Cyanide Studios, the small French studio formed of ex-Ubisoft employees, has big plans for 2015. Hard at work on their newest title, Styx: Master of Shadows, it is clear the Cyanide is doing everything that they can possibly do to change and improve the stealth genre for the better.
During this year’s E3, Cyanide showed an early demo build of Styx that was genuinely impressive despite the game’s relatively early showing. Styx: Master of Shadows takes place long before the events of Of Orcs and Men, and features the titular Styx – the world’s first goblin – on his journey to steal the Heart of the World-Tree.
The younger, stronger Styx presented in Master of Shadows plays exceptionally well in the demo Cyanide showed off. The game is true stealth to the core, Styx’s talents lie in staying out of sight as he climbs, slides and stalks his way through the game’s stages.
The world of Master of Shadows is decidedly vertical in nature, which plays to the goblin’s skills, allowing Styx to stay hidden in order to eavesdrop on conversations, and use short bursts of invisibility to traverse past larger foes.
Between scaling walls and climbing ledges, the sense of movement created in Master of Shadows is absolutely phenomenal. Similar to how the first Thief titles captured the rush of moving quickly through the shadows, so too does Master of Shadows, even in its early stages.
As players progress in Master of Shadows and enter new areas, Styx can scout out the lay of the land. By moving slowly and patiently, players will be able to score numerous stealth kills, rendering the area safer to traverse and hunt for treasure. Those who rush in will be destined to meet an unfortunate fate.
The aforementioned stealth kills can be pulled off in a wide variety of ways. Thanks to the game’s vertical nature, Styx can throw enemies from ledges, drop from roofs and use height to his advantage in numerous ways.
Those who wish to shy away from going fully stealth in Master of Shadows can in fact do so, as some of Styx’s melee abilities were shown. The goblin fights with his daggers and slashes quickly and efficiently, proving that while stealth might often be the best strategy, it is not the only one.
On the complete other side of the spectrum, is what is perhaps the most interesting feature of Styx – the ability to make it through the game without killing a single enemy. Like many true stealth titles, the player will be able to navigate throughout the entirety of the game’s story without ever having to draw a blade, allowing for what is sure to be tense stealthy moments throughout.
Avoiding all enemies will be anything but simple, as Cyanide showed off numerous foes from both the Human and Elven factions, each with different classes and goblin-slaying abilities. Learning how to deal with the enemies encountered quickly and fluidly is one of Master of Shadow’s core gameplay elements.
Styx’s own abilities help significantly in overcoming the odds. One such power shown off during the demo was the cloning skill, in which Styx created a cloned decoy of himself to set a trap while he hid in a nearby chest, undetected. These sneaky skills provide a wide variety of options with which to tackle a given situation.
In order to gain better skills and abilities, Master of Shadows features a branching skill tree system with different categories that players can invest points into. The ones shown in the demo were stealth, cloning, equipment and mastery, each filled with their own unique advantages.
Styx: Master of Shadows packs quite a lot of promise in its goblin-sized package and looks to be one of next year’s sleeper hits. Fans of true stealth gameplay would be wise to keep their eyes peeled for Styx’s return next year on the PC in Styx: Master of Shadows.
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