Stellar Blade Review (PS5)

Stellar Blade is equal amounts controversy, combat and cool-looking back flips.

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Stellar Blade is everywhere right now. From the constant controversies surrounding the game and supposed censorship to its many risque suits and in-your-face sexuality, there’s no escaping the discourse around it.

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That negativity is part of the reason this review is later than others, as I wanted the waters to calm a little and everyone to be able to see the game objectively, rather than some topic of ragebait that others want it to be.

Stellar Blade’s Like Nothing That Came Before It

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Eve, Adam and co. take the fight to the Naytibas.

Stellar Bladeopening will be familiar to anyone who played the demo prior to release and ensures you’re instantly grabbed by the universe, the action, and the carnage that plays out. Not much is explained early on (or at all really), and you’re left to piece together the gravitas of the situation yourself.

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In short, Earth has fallen to a new species previously unseen, the Naytibas, which come in all forms, shapes, and sizes. From annoying, small spider-like enemies to hulking monstrosities designed to test your every ability, the enemy variation is commendable, and will constantly keep you guessing.

In the opening few minutes of the game, you’ll be introduced to a few different types of enemies, with the intent of explaining the game’s combat and exploration to you. It does it surprisingly efficiently, and in lieu of some long, unnecessary tutorial, you’ll prefer it.

After space explosions, amputations, and graphically impressive deaths, you’ll find yourself exploring the leafy undergrowth of a desolate and destroyed city, Eidos 7. The opening hours of the game take place here, and as well as the bare-bones explanations at the beginning, this is where you’ll be thrust into learning the deeper mechanics of everything, including collectibles, skills, and glorious combat.

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The Combat is Incredibly Fun, Rarely Frustrating, and Leaves Plenty of Room for Error… Sometimes

Eve is a force to be reckoned with.
Eve is a force to be reckoned with.

There’s no getting around it. The absolute best part of Stellar Blade is the combat. The story is lacking and predictable, the soundtrack can grow irritating (at least for myself it did), and the puzzles ridiculously simplistic at times.

The combat though… this is some of the most fun I’ve had in a Soulslike for years. I use the term Soulslike very loosely, as Stellar Blade does bear some resemblance to the genre, but also some stark differences.

The penalty of death is pretty much nil, as you don’t lose any resources and end up back at the start of your last checkpoint, the combat is far more forgiving than leading examples of the genre like Elden Ring, and the biggest difference is it includes difficulty options.

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From the variety of skills, attacks, and types of attacks available, everyone will have their own style and way of playing. I chose an all-out-attack style, facing head-on, not really defending much (although the parry is VERY satisfying), and it wasn’t always successful, but it was incredibly fun! From big, over-the-top special skills, to convoluted combos that are massively rewarding when pulled off correctly, the combat never got boring.

I found myself resting at one of the many camps (a checkpoint essentially, left behind by other combatants and survivors), to respawn the enemies I’d just killed, just so I could fight them again. Add in the wide variety of Naytibas and one skill or method won’t work for everything and everyone, forcing you to learn different approaches and different skills to ensure you don’t turn into a red-puddle after getting smashed by a Berserker.

On top of all this, the combat is pretty forgiving, even on the hardest difficulties, with plenty of time to parry or dodge. This will inevitably mean more players end up experiencing the game, but also getting introduced to the Soulslike genre as a whole, so whilst the die-hard fans may not be overly enthused with the lack of difficulty, it can only be a good thing for the industry in a time where there are less and less risks taken with new games.

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Stellar Blade’s Unique for Sure

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The environments, whilst sparse, are a beauty to behold.

As well-publicized before release, Stellar Blade features a ridiculous amount of outfits for Eve to wear. Some tongue-in-cheek, most revealing, and one that actually makes the game harder. The discourse around the skins/outfits is a little odd to many, and whilst playing, I didn’t find myself spending much, if any time actually paying attention to her, other than timing my attacks, and thinking how annoying, if impressive technically, the long ponytail was whenever she moved.

That doesn’t change the fact that the amount of cosmetics on offer is not only impressive but unusual in a time when most games force microtransactions on players to unlock the next skin or hairstyle.

Just like the eye to detail the outfits received, the environments are a feast for the eyes, with even the smallest details seemingly thought of, making the world seem desolate, if empty.

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It’s a post-apocalyptic world, and it does feel lived in via the collectibles (which carries the world-building in its entirety), and the constant feeling that you’re always too late to help, be it minutes, hours, or in most cases, years.

Unfortunately, as already alluded to several times, the story is a by-the-numbers affair with ‘twists’ that I (and many others) saw coming after the opening hour or two, and it’ll leave a lot to be desired. The story, or lack thereof is hands down the worst part of the game and does drag the entire experience down a few points. You’ll find yourself going from A to B without much care or reasoning, and it can feel like a slog at times.

If you’re saying ‘Well Luke, the story of Bloodborne/Elden Ring/Lords of the Fallen/ is pretty bare bones in the way it presented’, you’d be right, but each of those, especially the first two, do everything to give the player an idea of the lore of the world, without forcing it on them. That’s why there are hundreds of hours of fan-made videos discussing the story of these worlds. Stellar Blade’s ‘story’ will be forgotten in a matter of months, but the combat certainly won’t be.

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If the question is ‘Is Stellar Blade good?’ then undoubtedly yes, as a whole. If the question is more specific about the story, combat, and so on, then the answer becomes significantly more complicated.

In the lead-up to release, Stellar Blade was marketed as everything from an action-adventure game with hack ‘N’ slash aspirations to a Soulslike, a game for men of a certain disposition to ogle and objectify, and of course a Nier: Automata rip-off. Yet, it doesn’t need to be any of these. It’s distinctly its own thing, its own flavor, its own style. It’s purely Stellar Blade.

7/10

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Written by Luke Addison

Articles Published: 432

Luke Addison is the Lead Video Game Critic and Gaming Editor. As likely to be caught listening to noughties rock as he is watching the latest blockbuster cinema release, Luke is the quintessential millennial wistfully wishing after a forgotten era of entertainment. Also a diehard Chelsea fan, for his sins.

Twitter: @callmeafilmnerd