In Styx: Master of Shadows, Cyanide Studios are revisiting the universe seen in their action-RPG Of Orcs and Men which was released back in 2012. Set in an earlier time Master of Shadows focuses on Styx the goblin and aims to please fans of the stealth genre.
Styx is on a mission to steal the Heart of the Tree which is a powerful Amber source. Before he can do this he needs to climb and conquer the Tower of Akenash. Along the way he needs to outsmart the humans and elves who inhabit the Tower.
Master of Shadows feels like a mix of elements from Splinter Cell, Thief and Assassin’s Creed. However Styx makes for a refreshingly different protagonist with a skillset that forces you to always think stealth first combat second. This is because he’s half the size of his enemies making him vulnerable to attack. When detected it’s better to take flight as fighting enemies head on often feels very unfair.
Players who prefer a more direct approach will find the combat frustrating. Sticking to the shadows and staying out of sight is essential and the game always gives you plenty of options for doing so. His size allows him to easily crawl under tables and into ducts. He can also hide in chests and cupboards while peeking out to make sure it’s safe to proceed. Similarly he can look through keyholes to scout rooms before entering.
When there is a lack of shadows he’s able to extinguish flaming torches. This can be done close up but also at range by throwing sand at them. The more dark places to hide the better and Styx has a handy tattoo that glows to show how well hidden he is.
Levels are huge and littered with multiple paths giving a wonderful sense of freedom instead of linear routes. Their verticality adds a lot to the experience and gives Styx even more options both to stay out of sight and to beat his enemies.
His initial skillset is quite limited but this can be improved over time by earning skill points for completing objectives. Skills are split into different trees which are Stealth, Agility, Cloning, Amber, Equipment and Assassination. There are four skills in each and what you unlock will be influenced by your preferred style of play. Many skills require the use of Amber that Styx must find and drink.
His most unique skill is the ability to use Amber to vomit out a clone. These can be used to squeeze through small gaps, scout ahead, distract and even tackle enemies. Most useful is Styx’s Amber vision that allows him to get a different view of the world around him. It’s able to highlight important things like anchor points on walls or loot. Amber vision also makes tracking enemies easier.
Sound is an important part of the stealth gameplay and you need to take care. If not careful enemies can hear when he’s running about or dropping from high. A neat feature is the use of clutter around the environments. We found ourselves bumping into items such as chairs when not paying attention.
Graphically it’s not the most advanced game we’ve seen and does have a last-gen feel to it in places. This is surely down to limited budget but it certainly doesn’t spoil the game. Animations and enemy AI can be a little rough at times too. However the voice work for Styx is excellent and he keeps you entertained.
Styx: Master of Shadows is a satisfying stealth romp that is packed with replay value. Some players might find proceedings a little too repetitive but if you’re a fan of stealth games we highly recommend you pick this one up.