While at E3 this year, I had the pleasure of sitting down with French publisher Focus Home Interactive to talk about their upcoming stealth action game that will be released under the name Styx: Master of Shadows.
Developed by Cyanide Studios, Styx is a sequel to the 2012 RPG Of Orcs and Men. Other than one of the main characters and the setting, everything has been reworked for this sequel. Master of Shadows’ basic premise is that Styx is a goblin thief who wants to steal the heart of a giant tree. The heart of the tree is made of amber, a substance which is the source of magic and thus incredibly valuable. What could be easier than stealing from a tree? Quite a lot of things if said tree happens to have an entire city and fortress built around it defended by both elves and men.
I was able to see a gameplay demonstration taken and it is clear that Styx: Master of Shadows takes many of its cues from Thief: The Dark Project and Thief 2: The Metal Age. The demo I was shown saw Styx sneaking through a town to try and free an ally from prison. There are many features that you would expect in a modern stealth game, such as hiding spots and kills that come in the silent or loud variety. However, there are plenty of interesting additions that set Master of Shadows apart. Styx has a diverse array of powers that derive from amber that flows through his veins. The amber in Styx’s blood serves as the players HUD to indicate whether he is concealed or hidden. Using his amber powers, he can see through walls, turn invisible, create smoke screens, and create a clone of himself. The clone was the most interesting ability shown during the demo; it can be used to scout the level, set off environmental traps, or distract guards by hilariously leaping onto their face and causing them to freak out. Each of these powers can be upgraded to be even more effective and powerful.
Levels are all designed with the idea of verticality in mind. Traversing the environments requires a bit more effort and offers more control than in titles like Assassin’s Creed. Players should rarely find themselves stuck with only one route to an objective; alternate paths present themselves both above and below. Physically, Styx isn’t as powerful as humans or elves, so he will often need to resort to trickery and making use of the heights to emerge triumphant. Styx can quickly and silently kill enemies by executing a falling stab attack. He will also be able to poison food and water supplies to discreetly take out guards after a short period of time. Players will need to keep an eye out for anything in the environment that could be useful, like giant, suspended crates that could be dropped on top of overly inquisitive guards.
A new feature touted during the demonstration was the living city. While All NPCs have visual and sound detection capabilities, each one is also connected to two or three others who will come looking for their friend if he or she deviates from their established patterns. Bodies of unconscious or dead guards will need to be moved out of sight to avoid alerting other NPCs. Of course, if moving enemies seems like too much of a hassle, players can also dump some acid on a body and dissolve all evidence of wrongdoing.
There are plenty of things to do besides pursuing primary objectives and robbing NPCs blind. Each level has ten collectibles scattered throughout and these items require a bit of exploration to discover. As players sneak through levels, there will be opportunities to spy and eavesdrop on NPCs to learn more background info on the world and fulfill optional sidequest objectives. Completing more objectives nets players more experience points which they can use to upgrade their abilities.
I was told that an average playthrough of Styx: Master of Shadows should take around twelve hours. Along with a number of difficulty settings, there will also be a challenge mode that unlocks after beating the game that offers players some replayability. It is worth noting that the abilities on display in the demo are by no means exhaustive of what will be available in the finished title.
Styx: Master of Shadows will be available sometime this fall for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.