Games Gazette Logo

Developed by Cyanide, Published and Launched by Focus Home Interactive STYX: MASTER of SHADOWS
is a remarkable adventure game with you starring in the title role of the greatest Goblin Thief ev-er!

What Styx lacks in looks and attitude he gains in ears, nose and stupendous stealth abilities. He can slip unseen
into a room filled with heavily armed guards and maneuver himself around the edges of that room hiding under
tables and against walls wherever shadows lurk, lurks Styx.

If you are an expert adventure gamer then you will fall for this game immediately as it has everything you could
possibly ask for. I am glad that I am not Styx, his back must be in the most pain ever from spending virtually all
his time crouched in the stealth position while moving slowly, swiftly and with style.

Throughout Styx's veins runs the magical essence known as Amber. It is this essence or tree sap (for it can only
be obtained from the mystical WorldTree in the Tower of Akenash) that gives you (Styx) all of your abilities. It
is you (the player) that has to utilise these abilities to the best of your err, ability ? 

     

To let you know that you are as good as invisible you have a visual clue, the scarring on your shoulder glows as
if it is on fire. Like this you can stay literally inches away from the Human or Elven guards and they won't have
an inkling that you're there. Let's face it, you're not known as the Master of Shadows for no good reason. Styx
can also move quite fast and quite far when in the shadows without giving himself away. To do this he has to
take advantage of his skills. You do get some assistance during play to know when to act or react, for instance,
you will hear his heartbeat grow louder and stronger if guards or danger is close by and you haven't hidden him
well enough, and his tattoos glow when his hiding place is good.

The premise of the adventure is to guide Styx through the multi-levels of 3D reality that is the Tower of Akenas 
so that he can first obtain the plans to the Tower, thus making his journey that little bit easier (not with me guiding 
him it ain't) and then the key that will let him open the gateway to the WorldTree and all that delicious Amber.


To do this Styx has to jump through numerous hoops (figuratively not literally) in a manner that lacks grace and
style. He looks awkward as he moves, swings, jumps etc but his circus-act dexterity and his ability to hide in plain 
sight is a wonder to behold. The Amber in Styx also allows him a very special ability which can get him into or out
of remarkably tight positions - he can create a clone of himself - which makes him a Master of misdirection as well
as of Shadows.

 

Although much of the game has Styx in stealth mode there are times when combat becomes inevitable. It is these
times when Styx needs to be controlled with a great degree of skill and indeed mastery. The guards are much better
armed than Styx yet by dodging and blocking, parrying and thrusting Styx can hold his own in a one on one fight.
It is when you allow the guards to get around him so that he is attacked from more than one side at a time that he
is extremely vulnerable and likely to die. Thankfully there is a very good, quick Save ability that players can use
by pressing [Esc] and selecting [Save]. My advice is to use this regularly - maybe not as often as I do - which is at
every successful stealth move that I make - but definitely regularly. The more you save the less you have to repeat
when you respawn

I have mentioned stealth quite a lot, mainly because stealthy movement through the shadows is how Styx moves for
most of this adventure. To allow the guards to see in the stone walled dungeon-like rooms of the Tower there are wall
mounted sconces holding brightly burning flaming torches. If you maneuver Styx to within range of these sconces he
can jump up silently and extinguish the flames - luckily although they are tough the guards aren't particularly bright
and thus fail to notice that the lights have gone out - so that Styx can then swiftly make any necessary movement.

Unlike the guards, Styx is also capable of causing a distraction so that they (the guards) look or move one way while
he moves off in the opposite direction; a Master of  Misdirection as previously stated and now a Master of Deception.

Styx is like an extremely good book that you cannot put down. You want to take it with you wherever you go and you
want to involve others by telling them and showing them. It is a masterclass of an animated movie adventure with you
cast in the central role as the hero, albeit your hero is far more of a villain in so many ways. This is not a game where
you care about the characters, such as the guards or the creatures you may combat, on the periphery of the adventure.
But you do care about Styx, and not just because he is your avatar, your gateway into this adventure. You want him to
succeed because he is everything a hero shouldn't be and yet he has an enigmatic charisma that bonds you to him.

The whole game is satisfactory and more to the point gives satisfaction to the player. I suppose you could be pedantic
and physically look for imperfections, there are bound to be a few as nothing is ever perfectly perfect, but to be quite
honest my time in the game has been spent on tenterhooks watching for the right time to make my move, ensuring I
am then ready when that time arrives with my fingers on the correct buttons to whisk Styx out of hiding, along the way
and then back into the shadows before he is noticed. Getting noticed is not ever a good thing. The guards may be low
on A.I. and IQ but they know how to shout and raise the alarm. If Styx is seen then until all guards in the vicinity are
dead - very unlikely unless there are only one or two at the most - at least I personally haven't managed to dispatch of
more than two in any one fight - there is little you can do except, as said previously, work your way into a position of
strength so that only one guard at a time can reach you.

This is a very strong game with exceptionally good graphics, wonderful atmospheric locations, a superb player avatar
and a solid story that has been created and written for the thoughtful but adventurous player. STYX is certainly the best
and most enterprising PC (it's on Steam) adventure game I have played for a long time that isn't an MMO and doesn't 
lose anything from the player using keyboard and mouse controls.

You can find out so much more and see many videos, artwork and screenshots if you take a little Cyanide trip.

 

 

 

 

 

© Chris Baylis 2011-2015