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  • Writer's pictureMatthew Rondina

Stellar Blade Review

Stellar Blade combines its own distinct style and razor-sharp gameplay to deliver a wholly satisfying action experience, my full review.

Stellar Blade is a captivating action-adventure game combining futuristic aesthetics and intense combat mechanics. It also blends style and function, creating an immensely satisfying experience that kept me coming back for more. It is an experience of “balancing acts” borrowing heavily from past influences, like Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, NieR, and Devil May Cry. It incorporates the best of these experiences and melds them into a unique fusion I loved slashing my way through.

"The game’s ability to harmonize intense combat with a simple, but compelling narrative pulled me into the post-apocalyptic world."

While Stellar Blade borrows many elements from these legendary games, it adds its own take that delivers a fresh yet very familiar, action-packed adventure. It falters in some areas with a few drab characters and story pacing issues, but the spots it excels in are stellar. The game’s ability to harmonize intense combat with a simple, but compelling narrative pulled me into the post-apocalyptic world. Stellar Blade marks the ambitious leap of developer Shift Up into the realm of AAA gaming, but does it make the balancing act work? Let’s dive into the hyper-stylistic world of Stellar Blade and explore all it has to offer.


Stellar Blade Details

Platform: PlayStation 5

Developer: Shift Up

Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment

Genre: Action Adventure

Modes: Single-player

ESRB Rating: M for Mature 17+


A story that cuts a little deeper

The narrative of Stellar Blade follows the typical post-apocalyptic sci-fi pattern with a few twists and turns. You play as Eve, an elite warrior embarking on a mission against alien adversaries known as the Naytibas. From the outset, your mission is to wipe out the alien foes and save the scattered enclaves of human survivors. It’s a race against time where humanity teeters on the brink of extinction. As you fight back hordes of Naytiba you begin unravelling the mysteries surrounding the downfall of Earth. Not only is Stellar Blade a visual showcase, but the storytelling goes deeper than I expected, with a few twists, interesting lore, and dramatic moments.

"Not only is Stellar Blade a visual showcase, but the storytelling goes deeper than I expected, with a few twists, interesting lore, and dramatic moments."

The storyline delivers plenty of intrigue and world-building that kept me engaged and pushing forward to the end. One area where the storytelling does suffer is the cast characters, many of which aren’t very emotive or share much chemistry. Luckily, Stellar Blade shines where it really counts with excellent gameplay and high-octane action.


Razor sharp gameplay

The gameplay in Stellar Blade is easily its strongest point, offering a thrilling blend of fast-paced combat with a lot of strategic depth. The game tests your skill in many ways with dynamic combos, dodges, and parries against diverse enemy types. In fact, the game features over 45 different enemies and some seriously creative boss showdowns.

"...the game features over 45 different enemies and some seriously creative boss showdowns."

It’s hard to call Stellar Blade a “souls-like,” but the boss battles do offer intense difficulty spikes that the genre is synonymous with.

When I finally fell some of these major bosses, I also felt a similar sense of satisfaction like I did with games like Elden Ring and Sekiro. The combat is fast and visceral, the key to survival is carefully tracking foes’ attack patterns and parrying them. The game features a straightforward skill tree system that allows for customization and upgrades, offering meaningful enhancements to Eve’s abilities in battle. The skill tree is simple yet effective, allowing you to customize your experience and can be re-spec’d at a save point for a small fee. Also, you can almost completely fill out the Skill Tree in a single playthrough if you tackle many of the game's side missions and scoop up all the XP you can.


Stellar Blade Screenshot Gallery

In my time with the game, I felt the combat stayed fresh and offered new weapons and upgrades that kept me interested. Upgrading your drone gun with different projectile types, such as shogun shells, stingers, and blaster cells, gives you access to more skills. The integration of the PlayStation 5's capabilities, like adaptive triggers and haptic feedback, really adds to the tactile side of the experience, making each encounter feel more immersive.


