Have You Played… Styx: Master Of Shadows?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

Styx: Master of Shadows is a solid 6/10 game, but in an underserved genre that will still make it a worthwhile play to many. It’s a strict stealth game in which you play a goblin who clambers around a medieval city built in the clouds, where getting caught means almost certain death.

These are not my preferred kinds of stealth games – I like those that are less strict and so support haphazard improvisation in the moments when you’re caught. But Styx is still satisfying. Your goblin, for whom the game is named, can extinguish torches to give himself the cover of darkness, spawn and control clones to distract and pin guards, and is immediately lethal when approaching enemies from behind.

He’s also a great climber and the game’s medieval city is wonderfully vertical. You’ll spend a lot of time clambering around on ledges and windowsills, dangling above enemies or yanking them over railings to their certain doom. Its relentlessly grey textures will eventually wear you down, but it’s initially a neat setting.

If you’ve played every Thief game, Dishonoreds 1 and 2, and all the other classic and bigger budget stealth games, Styx might briefly sate your appetite. It’s not a great game or an inventive one, but it’s pleasant. Here’s hoping the sequel due this year is a little more ambitious.

20 Comments

  1. Deathmaster says:

    As a large-scale consumer of the stealth genre, this game was a pleasant surprise to me and actually near perfect in terms of stealth mechanics. Sure, the voice acting is crummy, the controls weren’t silky smooth and the occasional bug here and there, but god did I have a lot of fun playing this.

    I’d personally rate it well above a 6/10 at least. And if any fan of the stealth genre skipped this – don’t.

    • thedosbox says:

      I too had a enjoyable time with this game, and felt the level design was good enough to overlook the other limitations.

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    Sam says:

    Does anyone have any background on how Styx got to be so prominently featured in the film Elle? Other than that the developer is based in Paris, of course?

    • RuySan says:

      I have no idea, but it was interesting to say the least.

      Besides, I suppose an american game developer wouldn’t want their name attached to a movie that features so many unsettling rape scenes. Taking into consideration that Elle was supposed first to be an American production but Verhoeven didn’t found any prominent American actress willing to play the role. God bless Isabelle Huppert.

      But the French know better of course.

  3. Jekhar says:

    I tried it recently, got it through some bundle or sale ages ago. As an avid Thief fan, i really wanted to like it, but around mission 3 or 4 i was utterly bored and quit. The games setting (large tower like fortress) already restricts itself heavily on the visual front, but even everything else was just reused constantly. The gamey elements (chest high walls, climbing spots, etc.) never changed and apart from a few new enemy types you can see everything the game has to offer in the first mission.

    The level design never conveyed a great sense of place either. Each room was just a mini stealth puzzle (using the same tiring ingredients), once solved you never went back.

    • thedosbox says:

      Each room was just a mini stealth puzzle (using the same tiring ingredients), once solved you never went back.

      If you’d persisted with the game, you would have discovered otherwise.

  4. Oakreef says:

    Great game, looking forward to the sequel. And thought I often roll my eyes at the mandatory ~shocking twist~ that every game needs to have two thirds of the way in I actually quite liked what they did with the story.

  5. KingFunk says:

    Yep, on the Sonybox 4. Unfortunately the excessive load times didn’t play well with my chosen playstyle and my brain cried off… Was enjoying it though before I finally decided “sod this, there must be something else I can play…”

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    subdog says:

    Repetition and linearity aside, this game really succeeds at capitalizing on its use of a non-standard protagonist. It’s a game about being a sneaky little bastard goblin, and it’s pretty good at being what it advertises.

  7. Freud says:

    Cyanide should have a motto that reads “flawed but fun”. I usually enjoy their games.

    • Darth Gangrel says:

      Styx is on my “probably worth playing list” and while Cyanide’s games often seem somewhat “poisoned”, never fulfilling their true potential, they seem to be getting better.

      Would anyone recommend Of Orcs and Men, which also features Styx?

      • Zallgrin says:

        I would highly recommend Of Orcs and Men! The combat and gameplay is very different, but the story is far more engaging and dramatic. And the soundtrack kicks ass too!

        Not everyone is a fan of OOaM’s combat, but I had enjoyed it overall. It was a nice challenge when I turned the difficulty up, but I could also breeze through most parts without much challenge on Easy as well. (all except for the very last boss. major pain in the ass)

        The biggest draw of Of Orcs and Men was of course the story. The beginning is kinda lame, but it very quickly picks up and gets better and better. And I’ll mention again that the soundtrack is amazing – it’s easy in my top three soundtracks of all times.

        • Darth Gangrel says:

          Thanks for confirming my impressions about it.

          Soundtracks (and voice acting) have a huge impact on me, I can forgive a lot as long as the audio is good. I don’t much like games without a great soundtrack, was actually disappointed with The Witcher 2 and Dragon Age: Origins for that reason. I expected the soundtracks to be more like/equally good as The Witcher and Knights of the Old Republic.

          • RuySan says:

            I don’t really remember the soundtrack for The Witcher 2, but the one on the 3rd game is among my favourites ever. I also highly value a good soundtrack

      • Oakreef says:

        I need to get back to Of Orcs and Men at some point. I rather did like their Game of Thrones game (really it’s an A Song of Ice and Fire game, it actually contradicts the show’s canon a few times in favour of the books despite the licence). Not the most polished experience to say the least but it delivered a good plot with decently fun gameplay and briefly sated my aSoIaF addiction much better than Telltale’s game did.

  8. ScubaMonster says:

    I recently bought it on sale on a whim and I have to say this game is criminally underrated. I love it. Looking forward to Shards of Darkness.

  9. Simbosan says:

    I enjoyed this for a while, but it just became a fail/reload grind. You would build up a head of steam, begin to enjoy yourself then you would hit a section where there was nothing to do but try something, fail, reload, try something else, fail, reload… etc etc etc.

    Pretty much defines why I hate most stealth games, except Dishonored of course which is fabulous

  10. Frank says:

    Yeah. I’m a fan of the stealth genre, but couldn’t get into this. It’s the only game I’ve returned on Steam in years. I found the controls wonky and unfun.

  11. phlebas says:

    Extinguishing torches is one of my favourite mechanics. Styx still isn’t at the top of my ‘to play’ list, but it just moved up a few places.

  12. corroonb says:

    It’s pretty entertaining little game if you don’t mind trial and error gameplay. It is quite difficult and some levels have enormous numbers of patrolling NPCs. The verticality is delightful at times and the levels themselves are massive. The setting is pretty unique even if the story is throwaway stuff.