“The Supreme Art of War is to Win Without Fighting”
‘Styx: Master of Shadows’ is a dark and broodingly atmospheric Stealth | Infiltration game which harkens back to vintage classics of the genre such as the early ‘Hitman’s’ and ‘Metal Gear Solid’. A gorgeously conceived world, sprawling open world levels and intuitive gameplay make this one of the best Stealth titles in recent memory. Campaign:
Developed by Cyanide Studios and released in late-2014, the game puts you in the role of a treacherous, conniving Goblin named Styx – a skilled assassin and mercenary-for-hire – who has descended on the fortress city of Akenash to steal its most prized possession. Each of the games 7 levels (each with ~4 sub-sections) take you across a beautifully rendered medieval city featuring stunning backdrops and large open world levels with both indoor and outdoor elements - all of which are bathed in bright disarming light or cloaked in shadow - and the player is faced with navigating a path filled with patrolling soldiers, jittery townsfolk, monstrous Orc's, traps, spills and other surprises at every turn. Gameplay | Graphics | Sound:
In considering hardcore Stealth titles such as this, it’s important to understand upfront that you will not fly through levels taking on all adversaries – on the contrary, the game punishes direct confrontation most severely, and a careful, considered approach is almost always required. Gameplay is smooth and fluid, and level design is particularly noteworthy with each section built like a large 3D-puzzle – in length and breadth (similar to other games) but also in height – featuring a truly refreshing use of vertical scale, with levels frequently allowing for free-running Parkour-like movement across 5-10 storey’s. This provides for a multitude of ways to approach each section - slipping by completely un-noticed or taking everyone out – building in lots of replayability to the title as well. To aid in your quest, you can unlock and equip Styx with an ever expanding arsenal of Weapons (Throwing Knives, Poisons, Dagger’s), Magic (to include Cloaking and Cloning powers), a variety of Takedown / Finishing moves and various Armor options. Great graphics and a brooding background score only serve to heighten an overall immersive experience, while collectible Seals, Relics and Achievements for Speed, Mercy and Silent runs, round out a robust title. Flaws:
For all it does so so right, the game is unfortunately not without its flaws – poor textures and voice-acting are small annoyances exacerbated by gameplay issues like clumsy combat mechanics and occasionally wonky camera angles. Perhaps most damning for a platform-heavy Stealth game is inconsistent ‘ledge/grappling’ sensitivity and loose K&M controls, making the odds of crashing the aforementioned 10 storey’s to your death ever more likely – ‘Save Early, Save Often’ is the watchword here. While none of the above are game-breaking issues, they betray a lack of exacting standards, and certainly detract from the overall experience.
‘Styx: Master of Shadows’ is an ambitious and at times, difficult game – but also the finest interpretation of a pure Stealth game in recent memory. Your success hinges on careful observation, opportunistic timing, use of shadows and the dark arts of distraction and trickery, and most of all, bleeding composure, to navigate a visually stunning world. While rough around the edges in parts technically, its flaws are certainly not game-breaking, and Stealth fans will largely be having too much fun to care. An instant Classic for Stealth fans, and generally Well Recommended! – Rated (8.4/10) Want More Recommendations?
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