Developer(s) – Cyanide Studios
Publisher(s) – Focus Home Interactive
PEGI – 16
Taking place in a dark and gritty medieval fantasy setting, Styx: Master of Shadows is a 3D platforming stealth game, with a few thorough espionage mechanics, and somewhat of a quirky sense of humor. However, the same problems arose in this game that I have found in many other stealth games since; as well as a few other problems.
Graphics – 6.5/10
Firstly, the best thing about the game’s presentation is its atmosphere. Everything is extremely dark and gloomy, which is even used to the player’s advantage in order to remain undetected from enemies. However, the game runs on Unreal Engine 3, which makes it look outdated compared to even late games on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3; defeating the entire object of porting it to eighth-generation consoles. In terms of its general conceptual design, it’s about as original as Dark Souls II was; particularly typical of what a medieval setting should be, having no truly outstanding elements to it.
Gameplay – 5/10
The gameplay, in my opinion, is even less enjoyable. Aside from the few half-decent stealth mechanics of being able to put out fires to better hide from enemies, using sand as a projectile, and the few magic abilities at the player’s disposal, I found the main problem with it was how many times I found myself resetting the game in order to pass certain areas undiscovered. Since there’s also a very intermittent auto-save mechanic, it made playing through even more unnecessarily complicated.
Controls – 8/10
The control scheme of Styx: Master of Shadows is extremely reminiscent of that of Blood Omen 2. Movement is somewhat stiff, and it can be gratuitously hard to perform certain commands, such as climbing and strafing. In particular, the carpet on which Styx must land in order to soften the sound of his fall towards the beginning of the game is very clumsily placed. I assume that it was done that way to add to the challenge, but even if the landing is softened, it’s too easy for the guard to spot the player afterward; thus, compelling the player to once again reload the game an undetermined amount of times.
Lifespan – 7/10
For a 3D platformer, the length at which this game lasts is passable, coming in at roughly 16 hours, which will provide a fairly long experience for those willing to look past the qualms I have with it. It doesn’t have the open-world factor, which has made many classic 3D platformers last for exceptional amounts of time, but for a linear game, that is fairly impressive. The concern after that would be whether or not if the player can spend as little time having to reset the game as possible in order to not add to the game’s lifespan for the wrong reason.
Storyline – 6/10
The story of Styx: Master of Shadows follows a master goblin thief called Styx, who is on a quest to steal the heart of a World Tree within the Tower of Akenash. The best things about the narrative are the occasional wisecracks that Styx comes out with, as well as his own narrating of the events that unfold throughout the game. Though it concerns the concept of the protagonist coming of age to a certain extent, there have been a few games to come along over the years to present that scenario better than this, such as Ocarina of Time, Ni No Kuni, and the original Fable.
Originality – 4/10
As both a 3D platformer and a stealth game, it doesn’t bring a great deal new to either genre. If anything, judging by the game’s control scheme, I actually saw it largely as a step back from many of the innovations that have been made concerning both categories of the game in the last ten years. There have been many more stealth mechanics introduced in many more games, which the developers neglected to either implement or work upon, it would seem, and whilst they may have designed to be evolutionary as opposed to it being revolutionary, they failed to execute that in my opinion.
Overall, whilst Styx isn’t entirely god-awful, it’s certainly no game of the year contender; for this year or the last. It has a good few problems that could’ve done with a coat of looking at before release and wasn’t the best start to Cyanide Studio’s venture outside the plethora of sports games they have developed over the years.