For a few years, the middle tier game had all but died. The market couldn't support full priced affairs that didn't promise the earth, and the abundance of budget indie games meant anything hovering in between had nowhere to live.

Now with new consoles allowing Steam like self publication and variable price points, games like Styx: Master Of Shadows have a place to ply their wares. We'll leave it up to you to decide whether or not that's a good thing in this particular case.


Playing as the titular Styx, you creep through a defiantly generic set of stealth scenarios, trying to piece together your past, over the span of 200 years. Styx is a goblin (the first, according to this lore), and an assassin. The game begins with a fairly feeble cutscene explaining that our man Styx has been captured by humans and has to escape, find his dagger, and then set about accumulating Amber (the glowing stuff that powers him and lets him unleash his more interesting capabilities).

It's third person stealth as you’ve seen it many times before. Guards strut about dimly lit rooms in predetermined patterns, reacting only to your presence should you stupidly stroll into their line of sight. You hide in corners, behind walls and up on high beams, ready to leap on your enemies and stab them multiple times in the chest like the nasty little bugger you are. Hide the body, move on,
repeat. It’s a smooth and functional game, but one almost entirely lacking in flair. For the most part, you’re executing plans and executing guards in a manner you’ve done many times before. If you’ve played anything from Splinter Cell through to Assassin’s Creed, you’ll be in instantly familiar territory.

Styx does pick up some reasonably interesting abilities later on in the story. He can cloak himself for a brief period of time, which proves useful when you run out of patience memorising guard AI routines. More impressively, he can also create a clone of himself that will run around the environment causing trouble while you sneak through or deal death. Unlike many modern stealth efforts that also revert into action games when you’re spotted, Styx: Master Of Shadows is not as
accomplished. Direct combat is a terrible idea for two reasons. Firstly, you'll almost always be killed if you face up to more than one opponent. Secondly, it’s awful.

Combat is a clumsy QTE, parrying incoming attacks before striking back. This sounds like Batman, but it’s more like a knock off of Punch Out. Competent, middle tier filler, and little more.

5/10