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Video Game / Styx: Master of Shadows

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Become the Master of Infiltration.

"I remember... I was born in a dried up lake-bed. There was a big dead tree and dozens of my kind crawling around, like rats. But I wasn't like them. I was a rat of another kind. My vision blurred... I don't know what happened before that. I can remember only one thing. A name... Styx. It was the only thing I could think of. I often dream of this place at night. Well, more like a nightmare. I see myself and I am - everywhere."
The one-and-only Styx

Styx: Master of Shadows is a Stealth-Based Game developed by Cyanide Studio and published by Focus Home Interactive for PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, released on October 7, 2014. The game is a spin-off/prequel to Of Orcs and Men, focusing on Styx as he steals a magical artifact from humans. As the very first of all the Goblins, hes a master in the arts of stealth, thievery, and murder. The depths of the miles-high Tower of Akenash, where Humans and Elves hide and protect the Tree, the source of the Amber, are the best chance Styx has of quickly amassing a small fortune and, perhaps, discover more about his true origins along the way.

After a relative success, Cyanide released a sequel in early 2017, Styx: Shards of Darkness, promising "more ambition", a "bigger budget", and a "new engine".

Styx: Master of Shadows contains examples of:

  • 100% Completion: Possible for each level, but you have to know the game really good to get a crack at this. To pull it off, you have to earn all 4 Marks for each level: for not raising an alarm; for not killing any guards (ghostly elf-skulls and mutant cockroaches don't count, as well as targets of secondary objective); for completing the whole level under a certain time; and for stealing all the coins (each stage of each level, except the prologue stage, has ten of them).
  • 24-Hour Armor: It gets downright silly to watch Knights in full face helmets somehow eating apples and drinking water from a canister.
  • Absurdly-Spacious Sewer: Downplayed.
  • Air-Vent Passageway: Justified. Ventilation shafts and pipes are way too small for a human to crawl through, but when the Atrium was built, there was no such thing in existence as a goblin.
  • Ambiguous Ending: It's still unclear if the Styx in Of orcs and men is the first one or the clone. Which one survived the fall ?
  • Amnesiac Hero: When the player controls Styx for the first time he appeared to have a severe headache and no memory of anything he did yesterday. Actually it was because he was a clone of Styx that has just awakened, he was literally a Protagonist Without a Past.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: After beating any level, replaying it shows whether you caused any alarms, kills, how long you've been playing on it and the number of tokens you collected so you can be sure you didn't mess up any award (No kills, no alerts...).
    • In the first level, the first scholar you must avoid and worker you must to kill will not count as alert or kill towards the Mercy and Ghost awards, which is good since avoiding both is nigh impossible. Similarly in The Architect a forced duel after a cutscene with an enemy won't ruin your Ghost or Mercy award.
    • Tokens are small and can be extremely hard to spot. Thankfully you can learn Omniscience which at least gives visible icons for them in Amber Vision.
  • Armor Is Useless: Averted. Soldiers who wear armor are still vulnerable since Styx always go for their unprotected head and neck, but Knights wearing full plate armor are completely immune to his dagger and throwing knives. Inquisitors, who wear full face helmets, are also immune to throwing knives as well.
  • Aura Vision: Styx has one in the form of his Amber Vision. It highlights useful objects and can be further upgraded so he can even see enemies behind walls and locate trinkets.
  • Applied Phlebotinum: Amber, the sap of the world tree. It is unknown what properties the substances has, besides being both corrosive in concentration and addictive when diluted to non-amber based creatures. It also has seemingly unlimited magical capability to be applied to various functions, with numerous of them seen onscreen. It is unclear what, or just how many purpose(s) the Humans are using the amber for, but it is clear that the functions of amber are so critical that the human empire had to wage war to take control of the world tree just for the amber, and soon sign a peace treaty with the elves they fought, as it turns out crude amber is too dangerous for human workers to extract. Doing too much magical experiments with amber is also what turned the original Styx into the first goblin, and apparently afterwards amber becomes the source of all the magic his magical clone(s) use(s), whether or not he himself had to rely on amber to cast magic is unknown, but the clone the player controls is shown developing a headache when not consuming amber.
    • In this game, the capabilities of amber suggested in story include:
      • Being some type of fuel for various machines of the city.
      • Serving as narcotics in diluted form; and it was widely smuggled for this purpose.
      • Being used to create "creatures of amber", various creatures (the main example being elves) with capabilities to use amber-based magic.