Stellar Blade Graphics and Performance

Stellar Blade is a visual masterpiece, especially when it comes to the excellent art direction. The game leverages the PlayStation 5's hardware to deliver stunningly detailed environments and character models. The artistic direction, led by Kim Hyung-tae, features a unique blend of beauty and desolation, bringing the game's post-apocalyptic world to life. Many of the game’s early urban areas feature buildings that looked like they were from games like Gears of War. They feature classic European styling sharply contrasted by EVE and hyper-futuristic gadgets and costumes.


The use of advanced lighting techniques and high-resolution textures offered a vivid, immersive world that is both haunting and beautiful. I often found myself pausing to take in the spectacular vistas and snapping a few screenshots. Stellar Blade is a marvel to behold both in motion and completely standing still.

"Stellar Blade is a marvel to behold both in motion and completely standing still."

Overall, it was a world that I really enjoyed getting lost in and exploring. There is also a nice variety of environments, from great deserts to wastelands.


Open area environments

One thing that surprised me is how the game shifts from a linear to an almost open-world experience in sections of the story. Initially, we are introduced to a tightly controlled storyline that guides us through the devastated landscapes of Earth, following Eve’s early battles against the Naytiba. However, as the narrative unfolds, the game transitions into expansive open-world areas, starkly contrasting the linearity.

"...as the narrative unfolds, the game transitions into expansive open-world areas, starkly contrasting the linearity."

This unexpected shift felt refreshing—it allowed me to explore freely, delve into side quests, and uncover hidden lore at my own pace. The vast open-world regions weren’t just visually diverse but also filled with challenges and secrets that rewarded my curiosity.


Stellar Blade's sound design and audio

The music and voice acting in Stellar Blade are integral parts that significantly enhance the experience. I found the soundtrack always hit the mark, whereas the voice acting was a little hit-and-miss. There are some awkward pauses in dialogue and monotone delivers that didn’t resonate with me. On the other hand, the game boasts a terrific soundtrack with over 100 music tracks, many of which incorporate a chorus, adding a rich, atmospheric layer to the different settings.

"the game boasts a terrific soundtrack with over 100 music tracks, many of which incorporate a chorus, adding a rich, atmospheric layer to the different settings."

I often found myself humming some of these tunes even when I wasn’t playing. Studio Monaca, led by composer Keiichi Okabe who is the composer of NieR worked on many of the tracks in the game. Overall, the auditory elements of Stellar Blade helped create a more immersive atmosphere and really helped to highlight combat, especially in boss fights. Despite some inconsistencies in voice acting, the soundtrack still stands out as a big plus.


Final Thoughts on Stellar Blade

Stellar Blade is a great action-adventure game that blends futuristic aesthetics with intense combat. From its exhilarating gameplay to sharp visuals, it carves a unique path to create a fun adrenaline thrill ride. While it borrows many ideas from iconic predecessors like NieR and Sekiro, it doesn’t quite surpass them. Still, Stellar Blade stands out with its own distinct style and mechanics that are worth your time. Considering this is Shift Up’s first foray into a fully fleshed-out console game experience, it’s an incredible accomplishment.

"Considering this is Shift Up’s first foray into a fully fleshed-out console game experience, it’s an incredible accomplishment."

The sublime blend of action, visuals and music makes Stellar Blade an easy recommendation and is a must-play for any PS5 owner looking for a deep, engaging action combat experience.


Stellar Blade PROS

+Engaging combat

+Stunning visuals and performance

+Excellent soundtrack


Stellar Blade CONS

-Story has issues with pacing

-Lack of depth in some characters

-Awkward moments in script and voice acting


Overall Assessment of Stellar Blade

Gameplay: 9/10

Graphics: 9/10

Sound: 9/10

Replayability: 9/10


Overall Rating: 36/40 (90%)

A copy of the game was provided by PlayStation for the purpose of this review.

 

About the Author - Matthew "Dapper Tux" Rondina

Matthew has been involved in all things gaming since the 8-bit era. He is a veteran of the video game and tech industry who has been passionate about technology and gaming for over 20 years. In addition to being the Managing Editor of dappertux.com, he has bylines with Best Buy, Cineplex Entertainment, Mobile Syrup and Walmart. Follow Matthew’s gaming + tech adventures on multiple social platforms with the handle @dapper_tux via "X", Instagram, Threads, TikTok and join in on the fun!

 

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