Stellar Blade Review – A Cut Above

Stellar Blade Review

From Bayonetta to 2B, the Hack and Slash, Action RPG genre boasts a pantheon of formidable female protagonists. With their striking designs and brutality in battle, they possess a captivating blend of grace and ferocity. Poised to make its mark as Shift Up’s first console release, Stellar Blade is a stylish Sci-Fi adventure that aims to deliver a slick slice of seductive action. However, will it distinguish itself enough to cut through the competition and soar past comparisons altogether?

In a desperate attempt to reclaim Earth from the Naytiba, soldiers are sent from their new habitat in the stars to take back their homeland. As EVE, you barely survive the trip and discover that most of your teammates died during the descent. This leads to a perilous journey across the post-apocalyptic ruins to fight off alien invaders and learn about the mysteries of the past. The story is methodically drip fed which complements the action and ensures that each objective has a clear purpose.

Dripping With Style

Buried within are tales that develop the rich lore of the world. You will encounter humans who survived the horrific events and can learn about their trials and tribulations when you help them through the completion of side quests. While you only gain snippets of information, they flesh out the story to give further insight into the universe. The story stays prevalent and leads you to wonderfully diverse locales that juxtapose the harsh impact of war and the beauty of nature which has overgrown to strangle the remnants of the past. Although the plot treads familiar ground, its presentation is captivating. Stylish cutscenes enhance the art direction and build anticipation for upcoming battles. With each scene, the tension mounts, fueling excitement for what awaits.

EVE moves with grace on the battlefield, weaving through her surroundings in a deadly waltz. Combining light and heavy attacks, you can perform a brutal ballet to annihilate anyone who stands before you. Successful strikes lead to the ability to unleash a special Beta attack, each of which has different strengths to support in particular situations. Getting up close puts you at risk, so you must be quick on your feet and dance between attacks. If timed perfectly, you will be rewarded with a small window of slow down so that you can unleash a series of devastating strikes. Attack types are distinguished by specific colors, enabling you to respond appropriately. While mastering the correct button combinations to counter each attack can be challenging, the sense of fulfillment upon success is truly rewarding.

Dangerous in Defense

Although the melee combat is similar to titles like Nier: Automata and Bayonetta with its reliance on evasion and quick combos, Stellar Blade also places parrying at the forefront of battles. You will need to read your enemy’s attack pattern and counter this with well-timed parries. Not only does this build your Beta ability but it can also leave them in a stagger state which allows you to deliver a cinematic blow. Making parrying a core part of combat amps up the intensity of encounters as it forces you to read your opponent to emerge victorious. Due to this, you have to be strategic and decide which enemies can be overwhelmed with a barrage of attacks and which will require a more methodical approach.

As well as close-quarters combat, you can step back and use a gun to deal damage from a distance. Rather than implementing the gunplay with the melee like in classics such as Devil May Cry, Shift Up opts for a more traditional third-person shooter format. This means you have access to different weapon types and can target particular areas on foes which makes it a viable option to take out creatures. Certain segments are tailored with this in mind to ensure that encounters stay varied throughout the adventure. As fights are designed to test your skills and require adept reactions, Shift Up includes a forgiving Story Mode difficulty option which adds several assists to make the game more accessible. Although not applicable to everyone, it’s a great feature to support engagement.

More Than Meets the Eye

In addition to tackling imposing foes, you will also need to use EVE’s agility to jump and ascend the surroundings. Although only specific areas are climbable, these are often great cinematic segments where you must scale large obstacles at pace or progress up stunning structures. Adding further variety, puzzles break up the gameplay allowing you to pause for a moment of thought. Most conundrums require exploration to progress. Rather than give you time to work out the solution, it quickly offers hints. While these are optional and you can turn this feature off, it’s a little frustrating to instantly receive the prompt. Campaign puzzles are straightforward, however, there are some challenging riddles in particular side quests that will test your problem-solving skills.

Linear and semi-open world areas seamlessly combine to create a sprawling adventure through a beautiful dystopian world. Hidden within are several collectibles and items that will make you want to search every area. You can attach objects to your loadout to gain boosts. For example, certain items will decrease melee damage whereas others will increase your attack speed. This allows you to personalize your character to favor certain attributes. You will also visit abandoned camps which are essentially FromSoftware style bonfires. Here you can upgrade your character, purchase items, and even learn more about the characters as they converse when resting. Upon replenishing your health, enemies respawn giving you more creatures to demolish on your quest to save the world.

Drop Dead Gorgeous

Each location and character model is sumptuously designed to perfectly capture the theme. The level of detail is truly astounding with close-ups showcasing different materials and minute facial details. This permeates with particle effects that heighten the intensity of battles and cinematic vistas that continue to amaze throughout. The adventure is further elevated with its stunning soundtrack. Melancholic vocals echo throughout to add an ethereal quality to the world. Guitar-heavy tracks build your adrenaline as you attempt to conquer beasts. The combination of these elements creates an intoxicating experience that will make you want to stay in this irresistible world.

Stellar Blade stands out as one of the best action-adventure games of its generation. Its combat system is both deep and multilayered, ensuring that every encounter is an exhilarating experience. Offering a range of options, players can tackle enemies in several ways, be it through offensive maneuvers or defensive strategies. Whether opting to dodge, parry, or create distance, the choices are intuitively designed. Coupled with its captivating narrative and cinematic presentation, Stellar Blade is an essential exclusive.

***A PlayStation 5 code provided by the publisher for review***

The Good

  • Deep Combat System
  • Incredible Art Direction
  • Beautiful Soundtrack

The Bad

  • Persistent Hint Option
  • Treads Closely to its Inspirations