      • Amber-based creatures also involuntarily tap into a telepathic network and receives the thoughts of all other creatures who "has amber flowing in their bodies" or have a desire to obtain amber. It turns out the elves are so used to it they can't comprehend what it is like "to be so lonely inside one's head". Styx however, felt tormented that his personality was dwindling from the stream of ideas from others, and this steeled his goal to steal the heart of the world tree, and study a way to rid himself of the influence of amber.
      • Off screen, apparently amber has also allowed the elves to foresee future via certain magical means, this induced a late game plot with the Elvish ambassador saw a forecast different from his kin. (Turns out they were only seeing different parts of the same future) .
  • Artificial Brilliance: This time, Guards WILL notice the dead bodies of their colleagues. And they will always summon nearby people to investigate together and check possible hiding spots when they have spotted a suspicious sound or sighting.
  • Artificial Stupidity: With that said it's still easy to fool them with clones and it's not rare to see the AI making guards walk into each other screwing their own patrol routes at times.
  • Big Bad: As it turns out, the main villain is the original Styx, who wishes to use the Amber Heart to turn himself back into an Orc.
  • Book Ends: In the End clone Styx survived the fall into the amberlake, but loses all his memories due to having destroyed the World Tree Heart and being a creature of amber. In the finale he recalls his "birth" on the dried up lake bed of the amberlake, which used to house the world tree when it was alive. In a puzzled air, he mentioned his inability remember anything that has happened before, just like he did at the beginning of game, but in a much calmer manner.
  • Call-Forward: The first time you encounter Orcs, a tooltip appears noting that while they're all hostile in this game, it would be interesting if an Orc ever teamed up with Styx.
  • Citadel City: The 'Atrium of Akenash', a gigantic city-tower built in order to protect the only world tree (a source of amber) within the human territory. As such, it represents an invaluable asset to the human empire and is in essence one giant fortification with an entire city to man it.
  • Clone Angst: Big time. The clone the player controls realized that all his thoughts and purposes about obtaining the heart of the world tree are not actually his own thoughts, they are all orders from the original Styx as he plays the clone like a puppet. The clone is so pissed about this prospect he sets out to kill and take over the original Styx, and decides to oppose every goal Styx has just because those are the only thoughts he is certain to be his own.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Styx is vicious. From striking his enemies from the back and slicing them up, or breaking their necks, he can also throw knives at their heads, poison their food and water and use his clones to set up deadly ambushes or have them to hold the victim while he cuts them down, or make the clone explode to leave them defenseless.
  • Conveniently Timed Distraction: Clones are here for this in case a pesky guard won't leave that spot for you.
  • Cool Airship: Due to the 'Atrium of Akenash' being located on a floating island, these are an essential means of getting to and from the tower.
  • Crapsack World: Hardly any human beings in this world Styx meets or eavesdrops upon is painted in a positive light. Maybe except old Querberus. The elves are mostly neutral.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Though this time understandably keeping to himself considering the need for silence, Styx is still no less snarky compared to the last game, frequently commenting on the environment he sneaks into.
    Styx: (about the governor's house) Look at this luxury... You've really got to think you're something fucking special to live in a jewelry box like this... They've got diamond studded butt cheeks, or what?
  • Devious Daggers: Styx feels naked without his trusty dagger. Justified it was basically his only consistently reliable tool for killing (or self defense, in case he got spotted), as human grade swords are obviously too big for him to use properly. Styx's dagger is quite different in this game, being significantly bigger and wider, overall a more Orcish design, hinting at Styx's origin as a former Orc.
  • Disposing of a Body: The easiest and cleanest way is throwing corpses into the clouds, but this can be somewhat tricky since Styx can't throw bodies over balconies and lots of levels are indoors. Acid Vials will melt completely the body and bones, but are limited.
  • Dungeon Bypass: Every level often gives you multiple paths, some safer, and better hidden, than others, to avoid having to dance around guards to avoid detection.
  • Expendable Clone: Styx's duplicates are treated as largely expendable, with Styx himself making a point of treating them as little more than tools. Unfortunately, he himself is this.
  • Fantastic Drug: Processed Amber. Though prohibited, it was seen widely traded and smuggled in various parts of Akenash, providing a justified source of bottles of amber lying about or being carried around for Styx to steal.
    • It wasn't described what drinking amber does to non-magic using humans, but human amber-users are frequently shown vomiting. It's highly addictive as well and you can see guards often begging for one bottle swapping weeks of duty for some, and you can occasionally find someone craving for Amber.
