I like to think of myself of something of a stealth game connoisseur. I’m able to slink around casually, offing my enemies and making off with the treasure or data that I needed. Sometimes, however, I run into a title that throws me for an absolute loop on my stealth abilities. Styx: Master of Shadows is one such game. It is the follow-up prequel to Cyanide’s original Of Orcs And Men. Featuring the same character Styx from Cyanide’s previous game, Styx seeks to expand more upon the universe the company began building back in 2012. WhileOf Orcs And Men is an action-RPG, Styx falls under the stealth genre, though it doesn’t feel necessarily like a modern stealth title, instead feeling ripped straight from the classics in the genre. Players can select how exactly they want to approach the stealth aspect of the game and can (stupidly) rush in with the knife a flashin’.
Styx truly is a master of shadows within his world. It has never been easier for me to seamlessly blend in and move around in the dark, but sometimes I felt like I had a spotlight on me. The stealth portion of the game is quite interesting and well designed – Styx must stick to the shadows, be mindful of his footfalls, and try not to drop directly onto hard surfaces to keep himself hidden at all costs. There are a number of places for you to duck around, climb, and shimmy past guards with ease. Other times, there are areas when there’s just a bit of moonlight or guards have night vision goggles and you’ll be spotted with ease. It takes some time to really get a feel for the “when and where” of the stealth aspect, even in cases when all of the light sources are extinguished. Luckily for you, Styx comes with special abilities, like cloaking or creating clones, that give you a bit of a leg up in some of these situations.
The game’s upgrade system ties in with Styx’s abilities and honestly is a neat addition as it adds a new level of flair. Completing missions with certain requirements met, like less than the par time or no kills/alarms, grants players additional points to spend on upgrades. These include making footsteps quieter, augmenting his clone with new abilities, or making him a better killer. Without some of these upgrades, the levels remain quite difficult, but there are some useless ones in the mix. One of the clone upgrades allowed me to hide him in a nearby closet or chest, only to spring out and grab unsuspecting guards. It worked maybe once during the game and was fun to watch, but it seemed like a number of the chests were bad trap spots.
Earning additional skill points to spend comes through completing the various challenges on each map or by finding the hidden treasures through the levels. While some of the treasures, like little coins, are just scattered about, others require players complete a puzzle to find. These were not terrible difficult and only took a minute of scouring the map to find their location, but it is always try and find “X” on the map. Back in the hideout, it’s also possible to take a gander at the looted goods, letting you pat yourself on the back as you gaze upon your purloined riches.
One aspect that felt odd to me was the game punishing players for clearing enemies out of the levels. It doesn’t necessary take anything away from you, but it does prevent you from receiving end of level bonuses. I understand that Styx isn’t an assassin and is instead merely a thief, but if I take the time to clear out a level, then I fully expect something for it, dammit! Sometimes this was quite the challenge to do based on guard rotations and where they would be standing. However, I also understand the need to push for purely stealth-based gameplay, but in such large, open areas like in Styx, I expected a bit of freedom to do as I pleased in order to progress.
Styx: Master of Shadows is fun. It falls somewhere between enjoyable and infuriating on a scale, as for every shining moment there is one of constant resetting. I feel players will quickly acclimate themselves to the gameplay and be able to move about quickly as the game is very intuitive and pulls from the likes of Metal Gearand Thief. Topping it off, it has a decent story to boot that works its way into Cyanide’s previous title, tying both together.
Note: The Styx: Master of Shadows review was written based on a PS4 version of the game.