Styx: Master of Shadows Review – A Great Game Lurking in the Shadows

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Styx: Master of Shadows has snuck its way onto next gen consoles and PC. Is the game ready to emerge from the shadows and land on your gaming device of choice, or should it just stay there?

Read on to find out.

Shooters are everywhere these days and there are always a few more waiting on the release horizon. If you are ready to take a break from your M4 or your Legendary Dr. Nope, Styx: Master of Shadows just might be a nice change of pace for you, and at US$29.99 (US$26.99 if you have PS+), a decent price as well.

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Styx: Master of Shadows is a sequel to Cyanide Studio’s 2012 release Of Orcs and Men, and follows the very first goblin Styx, as he tries steal the heart of a World-Tree, enclosed inside the Tower of Akenash. Styx has somehow lost his memory and has a never-ending headache that causes him continuous pain, of which he is always mentioning. The story plays out as a flashback with Styx being held against his will in the first scenes. Thanks to his lack of memory, we got to learn all about him and the world he lives in as he learns about himself and everything else as well, so the amnesia ploy by the writers was a helpful scenario. The story isn’t exactly movie quality, but is still entertaining nonetheless.

Styx is a stealthy goblin that isn’t very fond of armed confrontation. He is much better paired with stealthy combat and maneuvering then hand-to-hand combat, and the game lets you know this unmercifully. When sneaking up on someone, you can opt to take them out quickly, or slow and quiet. Quiet doesn’t exactly mean noiseless, so be sure no one is close by as the victim’s last gasp of life will alert them. The game is stealth centered, so avoiding confrontation is a must, even on the easier settings, as combat uses a simple defend-and-parry technique that requires precise timing.

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As you progress through the game, you’ll earn Skill Points (SP) that can be used to upgrade a variety of of skills that can aid you in your stealthy endeavors. Your skill tree includes branches for  Stealth, Agility, Cloning, Amber Vision, Equipment, Kill, and Predatory. Which branches get the first points should be determined by how you want to play the game. Stealth should be your first targeted area, but maybe you’d rather kill a bunch of folks and not worry about noise. The game gives you that choice, but still stealth is favored over anything else. Runnin’-and-gunnin’ is clearly not an option since Styx has limited weaponry, and one can only throw a knife so far.

Styx uses amber to give him special powers. He can see in the dark, and find special markings left by a friend that point the way to a secret hide-out usually packed with goodies of some sort. He can also use the amber to create a clone that is a little smaller and can fit through gates that Styx can’t get his behind through. The clone can also bind someone and basically hold them for you to kill or get past. This guy is very useful in many aspects of the game and if you really want to succeed, master him as well as the shadows. Styx also uses amber for brief invisibility that is helpful when there’s just no other way to go but right by a bad guy. Running will make the invisibility last a shorter amount of time, so once again patience is the key.

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Styx requires a bit of patience if you really want the most out of the game. Briefly studying traffic patterns of the bad guys will go a long ways in your ability to traverse an area undetected, but beware of seemingly benign objects like buckets, chairs or brooms. If you are sneaking behind a guy and bump into a bucket, he will hear you and that bucket can contribute to your death just as much as the sword in the guy’s hands. Noise is in no way your friend, so be sure to walk on carpets when they are available, or try and stick to areas the other folks can’t get to.

That brings us to climbing and platforming. This is probably the most irritating aspect of the game other than Styx whining about his headaches. Most games, when platforming, will have you grab a ledge if you walk off it if it’s grabbable. This game would rather you drop off into someone’s lap or to your death instead. It’s very unforgiving, and for a game that is heavy on stealth, this can be a pain. Luckily for us, though, you can save at any given time and continuing after death will put you back in the last save spot. This problem isn’t a game breaker and in the long run, will help you to think twice about your next move. Patience is always the key, even when no one can see you. Jumping from place to place can be a pain at times as well, so always be sure of your next move and make sure Styx is looking at his next location before making that move.

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The graphics for the game aren’t exactly next gen quality, but they aren’t too hard on the eyes either. Cut scenes could use some more polish when they are rendered in-game, but the comic inspired cut scenes look great when they use that style. Level design gives the game an open world feel, as there are many paths to take between you and your objectives. Each level also has hidden secrets and collectibles, so completionists will be happy with the amount of play time required and since the game has level select from your hideout, you’ll be able to revisit areas once you have upgraded skills. This will give you a better chance of finding and reaching things that you may have missed on your first go round.

Styx: Master of Shadows is a fun game for sneaky gamers that requires patience and mastering the art of stealth. You can go high. You can go low. Whichever you choose, it’s best to go slow.

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Take a break from that full auto rifle and try out Styx’s throwing knife. You won’t be sorry you did.