    • It was suggested that consumable amber certain hallucinogenic effects on human users. When human enemies briefly sees or hears something moving in the corner (Styx), but then lose perception before they get suspicious, they may say "Fuck, and I didn't even taken any amber...." and dismiss it as themselves seeing or hearing things.
  • Fantastic Racism: Although discrimination and abuse is prohibited by the Human-Elf Peace treaty; humans in this game commonly look down upon elves, calling the Elves with various pejorative slangs between themselves, such as "Rootsuckers". After Aaron take place as governor after the death of his father, one of the policies he employ to rally the humans is to "lockup all the Elves (to show the superiority of the human race)".
  • Floating Continent: The Tower of Akenash was built around the World-Tree which in turn is located on a floating island. The said tree also apparently being the only thing keeping the whole place afloat. Once Styx destroys the heart, the whole thing comes crashing down.
  • Foreshadowing: The voice in Styx head refers to him as "Rakash," hinting that he was a clone to begin with.
    • In the opening cinematic Styx mentioned his own ancestors, but when governor Barimen questions his identity and the fact that Barimen has never seen anything like Styx before, Styx replied that he is one of a kind, hinting at the fact that Styx was not a goblin before.
  • Genre Shift: Rather than an RPG, the game is primarily a stealth game with a limited upgrade system.
  • Great Escape: Styx is forced to do one after breaking out the prisoner. The problems are: 1) he gets stabbed by the very person he broke out and 2) he loses all of his gear (vials, throwing knives), including his daggers.
  • Guide Dang It!: Some Relics can be incredibly well hidden and borderline impossible to come across without either fine-tuned super-thorough searching or checking a guide.
  • Hand Stomp: Get detected, hang on a ledge trying to escape and fail. The guard will gleefully introduce his boot to Styx's fingers.
  • Heads I Win, Tails You Lose: The boss fight against the real Styx.
  • Have a Nice Death: If you fall into a bottomless pit Styx may yell a high-pitched "FUUUUCK YOOOU!".
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Styx with throwing knives. Even more so with his Elite Thrower skills.
  • It's Probably Nothing: Guards often react like this if you make a noise and avoid detection.
    • Styx also has a taste for throwing knives as a tool for ranged killing.
  • Knowledge Broker: Ozkan, a blind old crook wanted by the human government. He has many connections tapped into the criminal underworld of Akenash and mainly serves as the contract provider for Styx, offering Styx directions and information to help him reach his goals in exchange for Styx stealing and killing for him.
  • Last Lousy Point: The tokens the player must collect to obtain the Thief insignia in each stage are always scattered in the most unintuitive places around all the zones, often in places just away from visible angles on the path of a normal playthrough.
  • Le Parkour: Similar to Assassin's Creed, Styx can climb upon fixtures and walls to stay out of sight. Unlike that series however, platforming is much less rigid, meaning that you're given much more freedom in movement.
  • Level in Reverse: A common criticism is the fact Master of Shadows uses a lot of the same maps, only in reverse with different enemies among other changes.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: Killing enemies by dropping chandeliers on their heads or poisoning food count as this, especially the first one.
    Guard: (upon finding a dead body by a chandelier) Flattened like a pancake... Better ask for a raise, it's a risky job guarding this place...
  • Man Bites Man: Well, Goblin Bites Man. An Aerial Kill has a chance of Styx gnawing on the victim's throat. He even finishes with a corny one-liner:
    Styx: Hum... tasty.
  • The Many Deaths of You: You can send a clone to his doom so he can get slashed, stabbed, stomped, eaten, crushed, roasted, and more. Styx can fall victim to the same things as well.
  • Men Are the Expendable Gender: Very much so.
  • Me's a Crowd: Styx can create clones that can crawl through certain gates, scout areas ahead, distract guards and can even be upgraded to serve as living smoke bombs or to ambush enemies inside closets and chests.
  • Neck Snap: Styx's preferred method of muffled killing when striking from behind. Though this is generally a lot quieter than Styx simply jamming a knife into someone's chest and let them scream (Styx covers his victim's mouth when readying a Neck Snap), the Sickening "Crunch!" of his victim's neck snapping will still draw the attention of nearby enemies. Making the game a lot more difficult and logical compared to many games of the genre.
  • Nintendo Hard: Styx is intended as a pure stealth game, and the mechanics and difficulty all reflect this. The maps are large and incredibly intricate while enemies are numerous and alert. The guards knows to pry into hiding spots when investigating or searching, and can usually kill Styx very quickly when they spotted him, whether in melee or over a distance. There are also many one hit kill enemies starting from the second chapter, like elite crossbowmen, knights, orcs, and elves. After the first level, some level setups can get downright sadistic, like grouping chained orcs and sound sensitive roabies in the same corridor.
