Title: Styx: Master of Shadows
Platform: Steam, Windows, PS4, Xbox One

Reviewed on: Windows
Genre: Stealth
Players: Single player


Written by Whistler 7th October 2014


















Well it’s October 7th in the UK, and while most of you are most likely indulging in some Alien: Isolation (how is it by the way?), I like any other self-respecting video game journalist (shush, it’s a thing) was finishing my review of Cyanide Studios’ Styx: Master of Shadows. Interestingly this title is actually a spinoff of their other title Of Orcs and Men which demonstrated an interesting perspective change to the usual fantasy genre but was still rough around the edges for most of the crowd to really latch onto the IP.


Well the studio’s had some time to improve their skills and such with Blood Bowl: Chaos Edition, Le Tour de France 2014 and yeah I’ve no idea if they have improved as I’ve not played any more of their games since. Set years before Of Orcs and Men, Styx the (questionably) master thief has infiltrated the rather imposing floating sky tower of Akenash to steal the heart of the World Tree.


Of course being a stealth game, Styx follows the more traditional tropes of the genre like sticking to the shadows to avoid detection and occasional platforming to progress for a standard A to B level formula where the little bugger needs to grab an key object, make with the stabby stab for one unfortunate sod or reach the next area. For the most part though it’s taken to the nice open world concept of allowing you to go about doing ABC in various manners thanks to Styx’s rather spacious vertical level design offering several paths that actually take some effort to explore.























No really, since the majority of enemies have detection skills that make Batman look like a blind mouse, stealth is a lot more thought provoking and confrontation spells the end of our hero I found myself taking a slower approach and really taking in the environments.
While textures feel outdated (more on that later) level design is definitely something to behold, while levels are traditional area>area they possess the openness of larger sandbox titles with multiple paths and collectibles hidden within.


Stealthing in this title has a more hardcore approach similar to early Thief games with even crouched footsteps alerting guards and several abandoned objects creating a lot of noise should so much as brush past them thanks to the rather overenthusiastic physics engine.

Now I would love this, infact a stealth game that doesn’t let me super soldier my way past everything and does not only encourage stealthy approaches but punishes me for non-stealthy attempts should have me finishing this review far later realising that I’ve done nothing but play it nonstop.

Sadly this is far from the case,

instead several glaring issues prance around the game slapping me every chance they get and reminding me how much the game seems to want me to hate it.


In no particular order let me start with saying the controls are god awful in Styx’s current state, honestly they’re so bad that when I would usually champion my keyboard and mouse preference I recommend the controller just to avoid a little less frustrations. While most stealth games these days have learned to streamline actions instead, Styx opts for a clunky mess where say holding shift when walking off a platform will have Styx assume the hanging position instead the goblin would randomly opt for falling to his death and setting me back to my last save instead. Often times when jumping to a ledge Styx will randomly decide whether he wants to let the player decide when to climb up or in ADD fashion instead throw himself up to start dancing in front of the guards you’re trying to avoid of which the latter seems to be the preferred option much to my dismay. Taking out the stealth aspect, platforming is still about as solid as a tower of blocks stuck together with spit and blu-tac; often when jumping to the next platform would be something you could see then execute instead I need to roll a dice and hope Styx will actually grab the climbable object since ledge detection is an utter joke. Believe me you’ll die a lot of unfair deaths falling from great heights or falling onto a floor full of nasty guards because platforming seems to be on par with rocket science levels of difficulty for Styx to understand.

There doesn’t seem to be a way to fix this either, it really does become a pain when you’ve planned your route out and while executing it the game fumbles it all up since instead of sneakily passing the guards via shimmying past them you end up reloading a save after the goblin’s finished embarrassing himself.























Cyanide for whatever reason then decided to crowbar in one of the most obtuse mechanics I’ve experienced in the genre, should Styx be forced into combat with an attacker then the camera will throw itself behind Styx and force a QTE-esque situation where you need to time your parries to then lay a fatal blow. This is downright sloppy as seen when Styx is confronted with more than one enemy (ala almost all the time) you cannot reasonably duel more than that one enemy and instead take several hits you couldn’t do anything about which with Styx being the squishiest of all living creatures just leads to more frustrations. You can’t even avoid these once spotted either, I tried on several occasions to just make a quick getaway but instead the camera would swerve around, Styx and the guard would lock eyes and the only way to get Styx to snap out of his unnatural obsession would be to kill the guard. Punishing confrontation is good in a stealth game, but shoehorning this mechanic was completely unnecessary and just kills any enjoyment I once had.


There’s also light RPG elements within the title that allow you to unlock abilities like lighter footedness so jumping for heights won’t instantly attract unsuspecting victims, longer invisibility times, allowing you expand your inventory capacity or being able to kill around corners and from above. Though the latter two feels like the team ran out of ideas for upgrades as both of them are skills that shadowy figures tend to already have a grasp on, many players have become accustomed to expect their rogue like character to know such methods where hiding them behind the skill tree wall just feels restrictive and backwards.


As mentioned visuals aren’t the greatest and scream low budget, while the expansive levels are nice textures are bland and outdated at best with lacking attention to detail, animations along with lip-syncing just look under-polished and you’ll more than likely see a fair amount of clipping and physics engine glitches with limbs getting down with the jiggy throw scenery and the lightest touch sending buckets, brooms and chairs skyrocketing down corridors.























Honestly I don’t want to hate Styx: Master of Shadows; the verticality of levels is a nice change but the broken platforming makes it a chore to explore. The stealth is challenging and exciting, but the crowbarred mechanics and laughable controls make it nothing but frustrating. The story is passable and the character perspective is a fresh change from the typical stoic hero, but its flat line voice actors and boring cutscenes make it forgettable.

I should love Styx, but instead I feel like I’m just slamming my face against my keyboard waiting for hallucinogens to be administered before the game starts to be remotely enjoyable; but my issues with the game can be fixed, assuming the controls and platforming can be patched pronto then Styx: Master of Shadows is worth having a look at, until then I wouldn’t pick this up with a 75% discount even with it’s already low price tag.

(I feel I should mention I did notice a 1.1GB patch just as I was about to put this onsite).



Pros:    

Large expansive levels,

Hardcore stealth,

Interesting story,

Fresh perspective.

   

Cons:   

Disgustingly bad controls,

Buggy platforming,

Obtuse duel mechanic,
Mediocre visuals.


Final verdict,

Now should controls and platforming be fixed I’d give it 7 maybe even an 8/10, in its current state however Styx is lucky to get a 4/10.


Written by,

Whistler















Whistler Morbid        Play Morbid Play Morbid Play Morbid Play - Articles Morbid Play -  Reviews Morbid Play - Staff