Stellar Blade Review: More than a Pretty Face

With the release of games like Black Myth: Wukong and Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree DLC, it looks like 2024 will be another incredible year for gamers. As an ARPG lover, the one game I was looking forward to was Stellar Blade. After the game’s demo left some excellent first impressions on me, I was excited to try the full release out.

After lying in wait for a long time, the game was finally released. Thanks to a copy provided by Sony and Shift Up Studios, I have been going around the game as EVE and have more than a couple of thoughts about it all. So, keep reading as I discuss them all in my Stellar Blade review below.


This review of Stellar Blade is completely spoiler free. Therefore, everything that is discussed and shown here has already been shown in the game’s demo.

Story: Redefined and Unforgettable

When I began my Stellar Blade journey with the demo, I was dubious about the story as it seemed generic and similar to all the other sci-fi games. As such, I was waiting to be proven wrong, and boy was I? Like once Shaq said, now it’s my turn to convey to Shift Up Studios: “I Owe You an Apology. I Wasn’t Really Familiar with Your Game.”

For those who aren’t aware of Stellar Blade’s storyline, let me paint a quick picture. You are EVE, an elite soldier of the 7th Airborne Squad sent to Earth to rid it of the Naytibas, the malevolent force that has devastated it. Left to fend for herself while achieving this arduous task, it is up to EVE to free Earth.

EVE exploring the remains of earth in Stellar Blade.
Captured In-Game by Ajithkumar on PS5

From the outside, Stellar Blade might look like a clichéd sci-fi story backed by refreshing combat. However, Shift Up Studios had already emphasized that Stellar Blade would be a “story-driven action adventure” game, and they were right on the money.

While the game begins at a simple pace, it slowly builds momentum. The best thing about Stellar Blade is that you don’t know what awaits you. As the game reveals the bigger picture, you’re witnessing the curtains slowly unfurl. I constantly found myself surprised and confused about taking sides with the characters.

“Stellar Blade keeps you guessing and on the edge of your seat until the end, with cleverly well-written characters and unforeseeable twists and turns.”

The whole experience of the story coming to an interesting end felt extremely satisfying, like watching a great sci-fi movie or a TV show. The story at play here evolves into a complex tale, making the whole post-apocalyptic voyage with EVE an incredibly thrilling and adventurous ride. I couldn’t help but get my mind blown away every time a reveal was made that shifted and redefined the whole narrative structure of the game.

Appealing Characters Pull the Story’s Strings

While the lore is obviously essential, it is nothing without characters. Fortunately, Stellar Blade excels there too. The game packs a host of unforgettable characters who continuously shape this fantastic story.

While their first impression might feel superficial, you get to see and hear their perspectives of this torn realm very soon. Each character has enough room to grow, and their stories and arcs become deeper and come to a full circle in the finale.

Adam and EVE in Stellar Blade
Image Courtesy: Stellar Blade by Shift Up & Sony Interactive Entertainment

Every character is like a puppet here and was exceptionally puppeteered to play their part in this magnificent tale. EVE is a naive girl, and everything feels new at first, but as the story progresses, she becomes much more mature and valiant.

Moreover, this game offers several paths to mold your future with an elegantly penned “multi-ending” story. I loved that I got to dictate the fate of EVE and ended up being more than just eye candy.

Stellar Blade also packs excellent voice acting that truly brings out the character’s emotions. I preferred the South Korean voice language over the English one as I always like to experience any form of entertainment in their original language. However, you can choose anyone you wish, and this game features a lot of memorable dialogue.

Combat: A Blood-Curdling Dance

EVE fighting machines in Stellar Blade
Captured In-Game by Ajithkumar on PS5

The combat system in Stellar Blade is built around parrying & dodging, which is undoubtedly the game’s core. So what makes this combat even more remarkable is its skillfully crafted numerous skill trees. This game has a total of 5 distinct skill trees, which all contribute equally to your play style.

Stellar Blade's Skill Tree
Captured In-Game by Ajithkumar on PS5

The handling and layout of each skill are done cleverly, resulting in a combat experience that is seamless and rewarding. For instance – after you do a successful parry, you can immediately press either the square or triangle button to do a powerful follow-up attack.

My example is just the tip of the iceberg, as the game’s combat system features an incredible number of combos and skills to unlock and master. As a result, the fast-paced combat in Stellar Blade is very addicting and well-balanced in offense and defense.

The system is bustling with Beta Skills, Burst Skills, Ranged Weapons, follow-up chain attack skills, and much more. Thus, it feels rewarding to master it and is not a burden at any cost. In the right hands, if one gets the hang of the moves and tricks, one could do wonders in the battle against gruesome foes.

