Stellar Blade review — action RPG is one of Sony's best PS5 exclusives

In this Stellar Blade review, I will share my feelings on Sony's new PS5 exclusive action-RPG. Does this stylish anime game have substance, too?

Stellar Blade review — action RPG is one of Sony's best PS5 exclusives
Sean Lawson

Sean Lawson

Published

I've been collecting Stellar Blade trophies for 60 hours and I'm ready to tell you: yes, this anime-inspired action RPG from developer Shift Up is worth your time. As I'll explain throughout my Stellar Blade review, any concerns I had were swiftly swept away by the pure action-heavy fun of watching protagonist Eve slice and dice.

SeanL

Stellar Blade is one of the best games on PS5 right now

While Stellar Blade does have a couple of slight flaws that stop it from achieving perfection, the game is a mighty fun time. Eve is a fabulous protagonist and it was a lot of fun getting to know her, uncovering more of her world, and seeing her slaughter countless monstrosities that now stalk Earth. I had high expectations for Stellar Blade, especially after playing the Stellar Blade PS5 demo which blew me away with its slick presentation.

I am happy to say that Stellar Blade exceeded what I had hoped for and provided one of the best action-RPG experiences I have had since Bayonetta first landed on PS3 — an action game with a similarly strong female lead that is one of my personal favorites. To think that a game like this could go toe-to-toe with Bayonetta is truly a testament to how fantastic a job Shift Up has done with the game in my eyes. I think I can safely say we will be adding Stellar Blade to our list of the best PS5 games very soon.
SeanL

Stellar Blade's story is simple yet effective

Stellar Blade centers around Eve, a human sent from outer space who must do battle against the Naytiba — a force of grotesque monsters — and wrestle Earth away from total destruction. The salvation of mankind, Mother Sphere, sent Eve this mission, but little is known about the highly worshipped entity. As you progress through the game's story you'll learn more about the Naytiba, Mother Sphere, how Earth came to be in such poor shape, and about all the pockets of survivors residing in the post-apocalypse.

While I wasn't exactly blown away by the main story of Stellar Blade, it certainly did enough to keep me invested throughout and it felt like a catalyst to push me forward and uncover new locations and side missions. It might be a simple story, but it's an effective one that does a great job of setting the stage for all the action to come.
In particular, I enjoyed the directness of Stellar Blade's narrative. This isn't the Metal Gear Solid series or the Kingdom Hearts series — you're not going to lose track of any narrative threads due to vague storytelling. It's a sci-fi story about saving the world from gross monsters; nothing more and nothing less. Why would I want to be confused, trying to figure out what the hell is happening?

Stellar Blade instead kept me absorbed by keeping everything accessible. There isn't any clunky dialogue or obtuse metaphors going over your head, and there's also no complex explanations or hard-to-grasp concepts to worry about. Eve's motivation is simple — slay the Naytiba and save Earth. That's it. Eve will go from one location to another taking down powerful Naytiba to make Earth hospitable once more, and she's not going to stray too far from that motivation.

As long as you don't expect a lot of groundbreaking or shocking story moments before you reach the end of the game, you should have a pretty epic time. That simple world building allowed me to enjoy soaking up the post-apocalyptic drama between bouts of leveling up Eve, being sucked into combat, and exploring all I could. That's where Stellar Blade shines best!
SeanL

Stellar Blade's combat is the crème de la crème in the action genre

Stellar Blade's combat will see you hacking away at your foes with a sword that you unsheath from within your ponytail. Yes, I am sure that sounds weird, but it's so over-the-top it works for Eve with all of her insane robotic enhancements. The combat is incredibly satisfying and is so much fun to get into. In fact, it's so good that I found myself constantly searching for foes to battle against — I was plain addicted to it.

In the game, you have your standard light attacks and heavy attacks that you will use a lot. However, you can mix up these light and heavy attacks to make new strings of combos that help make combat feel fresh. While you will be attacking (again: a lot) you will also be making use of the parry and dodge features that allow you to defend yourself from your enemy's devastating attacks.

