Stellar Blade Review — Stellar Combat In A Non-Stellar World

It's more than just a fanservice game the media has made it out be.

Stellar Blade Review
Overall
4
  • Story And Setting
  • Gameplay
  • Visuals And Performance

Verdict

Narrative flaws aside, Stellar Blade shines as a top-tier action title with unforgettable final boss fights, showcasing the best of the genre.

Pros

  • Satisfying Combat
  • Excellent Boss Fights
  • Decent Level Design
  • Phenomenal Soundtrack
  • Stable Performance

Cons

  • Boring Story And Characters
  • Moderate Pacing Issues

I have been a fan of character-action games since childhood. I live for the high-exhilarating, dopamine-pumping action these games have to offer. Bayonetta 2, Devil May Cry 5, and Metal Gear Rising are some of my all-time favorites, and seeing a new character-action game arrive in the market made me incredibly excited as this genre has taken a backseat over the past two generations.

Key Takeaways

Developer: Shift Up
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Release Date: April 26, 2024
Platform: PS5
Game Length: 20+ Hours
Time Played: 30+ Hours

  • Author’s Note: I explored pretty much everything Stellar Blade had to offer over the span of my 30+ hours of playtime, including its true ending and secret zone

Stellar Blade does fumble in its execution, but where it really shines is in combat and boss fights.

Story And Setting

Eve in Stellar Blade
Story And Setting. [Image by eXputer]
The story begins with Eve arriving on Earth with her fellow squad members, with one objective in mind: Annihilation of all Naytibas (the demonic creatures of this game) and the salvation of Mankind. After seeing most of her squad mates die, she meets up with Adam and then Lily, as they tag along to find the source of Elder Naytiba while also uncovering the truth about said creatures, Mankind, and Mother Sphere.

Stellar Blade tries to be NieR, but it should’ve been more Bayonetta.

Director Kim Hyung Tae cited Bayonetta, Sekiro, and NieR Automata as his major inspirations, although at times, this doesn’t work in the game’s favor. Stellar Blade tries to retell a story in the same vein as NieR Automata, and it is done very poorly. The plot is very predictable from the start, and the characters we meet are very dull (not you, Lily), especially Adam.

Stellar Blade’s NieR inspirations severely hold it back, and it is one aspect where I would’ve preferred a touch of Bayonetta. It lacks the charisma and excitement I have come to expect from character action games. Stellar Blade tries to be NieR, but it should’ve been more Bayonetta. Likewise, Eve is an unapologetically generic protagonist and encompasses no signs of her inspiration except in her design.

However, if there was one NieR inspiration that works here, it’s the soundtrack. Finely crafted with catchy arrangements and beautiful vocals, Stellar Blade’s soundtrack truly lives up to its stellar name.

It’s An Action Game. Does The Story matter?

An NPC in Xion
This dialogue sums up the main hub. [Image by eXputer]
Usually, no, but in Stellar Blade’s case, yes. It bets a considerable amount of chips on its storytelling with a hefty amount of expositions, cutscenes, side quests, and big open zones. It tries to grab you with its story and world, but it’s all in vain because they are soulless. 

Character-action games usually have a narrative that drives the gameplay forward. That’s the kind of story this game needed, as replicating Yoko Taro’s ideas does more harm than good to the game. Even a story like DOOM can work with character-action games, but what we have here doesn’t fit with the genre, especially when it is badly executed.

Gameplay

A dead boss after a fight
Gameplay. [Image by eXputer]
Stellar Blade is a mix of hack n’ slash and soulslike. It embodies the flashiness of character-action games while also relying on keen observation of enemy attack patterns and player memorization. There are light and heavy attacks that can be mixed and matched for various combos, which are further elevated by the use of Eve’s Beta and Burst skills. Parrying also feels incredibly satisfying and precise, accompanied by equally satisfying sounds of sword clangs.

Following the genre tradition, Eve also gains access to a berserk mode later on in the story that can be used in moments of clutch to survive tough encounters. That said, the flashiness of combat doesn’t define the combat, but the enemy and encounter design, and I must say, it is quite stellar if I exclude the open zones. The only difference is how it brings gun combat to the mix.

Storytelling is not the only aspect Stellar Blade takes from NieR, but also how it is paced out via big open zones and RPG elements.

Eve can use her pod as her personal ranged weapon to fire various ammo types. The only real use of gun combat is when the enemy’s yellow core is exposed, taking out unreachable guns and ranged-combat dedicated sections. Other than that, it remains completely optional.

Each subsequent region offers new enemy types, and boss fights that help keep things fresh throughout its runtime. The enemy encounters feel much more in line with traditional action games in its linear dungeons, while its open zones leave a lot to be desired as similar enemy types are sprinkled on a wide map that can make its Stellar combat feel not-so-stellar.

The level design is also on the better end of the spectrum, offering wide areas and non-linear paths, making the regions feel like actual places and not just video game levels.

Elements That Don’t Blend Well With The Genre

RPG elements
Numbers and percentages; who doesn’t like them? [Image by eXputer]
Storytelling is not the only aspect Stellar Blade takes from NieR, but also how it is paced out via big open zones and RPG elements. Open zones are teeming with side quests that are decently rewarding but often uninspiring.