EVE using drone as an Ranged Weapon in Stellar Blade
Captured In-Game by Ajithkumar on PS5

The developers successfully made the combat go well beyond simply mashing buttons. This is further boosted with an option to boost your perks by collecting different exo-spines and gear sockets. These thoughtful additions are game changers to suit your contrasting playstyles.

Even with this superlatively designed combat system, the only minor drawback for me was slightly slowing the combat’s pace during parrying. It feels a little off during an otherwise excellent and adrenaline-rushing combat experience.

Mission & Level Design

While Stellar Blade kills it with its story and combat, it absolutely falters when it comes to mission design. The game still follows the old-fashioned get object to unlock the next level approach. Thankfully, there are instances where you can take part in enjoyable puzzles to proceed to the next place.

EVE exploring an devastated area in Stellar Blade
Image Courtesy: Stellar Blade by Shift Up & Sony Interactive Entertainment

Even if the missions were so dated, the stunning environment played a big part in keeping the discovery exciting rather than making it feel repetitious. Many collectibles are hidden in plain sight and uniformly spread out.

“I wish the game had different kinds of innovative missions that you can pull off in a sci-fi game instead of just getting a keycard and fusion cell to advance. “

The side missions here are not groundbreaking; they consist of the same old person or item-rescuing activities. Although they are nothing spectacular, they are decent and entertaining enough to take detours as you feel a connection to the characters.

In one such instance, I ran into a backstreet when I discovered (via a side mission) what happens to members of the Airborne Squad by the other humans. Just a few side quests like these enrich the lore of the main story and are enjoyable.

Eve and the drone resting in the camp
Image Courtesy: Stellar Blade by Shift Up & Sony Interactive Entertainment

The linear level design works fine with evenly spaced-out checkpoints, so you can travel without hassle. The supply camps are well-equipped to upgrade weapons and suits, unlock new skills, purchase goods from the item store, design new suits, etc.

However, they missed out on the availability of fast travel to other areas. You are limited to fast travel within the region you are already in with the phone booth. This was a bit disappointing, but nothing I couldn’t get over.

Packs Enough Difficulty to Keep Things Interesting

There are two difficulty settings in this game: Story and Normal. I completed the game on Normal difficulty, which was demanding yet forgiving enough until the last chapter. The difficulty rapidly spiked during the endgame, but I loved every minute of the final battles.

The boss fights are riveting from the start. However, I wish some of the bosses had more variety in their move sets, which would have transformed them into remarkable boss battles.

Due to their relatively predictable patterns, most early and mid-bosses can be defeated in just one attempt. Additionally, the high-octane action set pieces and finishers with quick-time events (QTE) combined intensify the already exhilarating experience and are satisfying to watch.

EVE vs. Juggernaut boss battle in Stellar Blade
Captured In-Game by Ajithkumar on PS5

Truth be told, I wanted more varied finisher animations for common enemies, like in the God of War series. Unfortunately, the animations were slightly repetitive, unlike in the boss fights.

Later on, you can unlock the Hard mode by completing the first run. While I understand that they designed it this way to appeal to a broader audience, I wish this had been the case from the beginning, as I love stressing myself by playing extremely challenging games.

Fortunately, there are plenty of accessibility features available to reduce the degree of difficulty for players who prefer a simple and easy journey. The puzzles can be head-scratching at times, and I wish I had an accessibility feature for that as well since they come with both error and time limits, which makes them hard enough.

Beauty Blooming From the Ruins of Devastated Earth

EVE exploring the remains of a camp in Stellar Blade.
Captured In-Game by Ajithkumar on PS5

Be it the abandoned silent streets of Eidos7, the ruinous city of Xion, or the scorching great desert and wastelands, each area you visit throughout your journey is strikingly distinct from one another. The developers took great time and attention to detail to meticulously craft the ghastly, beautiful, ravaged surroundings with different architectural styles and utmost care.

That is how they made this world feel alive, and I have never felt this immersive while exploring a post-apocalyptic world. I just can’t believe my eyes that this beauty was made in Unreal Engine 4.

EVE with her sword in Stellar Blade
Captured In-Game by Ajithkumar on PS5

The charming lead and supporting characters look like they made their way out of an anime. Their designs were handled very well, along with the top-tier costumes they have expertly crafted. The distasteful and sickening creatures you have to battle your way through, however, are what drew my attention more than them.

“That is how they made this world feel alive, and I have never felt this immersive while exploring a post-apocalyptic world in a while.”

Hands down, these vile adversaries’ character designs are masterfully sketched and some of the finest character design work I have ever seen. There are over 50 distinct enemies, and they did an amazing job of perfectly capturing their ferocious aggression and bloodthirstiness on screen.

