Credit where credit’s due: Cyanide is a deceptively productive studio, not to mention a rather ambitious one considering the constraints it works under. It might not be the biggest-budget operation, but the French wearer of many hats and waver of many national flags has recently produced a not-entirely-terrible Game of Thrones RPG, Impire, Dungeonbowl, and Of Orcs & Men. The latter, while depressingly flawed, is most relevant here given that Styx: Master of Shadows presumably takes place in the same world. It stars fleet-footed, dagger-tongued goblin Styx, who is apparently the Very First Of All Goblins. The game will be a mix of extremely vertical stealth and fantasy role-playing, which sounds downright fascinating.
There’s just one problem, and I’ll let Jim’s Of Orcs & Men WIT take it from here: “The game is essentially a series of stealth-then-fight setpieces. This would be fine, except it’s a terrible stealth game.” That, um, doesn’t bode particularly well.
Here’s how Styx: Master of Shadows will work:
“Battle your way to the top of the lofty Tower of Akenash through immense and vertiginous levels that highlight the vertical perspective. You will complete numerous missions with various objectives as you climb up – murder, information recovery, theft of precious artifacts, etc – and gradually reconstruct the puzzle that provides the key to the mystery of your origins. The levels are open and the objectives can be completed in various ways: you are therefore free to choose the best way to proceed and the most suitable strategy to employ to achieve and complete your mission objectives. But remember you’re a Goblin: if your target is twice your size, or more, you’re better off eliminating them silently. And in the back!”
“Styx: Master of Shadows also includes game mechanics right out of RPG, so as you gain experience you will unlock new skills, special and impressive moves and new and lethal weapons in 6 talent trees! You will also acquire extraordinary powers from the Amber flowing from the Source Tree which will help you out of a tight spot, make you invisible to the eyes of your enemies and which you can use to generate ‘disposable’ clones of yourself! Explore every inch of the levels and not only will you uncover clues about your past but also, and more importantly, valuable treasure that you can steal from under the noses and beards of the guards in the Tower of Akenash!”
As ever, Cyanide’s ideas sound well-intentioned and rather unique. Open levels ripe for the stealthing, an interesting physical disadvantage, and a largely vertical game world? Yes please. Unfortunately, it’s strong execution that’s constantly eluded the developer – often by painfully narrow margins – and Of Orcs & Men’s rather lackluster stealth didn’t set a strong precedent for this one.
I really want this to be great, but I know better than to get my hopes up. Whether its due to budget/time constraints or visions they don’t quite have the ability to realize, Cyanide continues to be its own worst poison. I wish them the best and it seems like they’re creeping ever closer to a great RPG, but I will remain ever skeptical.
Styx will be out sometime this year. Does it register as any more than a blip on your magical radar?