Stellar Blade Review

April 26, 2024

In an already saturated market of action-adventure games, it is hard to find the spotlight and show what makes your game different from others, especially when you are launching your first AAA title, but SHIFT UP’s latest title, Stellar Blade, has taken the world by surprise. Stellar Blade is not just another hack-and-slash game, the game lives up to its name and offers a stellar experience.

Stellar Blade introduces the player to a futuristic and post-apocalyptic planet Earth, where civilization has been ravaged by monsters called the Naytiba, forcing humans to flee to a Colony in outer space. Coming from the Colony on a mission to save humankind by reclaiming Earth, different Airborne Squads are sent to Earth, with many of them not even getting to the surface, and even less surviving the Naytibas waiting for them on Earth. Amongst them is 7th Airborne Squad member EVE, who embarks in a mission to fulfill her original purpose, and to a degree, get revenge for her fallen comrades.

Accompanying EVE is Adam, a survivor and citizen of Xion, the last remaining city on Earth, as well as Lily Artemis, a mechanic of a previous airborne squad. Both join EVE through her drone companion, giving her instructions and directions, with Lily also be able to offer EVE several upgrades as you progress through the game.

EVE and her companions Lily (left) and Adam (right) in the Tetrapod, your main form of transportation.

While Stellar Blade does not reveal a lot at the beginning, and the first few hours might even make you question if the story is going to pay off at all, it is all a set up for a rather polished story. The first half can be slow, with the game only trickling information to the player through side quests and small pieces of information found in the memories of bodies that you find around, but it does establish the two most important mysteries in the story: “What are the Naytibas?”, and “what happened to Earth?”. Players might find that the main cast of the game only comes to the realisation of what is actually happening much later than the player themselves did, but there are enough twists and turns to keep us hooked and wanting to discover more about this world.

Out-of-this-world gameplay

Stellar Blade‘s addictive gameplay shines through as players delve deeper into the story and unlock new abilities. The game boasts an impressive array of features, including five distinct skill trees, customisable upgrades for both EVE and her drone companion, consumables to help your battles and a variety of combat options ranging from melee to, eventually, ranged attacks.

Combat in Stellar Blade is simply excellent. Dynamic, engaging and surprisingly precise, the plethora of combo moves available to players makes combat exactly what you would want from a hack-and-slash game, and boss fights feel close to Souls-like titles. The game offers five different skill trees that the player can unlock as the story progresses, with each one having their own focus. Even when you have been playing for hours, more and more combat options will keep unlocking in front of you, making the combat feel fresh and most importantly, rewarding. Even the combat animations have a good feel to them!

EVE fighting a Naytiba monster boss.

No button mashing allowed. Stellar Blade certainly rewards fighting smartly, especially against Alpha Naytibas, the main bosses in the game.

Furthermore, the game’s unique mechanics, Beta Skills and Burst Skills (and their very own skill trees) add a whole new layer of complexity to the game. The player can charge Beta and Burst energy by attacking the enemy and successfully parrying and dodging, and the game rewards you for playing smartly, as these special skills not only deal more damage, but they can stun or interrupt your enemies.

If all of this sounds too overwhelming, Stellar Blade also offers two different difficulties, with the story mode option giving you “cues” in the shape of flashing lights of different colours and a sign on the screen marking when you need to dodge, parry or use a specific ability. To top it all, there is also a practice area, where you can practice specific movements on enemies, so you can master your arsenal. As a filthy casual, I went with story mode and found that button mashing was not making me any favours, especially with punishing bosses. It was only after falling to the same boss four times and a stint in the practice area that I learned what I needed to do to, well, get good.

More than just action

While combat is probably where the game shines, there’s a litany of additional features that Stellar Blade offers as a break from it. Puzzles, secrets and minigames serve as a different type of challenge that complements the game’s action-packed sequences. These come in different shapes and forms, from hacking puzzles to open crates, to side-quests with logic games, to passwords found in bodies and robots. Mid-game, the player will even unlock a fun (and surprisingly challenging!) fishing minigame.