EVE and the drone against an naytiba in Stellar Blade
Image Courtesy: Stellar Blade by Shift Up & Sony Interactive Entertainment

Aside from the character designs, the developers have also flexed their artistry skills with the simplest things, such as EVE’s hairclip transforming into her blade, the drone seamlessly turning into a hybrid weapon, EVE’s alluring costumes, etc. Shift Up has topped the charts regarding creativity, and it keeps oozing from everything you see around the nooks and corners of this realm.

Dynamic Music System to Revitalize Your Journey

Not only was the setting of NieR: Automata an inspiration for Stellar Blade, but so was the well-known soundtrack. In addition to the in-house composers like Park Jin-bae, Oliver Good, and Keita Inoue, other studios have joined.

This includes NieR: Automata Fame Keiichi Okabe’s MONACA studio. Working together, they have created an outstanding dynamic soundtrack that offers multiple levels of music depending on your situation and transitions smoothly to the next track.

EVE in Supply Camp
Captured In-Game by Ajithkumar on PS5

The soundtrack of Stellar Blade is packed with vocal tracks, EDM, orchestral music, etc., that elevate your expedition entirely. While the vocal tracks are not my jam, I loved the remaining soundtrack, especially those during boss fights.

In an interview with the game’s director, Kim Hyung-tae emphasized that music plays a vital role in this game. As a result, there are more than 100 songs in Stellar Blade for you to vibe to.

Graphics & Performance

Eve and the drone in Stellar Blade.
Captured In-Game by Ajithkumar on PS5

Unfortunately, there has been a trend of new-gen titles being abysmally optimized, resulting in a dreadful performance. Thankfully, Steallar Blade gave me no such problems. I played the game in the “Balanced” graphic mode (balances resolution and frame rate by upscaling to 4K with 60 FPS) as I wanted the best of both worlds.

During my entire playthrough, the game ran butter smooth without any hiccups in performance. Also, I didn’t encounter even a single bug or glitch during my playthrough. I also tried the other graphic modes, Performance (1440p and 60 FPS) and Resolution (4K and 30FPS), and got no issues there.

The game looks absolutely awe-inspiring during your whole journey. You can experience the beauty of a decimated earth and, of course, EVE without any trade-offs. I take a bow, Shift Up Corporations, for crafting an exemplary title amidst the ongoing crisis.

Verdict: Never Judge a Game by Its Starlet

EVE in Stellar Blade
Image Courtesy: Stellar Blade by Shift Up & Sony Interactive Entertainment

Although Stellar Blade draws inspiration from most of the renowned titles in this genre, it brings its own secret sauce: a reinvented sci-fi story and an exhilarating combat system. Shift Up Corporation has successfully carved out its identity by making a stellar debut (pun intended) that the entire gaming fandom, including ARPG fans, will welcome.

This game is an ardent love letter to Action RPG lovers despite its minor shortcomings that can be easily unnoticed. In a nutshell, if you are so concerned about the fan service, you can easily get past the obvious modest fan service barrier. You will be rewarded with a grand, action-packed sci-fi saga that you will cherish for eternity. Therefore, Stellar Blade is a perfect blend of blazing action and sci-fi brilliance, and it’s currently my pick for the Best Action Game of 2024.

[UPDATE] As of today, a New Game+ mode with new skills and enhancements has been added to the game with an update. So, I’m looking forward to the arrival of a Photo Mode. This post-apocalyptic world has so much beauty, and I don’t want to miss out on capturing and replaying EVE’s adventures. Stellar Blade launches on April 26th, 2024, and is available for $69.99 (Standard Edition) and $79.99 (Deluxe Edition).

Pros and Cons
The Pros
Robust combat system with tons of unlockable skills
Sci-Fi tale that grows on you
Well crafted world infested with ghastly creatures
Ingeniously designed enemy types and distinguishable boss battles
Excellent soundtrack while embarking on heroic missions
Exceptionally well-optimized performance
The Cons
Outdated mission designs that feel redundant
Some bosses have similar move set
Parrying brings down the combat's pace
Movements can be janky and off putting
Final Verdict
Stellar Blade
Stellar Blade by Shift Up Studios made quite an impact and rekindled my love for Action RPGs. While the game does have certain drawbacks, they are ultimately overshadowed by the compelling aspects of the game. With its adrenaline-rushing combat system, ingenious world-building, and fantastic sci-fi story, it brought me back to the days with my PlayStation 2, when I could completely lose myself in a game and not worry about anything. As such, I recommend this game in a heartbeat.
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