Although there are times when the stealth gameplay is a blast, the mediocre controls and cliche-filled writing, combined with sloppy A.I. make the diamond that is hidden in “Styx: Master of Shadows” too difficult to find.
Stealth games aren’t for everyone. In a society that prides itself on the speed and efficiency of its wants, a game “Styx: Master of Shadows,” which requires you to slowly, methodically pick and choose your fights in an attempt to accomplish something larger, is lost in translation.
Despite the fact that it’s a vast game with plenty to do, “Styx Master of Shadows” hurts itself the most by simply masquerading as a PlayStation 4 and Xbox One game, when it isn’t.
Simply put, “Styx: Master of Shadows” would have been an unbelievable PlayStation 2 or Xbox game and a damn good PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360 title. It’s got a distinct personality and is the type of game that can be frustrating at times, but is also addicting. Even when you want to put it down, you’ll find yourself drawn to it, even with games the likes of “Disney Infinity 2.0” and “NBA 2K14” staring at you, begging to be played.
Like the ugly girl in the library with a heart of gold, there’s something special in “Styx: Master of Shadows,” but the average gamer won’t find it. The biggest season is that the visuals don’t hold up on the PlayStation 4 and the often incompetent A.I. dampen a game that, at times, is immensely fun. Because of that, you have a game that ultimately would have benefitted more from a few more months in development and that will be remembered for its faults, more than what it does right.
That’s not to say that Cyanide Studio and Focus Home Interactive’s latest stealth adventure game doesn’t have a lot going for it. Thanks to a cool protagonist and some nifty gameplay devices, you’ll fight past some of the snags, but after a few hours of gameplay, it’s fair the game is ultimately stuck in its own darkness.
The in-game visuals are still somewhat solid, even if enemy character models lack the polish you’d expect from a next-generation console. Even watching Styx’s arm blend into a wall he’s leaning against, or a dead body falling through a gate, could be forgiven. It’s the early in-game cut-scenes that kill the game’s visual appeal. It’s so bad that it becomes increasingly difficult to not skip through, even with the consequence of missing out on the intriguing and sometimes nior-feeling story.
The stealth-action gameplay is one of the brightest elements of the title. Add in upgradable and enhanced skills through gameplay and you have a title you can grow with. While the platforming elements of the game are a bit wonky, as jumping and climbing is a bit more difficult than it should be, it’s not a huge distracting force. Like a watered down “Assassin’s Creed,” you’ll often have to climb and jump to avoid the eyes of your enemies.
But there’s more than just clinging to darkness here. Sneaking up on enemies and shanking them, throwing knives across the screen and throwing up a clone of yourself to do your dirty work are rewarding experiences. Despite the often-times slow-witted A.I. that makes the game sometimes less renjoyable than it should, there’s still a crazy amount of challenge and thinking involved.
Although the story suffers from some unbearable cliches (A hero with amnesia? Seriously) and shallow writing, the music, voice acting and amount of depth in the level design combine to make this more than a mediocre sneak fest. If you’re a fan of stealth games in the vein of “Metal Gear Solid” and can deal with the fantasy setting, its weakness may not completely hinder the experience.
Make no mistake, there is a diamond in the shadows in “Styx: Master of Shadows,” it’ll just take most gamers entirely too long to find, if at all.
Unlockable Skills: It’s easily the game’s most redeemable quality. Utilizing the added skills, which are far more than just upgrades over existing skills, Styx slowly regains his skilled sneaking and killing power. Those that enjoy some parts of the game over others owe it to themselves to at least play through the first few levels and see if the more skilled Styx changes their gameplay experience.
Cool Main Character: Styx is more than just an awesome name. With an awesome design and solid voice work, despite weak writing, he’s got plenty of potential. A ruthless killer with a checkered past, the little bastard goblin is an entertaining protagonist that deserves another game.
Old-School Stealth Gameplay: If you grew up on MGS or Splinter Cell or even “Tenchu,” “Styx: Master of Shadows” will definitely resonate with you. Just like the aforementioned games, this one forces you to think your way out of situations the average gamer would fight their way out of instead. While not for the casual gamer, there’s definitely a large niche audience here.
Large Levels: Even large is an understatement here.With so many rooms, secrets and enemies within each “zone,” “Styx: Master of Shadows” can be a big bite to chew and definitely go to show how much time and effort went into the game’s level design.
Difficulty: You’re going to die in this game, a lot. You’re going to get pissed off, frustrated and confused as what to do next, a lot. If you’re into that type of challenge, you’ll find “Styx: Master of Shadows” has plenty of redeeming value.
Solid Soundtrack: It may not seem like too big of a deal, but the tunes in “Styx: Master of Shadows” do their part in setting up the game’s dark and murky ambiance. From the title screen onward, the game’s sound does its part.
Graphical Glitches: “Styx: Master of Shadows” is supposed to be dark and muddy, but there’s no excuse for the visuals during the early game cut scenes and lack of definition in the enemy character models. For all the game does right, cleaner visuals would have helped immensely.
Slow Loading Times: Considering how often you’ll die, it’s a safe assumption to make that you’ll spend a hefty amount of time waiting- at a loading screen. For as fun the game is to play at times, the lengthy loading time destroys the fun.
Uneven A.I.: A stealth game needs superior A.I. and unfortunately “Styx: Master of Shadows” features the type of artificial intelligence that’ll frustrate more than titilate. It’s unexplainable that one enemy right in front of you won’t see you and one 10 yards away, will. While it doesn’t destroy the gameplay experience entirely, it robs the game of some of its credibility.
Broken Parry System: If this one element was fixed, you’d have a much better game. After 10 hours of gameplay, you’ll still find it hard to block your opponents attacks. For a game that requires you to stay alive and has horrendous loading times every time you do, it’s a match made in hell.
“Styx: Master of Shadows” has something special inside it, but with muddy, ugly character models, control hindrances and A.I. issues, a lot of the fun will be lost on casual gamers. Those who love stealth action games will find it an immense challenge however and will be able to look past most of the game’s issues to, at the very least, have it steal about a dozen hours of their time.