This may be the first time I’ve played as a goblin instead of killing them.
Styx: Master of Shadows was free to download on Playstation Network last month. Since then, I’ve sat down and played it for a handful of hours. I had no prior knowledge or experience with Of Orcs and Men, so I didn’t exactly know what I was getting myself into. Styx is a game for hardcore stealth fans. Not wannabes like me who play the Assassin’s Creed series and think that suffices.
I started off liking the game well enough. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t absolutely love it either. I made respectable progress, getting through the first couple of areas while the game slowly unravels the multitude of tricks and skills Styx has up his sleeves. I appreciate, and find a bit funny, a few of his human-killing methods. For example: Styx can puke in a bowl of fruit to poison and kill people. The animation is complete with green goop and sound effects to boot. Can’t say I’ve seen that before. The vomiting also lends credence to the game’s darker tones. Styx is vulgar, often proudly swearing between bouts of puking. As someone who never tires of gratuitous vulgarity, I was quite pleased.
As with many other video games, you can unlock skills to empower your character. Styx has otherwordly powers such as becoming invisible, vomiting up clones, and using Amber *cough* Eagle *cough* Vision to detect enemies and find hidden markers. These abilities are made possible through the use of Amber, the stimulant drug du jour in this world. Leveling up these amber abilities can only be done while at the hideout. This feature was the first turn off for me. I was only able to get to the hideout once the entire time I played. I’m the kind of person who can’t wait to burn points and get more powerful as soon as I can. Waiting until the game allowed me to in a game where you’re slowly trudging from point A to B because you can’t get seen just killed it for me.
Another turn off was the piss-poor battle system. I mean, I thought Assassin’s Creed was lazy with it, but now my eyes have been opened. At least in the AC series I can attack someone if I so choose. Styx is not so fortunate. If you make the mistake of catching a guard’s attention, prepare yourself: he, along with a dozen of his friends who materialize out of nowhere, will gang up on you simultaneously. There’s no Gentleman’s Syndrome here, folks. They have no qualms with killing you while you’re stuck in a parry or kill animation. That’s all you can do, by the way: parry and kill. Every single fight is nothing more than determining your parry timing, and parrying however many times you have to until parry turns into kill. Then Styx knocks them to the ground, and while stabbing them to death, gets sliced up by their pissed off friend.
Yes, I understand this is a stealth game and combat should be avoided when necessary, but this is just ridiculous. Styx has all these neat tools to his disposal, so why can’t I use them during battle? I’d like the option to turn invisible and try sneaking off again (and seeing the guards crap themselves when I disappear into thin air). Or barfing up a clone to take some beatings while I pick one off. Or even puking up my poisonous vomit in their face while dueling. That’s the kind of dirty fighting Styx seems like he was made for. However, none of these creative devices that could make battles more interesting are even hinted at. Guess I’m just creative like that.
I never got far enough to unlock the Kill From Above-type skill.
None of these complaints are even what put the fork in the game for me. I was still content with continuing along, (rather slowly I might add, with all the hard saving and reloading I finally resorted to thanks to the not generous auto saves and guard ganking), until a peculiar thing happened. I was in the midst of a “Don’t get seen or you have to start over from the last checkpoint” section. Something I’ve become akin to thanks to Assassin’s Creed. So I figured, “Okay, time to be diligent about not triggering guards.” No biggie. But then I got a peculiar message. Something about a dead body being seen. Okay. Before I have time to react, the game reloads.
Really? A game over for a dead body being detected? Without giving the player time to backtrack and try doing something about said body? Maybe I wasn’t paying enough attention, but I had no idea that a dead guard I left behind who knows how long ago would become a death sentence. Obviously if I had known it’d be such a BFD I would’ve tried harder to stealth past him or do away with the body. There’s only so many closets and chests to hide them in. Sure, an NPC gives you vials of acid to destroy corpses with, but you only get a couple to carry you over until God knows when.
And that’s it. I was in the middle of trying to solve a puzzle involving using the clone to pass through metal gates and activate triggers when I kept “dying” due to carelessly leaving a dead guard behind. I tried reloading a previous save, but it didn’t erase my mistake.
Then Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris became available for free, thus putting Styx on the digital shelf to probably not be picked back up again.
If you’re hardcore into stealth games, or played Of Orcs and Men and enjoyed it, then I say go for this game. But for the rest of us, I wouldn’t really recommend it. Aside from Styx’s great voice acting and character, everything else was lackluster.