by Johnathan Irwin
reviewed on PC
Styx and Stones
There really is an art to making a true stealth experience. Only a handful of series handle stealth properly. Earlier installments of the Thief games spring to mind, and to an extent the Assassin's Creed series in which the player hides in plain sight rather than sticking to shadows. There are several other series that have played with the stealth formula, some succeeding well but many falling flat.
I kept a very close eye on Styx: Master of Shadows ever since fellow editor Ingvi Snædal came back from Gamescom raving about the game. Having played the game, I understand his enthusiasm. The game gives the player a rather unique role and I'm glad to be the one to tell you where I feel it sits in the stealth adventure genre. Lets embark on an experience that will make you either a failure in shadows, or the Master of Shadows.
A Temper Colored Green
Meet Styx, an ill tempered, ill mannered, and very green goblin with eyes like burning embers... or more like, piercing amber. The very same amber that comes from the World Tree and a much coveted resource by elves and humans alike. Styx wants more than just the amber within the tree, he wants the heart of the tree itself. The game begins with Styx in captivity by humans, being interrogated as the humans attempt to force him to reveal why he's there. This goblin doesn't need to be forced, as he enjoys telling the tale and recounting the series of events that lead him to this.
I was surprised I enjoyed the story aspect of the game as much as I did, considering a lot of it seemed like a variant of fantasy stories we've all seen and heard before. However, through the eyes of this love-him-or-hate-him protagonist, it takes on a new edge. We've always seen goblins as the typical enemies. Styx helps us understand why we see goblins as tricksters and fiends but in a unique way also allows us a look at the good guys through the eyes of a baddy. The game also features Elves and Orcs, but they really don't have much impact on the story and you do not see them until later chapters.
The way the humans are portrayed for the most part is anything but 'good'. Greedy, overly ambitious, backstabbing, and quick to slay first and ask questions later. When even most of the non-combatant NPCs see you as a monster, it puts emphasis on how much being a goblin must suck! But - outside of the story - crawling under the skin of this goblin doesn't suck at all.
Styx is all about the stealth, don't think for a moment that Styx has the skills to openly confront everyone in open combat. He lives in the shadows, he operates from the shadows, and he strikes when the shadows allow.
Stealth gameplay mostly passes with flying colors, good replayability.
Awkward combat, lack of peripheral vision for NPC characters.