Mixing all these elements brings a welcome Bloodborne-like energy to the encounters in the open world thanks to its similar combat approach. You attack fast, but also need to be ready to defend at any time. You also have a gun to think about. However, it's so much weaker than the blade I found myself rarely using it.

It's also important to point out that the combat just looks so cool. As you swing your sword you will see flashes of red lightning envelope your blade as you tear through your enemies. Even in the heat of battle, when you should be fixated on combos and timing, Stellar Blade overwhelms you with its style. This is emphasized by Eve's fluid movement. She is a skilled acrobat and flips, cartwheels, and spins her way around the battlefield.
The way Eve moves in battle is mesmerizing and I loved seeing the creative ways she would perform each combo string. Personally, the simple heavy attack combo was my favorite as Eve would backflip and spin around with her blade like an absolute beast.

Pulling off a successful parry will see thunder escape from your blade, signaling a perfect parry that allows you to quickly hack away at your enemies before they regain their composure. If you manage to perform a perfect dodge then you'll see a small eruption of red sparks burst from your feet, slowing the world around you for a couple of moments. It all reminds me of when you dodge in Bayonetta to activate Witch Time, so as a fan, I felt right at home here.

The other main skills at your disposal are the Burst and Beta skills which are powerful attacks that you can unleash on your foes after you have filled up enough of their respective meters by pulling off certain actions (attacking, dodging, parrying). There are a total of four Burst skills and four Beta skills you can utilize.

My favorite of them all is the Burst Skill Tempest which sees you summon a bunch of blades from the ground to slice your foes into pieces. It just looks so damn awesome. However, all of the skills have their uses in combat, and since they all carry Stellar Blade's trademark sense of flair, I really recommend playing around and finding what works for you.

Stellar Blade

Stellar Blade can feel like a punishingly difficult game at the start. In particular, the parry and dodge mechanics threatened to unravel my early time with the game because I was constantly failing them and getting my ass handed to me in every encounter. Combine that with a small health bar and a very limited set of skills, and it's safe to say that the opening five or so hours can feel very tough for new players.

However, the upgrade system in Stellar Blade manages to save the day by bulking out Eve's repertoire and making tricky dodges and parries easier to execute. The upgrade system is deep and full of ways to make the base mechanics easier to handle, letting you explore other combat mechanics fully because you aren't so concentrated on Eve's impending death.

While the difficulty spike is front-loaded, I think the upgrade system is a welcome change to the regular RPG tempo of using new skills to become more powerful. Stellar Blade is so confident in its base mechanics that Shift Up just says: "Okay, master them." I love that in a game — it feels remarkably refreshing here.
SeanL

Stellar Blade's world is large but not overwhelming

Stellar Blade offers you a variety of locations to explore, some of which are open-world while others are more linear. However, no matter where you are there are always secrets to be found, enemies to slaughter, and side missions to complete. What I like best is that each of the locations is a hub map. For me, this helped reduce that massive open-world clutter and keep me focused on the areas I needed to explore at that moment.

The world of Stellar Blade is bleak, devoid of life (aside from Naytiba), and broken. You'll explore the crumbling ruins of a city that once bustled with life, empty sand-covered wastelands, and sewers flooded with grim findings around every corner. So, don't expect a lot of sunshine and sparkle in Stellar Blade — be ready for the dark atmosphere to ensnare every area you explore.

I have to admit that a massive open-world fatigue has hit me post-Dragon's Dogma 2. So, the more linear progress offered by Stellar Blade's post-apocalyptic hub worlds felt like an effective use of my time, efficient in presentation, and perfect for variety.
While maps of Stellar Blade aren't all that big to begin with, you can unlock a bunch of fast travel locations to make zipping around the map that much quicker. So, clearing up any collectibles, finishing side missions, and just general exploration is pretty easy to get on top of.

That's all well and good for the traditional open-world activities Stellar Blade has to offer, but unfortunately, we also have fishing — the only mini-game that felt redundant. It feels like padding, isn't fun, and the rewards are lacking. It's a shame because Stellar Blade otherwise feels like it respects your time. If the fishing didn't have two trophies attached, I wouldn't have played more than the required amount.