Collectibles are also plentiful, with human memories that add additional insight into the story, and quirky “cans” (literally, they are just beverages) that reward exploration with charming animations of EVE whenever she finds one, as well as some perks to your abilities.

Exploration, then, ends up becoming a crucial part of the game to be able to progress more easily. After all, it is from crates that you get the consumables needed to upgrade EVE’s equipment, and even to be able to unlock cosmetics. Navigation can be tricky when you start the game though, as it seems easy to get lost. Players just need to note that Stellar Blade does offer helpful tools such as your drone’s scanner, and eventually, full-fledged area maps. Additionally, important clues to your platforming are highlighted effectively (usually in yellow), guiding players toward their objectives and minimizing frustration.

Xion, the last remaining city on Earth and main hub for EVE and her companions. Make sure to grab all the available side quests for an even better experience!

However, some mechanics are not as polished as others. Navigating underwater, for example, can be a source of frustration for players, as the controls for diving and swimming lack fluidity and precision. Attempting to turn in the desired direction or emerging from the water often feels clunky and unresponsive, which can be exasperating when the game has areas that force you to swim to be able to progress through the story. These shortcomings in the swimming and diving mechanics hinder the otherwise seamless mechanics in this game.

Atmospheric and immersive

Stellar Blade is a visually stunning journey through a post-apocalyptic and desolate Earth. The art style is undeniably one of the game’s strongest points, drawing players into its immersive universe from the moment they start playing. From the sleek design of the protagonist (and impressive hair-physics) to the devastated environments around you and the out-of-the-box monsters, every visual element seems to have been carefully crafted to perfection. In a world where memories and ruins seem to be the only things left behind, the art excels at conveying a sense of hopelessness and sorrow.

EVE and her drone companion in the Wasteland, a destroyed desert where only ruins remain.

EVE and her companion drone in the Wasteland, a canyon where only ruins remain.

Accompanying the breathtaking visuals is a soundtrack that elevates the entire gameplay experience. The music in Stellar Blade is not just background noise; it gives each area its own flavour and it sets up the overall melancholic and otherworldly tone of the game. Despite its repetition, the music never feels tiresome, serving as a pleasant companion throughout your adventure. As a person who tends to crank down the music volume in most games, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I wanted to listen to the soundtrack even when I was not playing the game.

Dress-up enthusiasts will also find much to love in Stellar Blade‘s extensive outfit customization options, which include both futuristic and everyday attire for our protagonist. There is no dancing around it, some of the outfits are certainly fanservice-y, but they are all so well-crafted that it is still fun to dress EVE in different costumes. Being able to customise things like her accessories and her hair adds a layer of depth to the game, and on top of that, you can also choose outfits for Adam and Lily.

One area that unfortunately lets down the atmospheric nature of the game is voice acting and dialogue. In the English dub, some lines feel unnatural and disjointed, and the voice acting sometimes lacks the emotional depth that a scene might require. This hinders the game’s narrative and makes the characters feel one-dimensional. While I ended up invested in the story and the lore of this world, I also found myself not really caring about the characters and their own turmoils.

This review is based on code provided by the publisher for PlayStation 5. 


- Precise and rewarding combat
- Immersive and beautiful art
- Otherworldly and atmospheric music
- Interesting lore with enough mystery to keep you hooked to the story


- Some emotionless voice acting and awkward dialogue
- Frustrating swimming and diving mechanics

In Summary:

SHIFT UP's first AAA title, Stellar Blade, offers a captivating blend of stunning visuals, immersive soundtrack, and engaging gameplay mechanics, with precise and rewarding combat and a myriad of extra features to play around with. Despite some minor flaws, the game's strengths far outweigh its weaknesses, making it a must-play for fans of action-adventure games set lore-rich worlds.

Overall Score: