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Styx: Master of Disappointment

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    Styx: Master of Shadows

    Rating: 2.5 – Playable

    Styx: Master of Disappointment


    I picked up this game at the amazing price of free-fitty, when it was free on Games With Gold. I really looked forward to playing it. Seemed like a fantasy version of Assassins Creed, but focused more on stealth, less on open combat. I figured it would be a hidden gem. Instead, I found it more like polishing a turd. You can shine it up all you want, but its still a turd. So let’s get down to the knitty gritty of this quick, somewhat salty review.

    Story: 3/10

    There isn’t much I can say here. You’re a monster maybe made by elves who has dreams about the heart of a tree used by humans for magic power but only elves can tap the amber of the tree. No one knows what the hell you are, and you won’t tell anyone who you are or why you’re there. Basically, until 50% of the way through the game, you have no idea who you are or why you’re there.

    Then there’s the fact that the game jumps back and forth between what’s happening in real time, and weird dream sequences. But there’s no indication that it’s a flashback or a dream until weird stuff starts happening. So it just ends up feeling sloppy and confusing.

    Graphics: 3/10

    Honestly, this game looks like it was made in a graphics engine for Xbox 360/PS3. The faces are terrible, as in when people talk they just go omnomnomnom. The hair is basically just a gelatine dessert on someone’s head. The motion capture for Styx is pretty decent, but the guards and everyone else is basically just wireframe robot junk that looks dated compare to the original Assassin’s Creed. The shadows are super basic and the lighting system is totally linear. The cutscenes are basically the in-game graphics, but choppy and laggy because of dramatic camera angles.Not much more to say. It looks like an early Xbox 360 game and not an HD Xbox One game.

    Sound: 4/10

    The soundtrack for this game is basically composed of really short string instrument scores on a loop. It’s not a jarring loop, but it’s still short and really redundant. The voice acting would be passable if not for the insanely pointless swearing on the part of Styx. It feels like they weren’t going to have swearing originally, and then, the day of recording, decided to swear like a trucker. So it just feels forced and pointless. "Where the **** is that thing?" or "I can’t see a ****ing thing" or "what kind of **** is this?" are quite common. It comes across like a little kid who just heard someone swear and the next day of school is vomiting curses like a gangster rapper. It’s super out of place and childish, and really ruins Styx as a character.

    Gameplay: 3/10

    Well, here we are, finally at the cherry on top of the crap sundae. I’ve left this one till last because really, everything is building towards the sick hot mess of gameplay. Stealth is one of those things in games that is either done right, or done wrong. There’s no middle ground. Styx, regrettably, is the latter. I wanted to like the stealth in this game. I really did. And it honestly had a lot of potential. But It quickly falls into poor AI, programming, and game design. This section is going to be a little long winded, but I really want to get across all the problems this game ran into.

    First up is the actual stealth mechanic. At face value, it seems totally in-depth. Line of site, sticking to the shadows, distractions, etc. But then you realize it’s really shallow and unrealistic. For instance, if you snuff out a torch, and are in the shadows, you have this glowing gold tattoo on your arm that says you’re less likely to be detected. This basically means you’re invisible if you’re crouched. You can be rubbing your big green nose on a guard’s crotch, and that glowing tattoo won’t give you away. But, you stand up or bump a table? Every guard within about 100 yards knows you’re there and comes running. The cover system falls into the same problem. If you’re in the shadows, hiding behind something, guards will just completely ignore you. I literally had a guard walk up to me, look at me, say he didn’t feel so good, and puke on me (which by the way is insanely common for the guards in this game). The stealth is made even more clunky by confusing onscreen prompts such as "move" or "proceed" which end up just making you jump or stand up so everyone spots you.

    This brings us to the AI. With the stealth system the way it is, how could you really expect much? The AI follows a linear pattern at all times. Each guard does a specific route, does the same actions over and over, with no random factors. There’s no rotation of guards, there’s no random searches, there’s no spontaneity. They walk around in circles. That’s all you get. If you use a distraction, one or two guards will check it out and derp about at that exact spot before going back to their routine. No investigation. They just go to the spot, look around side to side, then leave again. If you alert a guard, oh boy you’re in trouble. Even if they don’t verbally yell or blow a whistle or anything, they lean back and cup their hands like they’re screaming, and then everyone within 100 yards is running at you. Yep, it’s one of those games.

    But what happens when you get caught? What happens when you are face to face with a livid guard ready to strike you down? Some of the worst combat I’ve ever seen. Back on PSP, there was a Tenchu game where, when spotted, it initiated a minigame of sorts. The enemy would go to strike you with a weapon and you had to hold up your sword in the precise direction (using the thumbstick). This would block the attack, and if you hit the attack button at the precise time the strike happened, you could counter. In between attacks, you could attempt to strike at your foe to widdle their stamina down. It was a little clunky, but worked quite well, and was immersive enough to make combat interesting. Styx tried to do the same, but failed miserably. When you’re in open combat, you can circle enemies and attack them, but this actually doesn’t do anything. Combat boils down to you hitting X to parry when the enemy strikes, and hitting X immediately after. This is literally the only way to defeat enemies in combat. If you strafe around them and hack up their back, it actually doesn’t do any damage. Only parry attacks do anything. Yep. Riveting. Coupled with the terrible AI and silent alarms making everyone run at you like a spider monkey, and this horrible combat is basically 50% of your gameplay.

    Overall: 2.5/10

    There isn’t really much more I can say. I had high hopes for this game, and really wanted to like it, but halfway through I just decided I’d rather go play an old stealth game like Tenchu. Somehow, games that came out on PSP and PS2 had comparable graphics, better soundtracks, better voice acting, better AI, better stealth gameplay, better combat, and better immersion. That kind of sums up Styx: Master of Shadows in a nutshell. If you want to play an amazing total stealth game, that focuses on immersion and avoiding combat, play something that was made ten years ago.

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