Aside from fishing, floaty platforming proved the only other hurdle in Stellar Blade. Eve gets a burst of momentum as she jumps which caused me to miss my target a lot. Trying to jump on tiny platforms that move around proved irritating. It's not the worst platforming I've experienced, but I could've lived without it my action-RPG.
SeanL

Side missions are fun, but don't expect anything in-depth

Stellar Blade's side missions usually involve Eve accepting a request from the Notice Board or speaking to a resident of Xion and then exploring one of the many different locations you can traverse. Yes, these are mostly fetch quests. However, since fighting the Naytiba as you journey around the world is the best part of Stellar Blade, it hardly ever feels like a chore. Any mission servicing the best part of Stellar Blade, the combat, is a winner in my book.

Fetch quests are accompanied by more expansive side missions that normally have a bit of story and a boss. This makes for a great chance to get to know the residents of Xion better. Plus, Eve's slow accumulation of these often sweet relationships helps bring Stellar Blade's world to life.

However, you know what isn't so sweet? Developer Shift Up's attitude to the only cat left in Xion. Safe to say, the side mission in question will give Stray a run for its money in terms of emotional devastation, and it definitely left an impact on me.

Stellar Blade trophy tactics

Stellar Blade's trophy list is going to take time to unlock. The majority of it is based on collecting and completing everything that the game has to offer. However, there are a variety of trophies that will unlock as you naturally make your way through the main story.

Along with the story and collectible trophies, there are also a bunch of trophies connected to combat which ask you to use your skills like dodging, parrying, Beta attacks, and Burst attacks a certain number of times on your enemies. Thankfully there are a lot of enemies in the game for you to work on these and if you rest at one of the many campsites littered around the game world, you can respawn all of the enemies on the map. Hack and slash away, my friends!

Now, while the trophy list is straightforward and shouldn't be too difficult to complete (especially if you have a guide to hand), there are plenty of missables to worry about. Certain points in the game will restrict what you can explore — including when you beat the game — which will lock you out of trophies.

If you do rush ahead, you'll be left with an awkward save file that won't help you with any trophies. Stellar Blade doesn't allow you to make custom saves and instead leaves you with that one autosave file. My advice is to stop advancing the main story once you get an ominous message saying you won't be able to return to the game world for a while.
Stellar Blade

SeanL

Stellar Blade's performance is exceptional

Stellar Blade has three graphical modes to choose from; Priortise Performance (prioritize frame rate), Balanced (balances frame rate and resolution), and Prioritise Resolution (prioritizes resolution and quality). I played the entirety of the game on the Balanced setting and didn't have a single issue. The game never lagged or froze during all the carnage happening on screen and the world around me still looked lush.

In terms of bugs, I am ecstatic to say I only had one issue occur in my 60 hours of gameplay. There was a moment when the game froze and I had to force close it. This happened after I had exited out of the game for a couple of hours to watch some YouTube and then returned. After the reset, I never had another issue. The game is polished to the nines and that is a truly impressive accomplishment from Shift Up.

Summary

Stellar Blade is one of the best PS5 exclusives on offer right now. The action is top-notch, the monster design is wonderfully grotesque, and protagonist Eve is a badass for the ages. While flaws in early combat, some of the side activities, and movement are present, I can easily recommend Shift Up's masterclass in fun game design. Stellar Blade is pure delight — stylish, exaggerated, action-heavy heaven!
9 / 10
* Sean spent a total of 60 hours hacking his way through Stellar Blade and earned 37 of the 43 trophies on offer. He plans to return to the game when New Game Plus drops and snatch up the platinum. A Stellar Blade code for PS5 was provided by Sony.
Written by Sean Lawson
Sean is a Staff Writer who focuses on the geekiest Sony news. He specializes in PlayStation trophies, the best PS Plus games, RPGs, and fighting games. Sean is using this experience to cover Stellar Blade, Dragon Age Dreadwolf, Baldur's Gate 3, and Dragon's Dogma 2 for PS5, all while he still dives into favorite games like Mass Effect, Tomb Raider, and Persona.
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