Review: Styx: Master of Shadows (Computer)
- Release Date (NA): October 7, 2014
- Release Date (EU): October 7, 2014
- Release Date (JP): October 7, 2014
- Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
- Developer: Cyanide
- Genres: Stealth
- Also For: PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Single playerLocal MultiplayerOnline MultiplayerCo-operative
Lurking in the shadows, with sharp knives and a sharper tongue, is Styx, A Goblin with a bone to pick with the harvesters of the great Amber tree that provides him with his abilities. With cunning stealth, some creative abilities, and even more creative humor, let's take a look at what Styx is up to in this prequel to: Of Orcs and Men.
The Story Unfolds
Taking place long before the events of the game: Of Orcs and Men, Master of Shadows follows Styx, the first of his kind, and his escapade to uncover his origins whilst amassing as much of a fortune as his grubby little hands can carry. Styx is a Master of Stealth, Theft, Murder, and Witty Sarcasm. His Character development throughout the game has you enjoying the inner monologue of a pissed off Goblin as he takes as much as he can, while giving humans and elves the point of his dagger. Along the way, you will uncover the abilities of the Amber Tree, the source of all magical powers in the game. Absorbing and utilizing the Amber only makes Styx more cunning in his abilities to take on the enemy guarding the sacred Amber Tree. Lets overview how all that works out in game shall we?
First of All, you better be ready to have some patience in this game, as no amount of bull-charging through the levels is going to be forgiven here. The Gameplay is heavily focused on maintaining stealth and silence in order to move about and execute your enemies. You can take out lights sources from long range using little balls of sand, allowing you to move about in the darkness freely, lowering your chances of being spotted.
My favorite thing about this is how they show you whether you can be detected or not, by utilizing the tattoo on your arm. The Glow of the Tattoo tells you if you are properly concealed, and if it goes out, you better take off for the shadows quick before the AI catches you.
Speaking of the AI, moving on to the combat system, there isn't much to be said about it here. As stated before, the game heavily relies on stealth, and enemies detecting you, depending on your difficulty, typically means your demise. If you do happen to encounter enemies to combat, it works on a Parry/Kill system, meaning you can only execute the enemy by successfully parrying their strikes and then paying them back with a quick stab to the throat or gut. Otherwise combating the enemy will count on your abilities as an assassin to stay silent and execute from above or behind. You can choose to Muffle Kill them, which typically takes about 4-5 seconds to do, or quickly (and loudly) kill them, which could then alert nearby enemies. And of course, don't forget to hide the body before a wandering guard runs into them!
The Difficulty in the game always depends on how you time your movements and combat scenarios. You are going to need to analyze every situation before moving on, lest an enemy mow you down with projectiles or brute force.
In Goblin mode, the games highest difficulty, it will be next to impossible for you to go up against AI in combat situations. Keeping that stealth profile is your ticket to the win. Goblin Mode was built to please those that choose to take on the highest difficulty of sticking to the shadows. It's definitely not for those looking to charge forward without analyzing their situations and planning an escape route! Goblin Mode does a perfect job of making your actions count.
The only issue I have, is that the other difficulty modes tend to feel much more lax and undifferentiated compared to each other, let alone being compared to Goblin Mode. I found myself desiring to immediately step into goblin mode after the first few missions, due to breezing through them head strong and a little to quickly. This of course, will be perfect to those not familiar enough with the stealth genre, but at the same time, it doesnt feel as though there's enough difficulty there to teach people the consequences of blazing through things without thinking.
With all that said, let's move on to the crucial and unique elements of the game, Amber.
Amber? I hardly Knew her!
Amber works a lot like Mana in most games. You have a set gauge that can be increased with skill points, and it determines how you use your abilities. What abilities you ask? Well for starters, Amber Vision is going to become key to your survival of large encounters of enemies. Amber Vision works like a sort of IR scan of the area, allowing you to see where certain enemies lurking about and where they are moving to. Keep in mind, this cant be extensively used, and will run out eventually as your amber depletes.
The Feature I love most about the game, and Amber, is the cloning system. This is where the game sets itself apart from other stealth games. Towards the beginning of the game, you are introduced to the element of producing clones to help you advance through the areas. These little guys can be played and controlled for limited times in order to open doors you cant get through, create diversions, and just look gosh darn... ugly.
The Clone system allows you to preform some great executions by diverting enemies away from lighted areas or hot locations. Utilizing clones is key to remaining undetected.
Trial and Error: The Good and the Bad
As stated Over and Over again, stealth is your key to getting through these encounters, especially on higher difficulties. That being said, there are elements that will leave you throwing up your hands and yelling, "THAT'S BULL, HOW WAS I SUPPOSED TO KNOW THAT WOULD GET ME." A lot of the environment reacts to you and makes noise for nearby enemies to immediately detect you. While the frequency of these items isn't to high, the hit-box on triggering them can be a little funky at times. You may think you're sneaking by something light as a feather, only to bump it over and have everyone and their brother come running to one hit kill you. There's a level of frustration even in the lower difficulties as enemies can continue to eviscerate and overwhelm you if you're not careful.
Again, normally this isn't a bad thing and teaches you to be more careful in your encounters, but the frequency with which it happens can be enough to make someone drop their controller and leave the room.
The other problem faced is how well the stealth can work in some situations, a typical problem most stealth games face. As you continue to progress and upgrade, especially on lower difficulties, it makes it overly simplistic to just wait, move, muffle kill, move, finish. The enemies do adapt to dynamic situations, but as long as you're wary enough to just simply put out a light and sneak by them, the game loses its sneaky ninja aesthetic and becomes more of a slow paced peak-a-boo simulator.
Lastly is the issue I had with Loot. It almost feels hollow to the overall gameplay experience, and their moreso as a collectible aspect than a real crucial desire in the game. I found myself skipping over most of the loot by accident in an attempt to avoid encounters with enemies.
+ Visually pleasing
+ Fantastic execution of stealth game-play and options
+ Narrative is Creative and charming
- AI can go one way or the other. Easy to trick, or overly brutal
- Environmental Hazards can be vexing and hard to determine their reliability
- Story is rocky and takes a small backseat to the overall gameplay experience.
The Game knows that it is, and presents itself well as a stealth action game. A worthy title on par with titles akin to Metal Gear.
Off-putting at times, but still remaining tight, the controls and overall game-play are relatively good, but have their bumps in the road in determining how to execute certain abilities/kills/and sneakiness.
While there isnt much replayability to be had unless you plan on going back for collectibles or upping the difficulty, I enjoyed what I was playing. The game is decently long and has enough humor and fun to keep you invested in Styx and his Journey to uncover his origin.
out of 10
(not an average)
I enjoyed tearing through the world Of Styx, and truly felt I had that "Master of Shadows" title down to a T. While the game has its slight bumps here and there, it is a fantastic addition to the stealth genre, and I couldn't be more pleased with it's approach. There's enough innovation and elements sprinkled in there for you to have creative and tactical approaches to how you take on your enemies and truly, Master the Shadows.