Sure, I don’t mind going out in the desert to pick up a hairdryer or find a lost child if Eve can be my personal dress-up Barbie, but quests that don’t have any incentives behind them have no meaning, except for gathering SP points. That said, exceptions are there.

The entire substory surrounding Su and Enya spans multiple quests, and that one quest, which involves lowering the water level in Eidos 7 and unlocking a new sub-area to explore, was definitely a standout. I just wished there were more like them.

Eve's side hobby of collecting cans
Eve is canonically a can collector. [Image by eXputer]
Given the game’s tough nature, unlocking more skills, better gear, and body cores was imperative. Upskilling and upgrading Eve for the final act is very important, but I believe the upgrading part could’ve been better if it was anything other than percentages and numbers, as action games are more about skill than stats.

Open zones are teeming with side quests that are decently rewarding but often uninspiring.

I may have sounded a little negative above, but don’t mistake it for unenjoyment. Despite all of that, I still felt like exploring its world, as open zones still offered reasons to explore not only through its side quests but also via its puzzles, platforming sections, the need for progression, and even fishing (Yes, Stellar Blade features fishing). It definitely has an addicting loop that had me often awake till 2 am.

A Gauntlet Of Bosses That Completly Changed My Outlook

Gigas boss fight
Gigas is just a demo of what’s to come. [Image by eXputer]
Now, here’s the thing: Stellar Blade didn’t really resonate with me in its first half. I found myself quite fatigued by its open-world sections and side quests, and I was longing for the action sequences that the non-open-world sections offered. Its combat didn’t evolve in the way character action games do until the final act.

And when Stellar Blade finally reaches its full potential, make no mistake—it is absolutely STELLAR.

Stellar Blade boss fights are remarkable throughout the game, but the final gauntlet is where the combat really clicks. It pushed me in ways I didn’t even imagine, especially the last two bosses. Parrying and reaction timings got much tighter, and each attack held a significant weight behind it. Stellar Blade skillfully combines elements from character-action and soulslike genres, particularly evident in its boss fights, setting it apart from its peers.

If Stellar Blade were just its last two boss fights, I’d still recommend this game; they are that good. The game takes its time to guide players through its diverse combat mechanics, gradually increasing difficulty with each new zone. And when Stellar Blade finally reaches its full potential, make no mistake—it is absolutely STELLAR.

It’s the final stretch of the game where it really finds its own identity, not trying to be anything but itself, and that is when it truly shines. 

Visuals And Performance

A showcase of Visuals
Visuals And Performance. [Image by eXputer]
An action game that doesn’t run at locked 60fps would’ve been a major disappointment. Thankfully, Stellar Blade doesn’t disappoint in that area at all. I played in “Balanced Mode” throughout my journey, and I didn’t notice any frame drops. My game crashed two times as I was finishing off a boss with my berserk mode, but that’s really it.

The level design is also on the better end of the spectrum, offering wide areas and non-linear paths, making the regions feel like actual places and not just video game levels.

The visuals have their highs and lows, offering moments of greatness alongside shortcomings. Eidos 7 and Spire 4 particularly stand out with their post-apocalyptic and dystopian sci-fi atmosphere, respectively. Wasteland and The Great Desert fall short in terms of visual identity since they simply resemble typical desert landscapes, lacking any distinctive or captivating features. 

Verdict

Lift in Stellar Blade
Verdict. [Image by eXputer]
Stellar Blade is undeniably stellar, though its NieR inspirations sometimes hold it back. While its RPG elements and open zones might not align perfectly with the genre, they’re executed well enough not to become a major annoyance. Narrative flaws aside, Stellar Blade shines as a top-tier action title with unforgettable final boss fights, showcasing the best of the genre.

Seeing this is the studio’s first foray into the AAA action genre, I’d say they did a phenomenal job. Witnessing the studio’s expertise in crafting superbly designed boss fights makes me incredibly excited for whatever they do next in the AAA field.

What Our Other Reviewers Think

  • Haris Umar: Stellar Blade succeeds in providing satisfying gameplay, but its below-average narrative and character performances often hold back its highs.
  • Usama Qaiser: Fanservice controversies aside, Stellar Blade packs a heavy dose of action for hardcore players with its meaty combat.

That’s all from me. While you browse our website, feel free to look at our other detailed reviews.

This is box title
Get This Game
If you are a fan of challenging action games.
Dont Get This Game
If you are looking for good character writing and storytelling.
Buy / Wait For Sale / Don't Buy
I recommend Stellar Blade to every PS5 owner.
Alternative Games
  • Devil May Cry Series
  • Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
  • Bayonetta Trilogy
  • NieR: Automata
  • Metal Gear Rising: Revengence
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Hamid Ali is a Guides Writer & Editor on eXputer who occasionally covers Game Codes. He is a huge Doom fanatic and loves to melt his stress away in titles such as God of War games and Elden Ring. With a Bachelor's degree in Journalism, Hamid’s been writing and updating about the majority of games for several years. Hamid's gaming experience can be verified on his Steam and PSN profiles.

Experience: 3+ Years || Education: Bachelors in Mechanical Engineering.

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