Developed by:Cyanide Studios Published by:Focus Home Interactive Genre(s):
  • Stealth
  • Platform:
  • Microsoft
  • PC
  • Sony
  • Cost:$29.99 ESRB Rating:MATURE Players:1 Release date:October 7, 2014 Reviewed on:XBox One

    Styx: Master of Shadows

    Goblins, elves, magical trees; all of this await you in Styx: Master of Shadows. What’s also awaiting you is frustration, anger, and almost certainly defeat. If you love entering worlds of almost clichéd fantasy lore and true open world levels where your only choice is to sneak around with an almost Dark Souls approach to difficulty, then you might want to take a look at this Of Orcs and Men prequel!

    You are Styx, a goblin suffering from major headaches all his life due to the World-Tree’s production of Amber – a resource coveted by elves and humans alike. He doesn’t remember why the Amber is so bad for him or much of anything beyond his mission to trek to the Tower of Akenash and steal the World-Tree’s heart. Apparently things didn’t go as planned because the game begins with Styx being captured by the humans and elves (who are a stone throw’s away from becoming villains themselves). The mystery of the Amber and Styx’s connection to it will have to wait as he has more pressing matters to attend to.

    As with most stealth titles, the gameplay in Master of Shadows consists of the player slowly moving towards their goal without being detected by their enemies. Being the first goblin, this sort of thing happens to be Styx’s specialty. Aside from the normal “sprang from behind cover to stab a foe” maneuvers, he also has other helpful abilities. Power ups, all dealing with the magical Amber, allows him to create clones, find hidden items using a special vision, and even turn invisible for a brief time. Still, the Tower of Akenash is extremely well guarded, making forward thinking and patience vital parts of the player’s strategy; even with Styx’s skills it’s quite possible to suffer from a quick death at any given moment.

    Speaking of a quick death, I have to note that on normal difficulty it took me three hours to get through what is essentially the prologue. I had to make a concerted effort to get out of the mind frame of “the obvious route is the best route” and start looking for little hidden cubbies, stay in the dark, and most importantly, have patience to study the routes guards are taking. There’s plenty places to hide if you know where to look, from balconies to hidden tunnels, plenty of perches and ledges are available to you. That doesn’t mean that you’re guaranteed to survive if you’re cautious though. Again, every wrong move means certain death which leads to a bit of trial and error. Be prepared to die over and over before making much (read, any) progress through each of the game’s seven chapters.

    One thing I will say, despite the frustration of retracing my steps after death, I never died because of poor minion placement/level design. Each environment is truly immense, especially vertically, allowing for multiple avenues to explore before bee lining towards your target. I found the levels to be extremely well done. My only gripe is that several environments are reused towards the latter half of the game. To be fair, it does make sense for this to happen (the whole game takes place in a tower) but it was somewhat akin to the excessive backtracking found in other games; it seems like padded material as opposed to new and interesting content, like what’s found early on.

    Master of Shadows, for the most part is a good stealth game. Sure, I was frustrated at times – I’m normally a run in with guns blazing type of guy – but that isn’t a knock on the game itself. There are some flaws though that should be noted. For one, the controls can be a bit fickle. When trying to jump onto walls and ledges, I found myself falling back to the ground fairly often. Dropping in front of some guards after carefully moving through a level is a horrible way to end a session. On the opposite side, I’d also grab ledges when I wanted to drop to the ground, missing an opportunity to slay a passing enemy. The combat system is lacking so missing your chance for stealth kills hurts. There are also long load times. This was possibly due to me playing on a console as the PC version could be aided by a strong rig. That said, current gen consoles being less than a year old, I feel that this shouldn’t be an issue. You will be dying a lot and every death means having to wait an inordinate amount of time which hinders the flow of gameplay. Visually the game looks mid-last gen, with awkward faces and movements. Styx employs Unreal Engine 3 and after playing current gen games, its age is starting to show.

    All and all, Styx: Master of Shadows is worth playing. It’s one of the few titles that is wickedly true to its word when it comes to the importance of being stealthy. That said, I found a definite sense of satisfaction and pride after reaching the end of a level successfully. There are some sticking points which will add to your frustration and the load times are rough. Don’t let that keep you from playing though, especially if you’re a fan of the genre!



    Fickle controls, long load times and lot of trial and error – for the love of Pete, STAY IN THE SHADOWS! It can be a fun experience for stealth fans though.



    UE3 is showing its age, so you are better off not looking at characters while they talk. Levels look amazing, but in a last generation way.



    The voice work is superb. The music, staying in the background and hardly ever really noticeable, lends itself well to Styx’s world.

    Replay Value:


    I wouldn’t replay it again; however there is plenty to search through for fans of stealth, including achievement and hidden object hunting.

    Final Score:


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