about a no-kill playthrough, what about boss fights?
JD: You know boss fights, it's a creature, so it's not really (he trails off).
I see what you mean there. We have a few missions where you need to kill somebody, it's your contract, but you can finish the game without killing anyone who's not on a contract, but we don't have a lot of missions like that.
Now Loading: The combat in the original was a little bit clunky, but that meant emphasizing strategy and honing in on stealth. Is that something that changed in Shards of Darkness?
JD: Yeah, we changed the combat system a lot. It's not a combat system right now, it's a last chance quicktime event, it will work with only one guard and it's quite hard to perform. You're not locked into a combat system like in the first one, it's up to the player if they'd like to flee.
We really encourage players to play in goblin mode, I like that one, when you're caught you will be dead first time, the first fight.
Now Loading: One of the things I wasn't expecting to hear about was the inclusion of co-op, how do you think that changes the overall experience?
JD: In Styx Master of Shadows, you could create a goblin clone of yourself. At the office we were like, "that would be cool, it would be fun if I could play your clone and we try to synchronize our actions." The first trial we had, we had a lot of fun in the office playing together.
As I said before, it's not easier or more difficult, it's really different because you have to deal with the mess your friend can make in the game, but if you manage to synchronize your actions, you can be very, very efficient. It's a different flavor of fun.
Now Loading: So, sometimes it's fun, sometimes it's trolling?
JD: Yeah, you can be both co-operating or both competing. Who will reach the objective first, or loot these things.
Now Loading: What feedback did you take from the original that you've applied to the sequel?
JD: The ropes, we saw a lot of playthroughs where the first rope they saw in the game, everybody tried to catch it and they were disappointed they couldn't. That's one example of a feature we added because of this.
Now Loading: How does moving the engine to Unreal 4 improve Styx: Shard of Darkness?
JD: It allows us to have better graphics, shadows and lighting. It's the same sort of tool we use as level designers, mostly I think it's better for the graphical experience.
Now Loading: This one is entirely for me, but what happens if you kill a bunch of people and pile their bodies together?
JD: Nothing special, you're allowed to do that, but if someone sees that they'll try to ring an alert and they will search everywhere for the culprit. You can do that if you want to do that.
Now Loading: I remember they had some brilliant animations if you did that in the first game. Thank you very much for the interview.
JD: But you know that's a good idea, maybe if you do that you should get an achievement.
Perhaps we'll see a 'Slumber Party' achievement in Styx: Shard of Darkness, we'll find out early in 2017 and would like to thank Focus Home Interactive for the demonstration and interview.
Are you excited to travel up the river with Styx?