  • No OSHA Compliance: For a place build above the clouds Akenash has little to no protection rails. Which is useful for Styx and he can shove an unfortunate soul close enough to a ledge to his demise.
  • Non-Lethal K.O.: Averted. You either kill anything in your way or avoid it entirely.
  • Notice This: Items you can pick generally glow. In Amber Vision anything in bright white can be interacted with; Amber Vision also lets you see Amber Marks which often leads you to alternate, safer, paths or hidden rooms with supplies.
  • One-Hit Kill: As a weak goblin, Styx can be killed in one hit by many special enemies, which are not scarce after the first few levels, they include Knights, Elite Crossbowmen, Orcs, and Elves.
  • Pacifist Run: Entirely possible, though significantly harder to pull off than killing guards. You even get bonus skill points for this.
  • Prequel: The game takes place before Of Orcs and Men.
  • Profane Last Words: If you accidentally cause Styx to fall to his death, one of the things he can yell while falling is "FUUUUUUUUCK YOUUUUUUU!".
  • Replay Mode: You may replay any completed mission while keeping all of your learned skills. Extremely useful to get awards you may have not gotten and prevent players from going insane if they had to get Mercy/Ghost/Swiftness/Thief awards in a single run even with Save Scumming.
  • Save Scumming: The game doesn't punish you for Quick Saving and Quick Loading as many times as you want, but do it carelessly and you may end up saving right when an enemy is about to spot you.
  • Sir Swearsalot: Styx was foul-mouthed enough in the first game, but he takes a new level of swearing in Master of Shadows. Every time he encounters a new type of enemy that annoys him expect to hear him dropping a "fuck".
  • Smoke Bomb: Styx can turn his clones into living smoke bombs, bursting into a large puff of obscuring smoke for Styx to infiltrate unhindered or assassinate a particularly hard to reach target. It is not very practical for making escapes though, as Styx cannot do it without a ready clone.
  • So Much for Stealth: Knocking stuff like brooms, buckets and vases will make a very loud noise and possibly draw unwanted attention from guards and roabies.
  • Star Scraper: While the Tower of Akenash looks to be about the same height as today's tallest buildings, it is significantly wider: the interior vertically houses an entire medieval city, and the horizontal distances are closer to that of a town than a building. Furthermore, the Tower still extends some distance underground.
  • Stealth-Based Game: Of the Strict Stealth type, where the player is very likely dead meat if they are spotted and do not re-enter a stealthy state quickly enough. The strictness is surprising considering the game type of the previous game and Styx's performance in it, as well as the current trend of "Fight or Sneak" stealth games, but reasonable for Styx being a small goblin facing well equipped human enemies twice his size everywhere.
  • Sticky Fingers: Styx can pickpocket guards if they're carrying an item on their belt.
  • Throwing the Distraction: Making a clone and sending it running to take the heat off you is a viable strategy to survive.
  • Unexpectedly Realistic Gameplay: Styx is small compared to humans and while he can easily beat them in one-to-one combat, he is hopelessly outnumbered and certain enemies are just too much for him to handle on his own.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: You'll come across non-combatant people like scholars and janitors, nothing stops you from murdering them.
  • Water Source Tampering: Styx can poison water (and food) with some of his Amber saliva. Enemies who drink/eat poisoned food die shortly after without raising suspicion.
  • We Need a Distraction: Diversion is always a viable and useful tactic to temporary clear a path for Styx to sneak through, whether by Styx whistling in person or via a clone. This is especially useful if one aims for the "Mercy" insignia. Styx and his clones can also unfasten chains hanging chandeliers or cargo to make them fall, as a instrument of aerial death or simply a spectacle to distract everyone around. And nothing stops you from using clones to get guards out of the way by running in front of them and making them chase the clone leaving that area clear for you.
    • In the Library stage one of the objectives require Styx to get two elite crossbowmen out of the way, in order to let Ector enter a restricted area and pull a switch that Styx cannot reach. One of the methods is to distract them by making the chandelier fall.
  • Wham Episode: Deliverance. You meet Styx who's been manipulating you all the time into doing his bidding, things quickly take a turn for the worse there.
  • Wretched Hive: The lower portions of Akenash are basically this, with smugglers, mad scientists, corrupt guards and other horrors.