Stellar Blade Review – The Most Refreshing PlayStation Exclusive in Years

In the world of remasters, remakes and PC ports, Stellar Blade has arrived to deliver something quite incredible on PS5. Developed by Shift Up, the game is a mixture of action RPG with a sprinkle of Japanese over-the-top storytelling. The result is a game that is not only enjoyable to play but has been rather brilliantly designed.

Stellar Blade kicks off as Eve is dropped from space towards an invaded Earth. If you played the demo, the main game doesn’t change anything here. In fact, I picked up my save from the demo and only had to fight Abbaddon, the last boss in that version, in order to continue the game. After this, Eve is tasked with exploring the rest of Eidos 7 while tracking down what she calls an Alpha Naytiba.

Stellar Blade Review

Eve is part of what the game calls the Eve Defense Force – a faction created to help preserve what life is left on Earth while also hunting down strange creatures called Naytiba and killing them. So you can gather by now that most of the Stellar Blade story focuses on this task. However, Eve also gets roped into saving a town named Xion which has lost power resulting in most of the citizens being stuck in cyrosleep.

Eve meets the Xion’s leader named Orcal and they agree – should Eve collect more Hyper Drives to power up the town, he will share the locations of these Alpha Naytiba with her. Of course, there’s a lot more going on in the story than this. Much of it touches on themes of a reckoning where the population has been wiped out and there’s a supposed second coming somewhere down the line.

Stellar Blade Review

I won’t spoil the discovery around this story but I do need to say that Stellar Blade’s story is quite predictable. I was hoping for a bit more depth here but after the 10-hour mark, it became quite easy to tell what exactly was going on. It also doesn’t help that most of the documents and “pre-war” information I collected gave away way too many hints and kind of gave it away.

With that being said, this didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the game. Stellar Blade, outside of its wonky-yet-predictable story, is pure fun. Eve is equipped with various skills and gear that are used to take down these beastly Naytiba. She also comes into contact with non-Naytiba enemies too. Many of which delivered quite a surprising fight. If anything, more challenging than most of the main boss Naytiba fights.

Stellar Blade Review

Following in classic action RPG footsteps, Stellar Blade is all about learning your enemy, attacking when you’re able to, dodging within the last split second and parrying attacks to stun them. It is a familiar recipe but it works. Eve’s main form of combat is using her sword. With it, she can deal devastating attacks with both light and heavy moves.

She also gets a ranged weapon that can hold various types of ammo. Be it rifle bullets called Slugs, shotgun shells or even a charged beam attack that requires a bit of patience to master. Everything Eve has in her equipment wheel is upgradable to a certain degree too. Ranged attacks get more powerful and can hold more ammo. Her basic moves get further combos added to the end and even her parries and dodges expand with various counterattacks that deal heavy damage.

Stellar Blade Review

Parrying and dodging are key aspects of the combat and if you can’t master them, you’ll struggle here. The game also forced me to learn the different colour attacks enemies threw at me. Each colour has to be handled in a special way. Purple, for example, is called a Repulse attack and I had to time a backstep and a circle button press perfectly to trigger a back dodge. I could then upgrade this skill to counterattack after successfully dodging.

Blue, on the other hand, is a Blink. When the enemies initiated the attack, I then had to time my forward step and circle button press to teleport behind an enemy. That too can be upgraded to deal an extra attack. The same goes for dodging and the simple parry.

Stellar Blade Review

Enemies also have shield bars that deplete during attacks. So paying attention to that bar meant I could break a shield in the middle of their attack interrupting that incoming move. There’s also the Balance bar which is supposedly a stun once emptied but I struggled to get these bars depleted outside of boss fights. Seems like the fodder enemies don’t sponge up enough damage for this to happen.

While I want to say “Stellar Blade had cool builds like an RPG”, that sadly isn’t the case. Eve gains XP quite fast and even halfway through the game, I was sitting with unspent skill points and nowhere to use them. So essentially, you’ll unlock all the moves and abilities in Stellar Blade and likely stick to just a few of them.

Stellar Blade Review

Where the game’s progression system lacks too is in the other fields of upgrade. Eve’s sword is gradually upgraded as the game progresses by using materials found around the world. I kind of felt like after every “main” chapter, there was always a convenient upgrade available for this weapon. It simply increases the damage output. This was likely done to align your power with the upcoming area.

While I was hoping for a bit more freedom to build Eve into a playstyle I wanted, I didn’t mind being the jack of all trades either. That’s because Stellar Blade makes up for the watered-down skill system with its action and setting. Generally speaking, every main chapter in the game delivered a powerhouse blockbuster experience. Cinematics were top-notch and the sheer production values across the entire game are through the roof.

Stellar Blade Review

Stellar Blade also surprised me with some off-beat missions I wasn’t expecting. One particular one saw me unable to use my sword at all. As a result, I had to only use my firearm to kill Naytiba. I was then thrown into some dodgy research lab that looked straight out of Resident Evil. Not only did it look like a Resident Evil game but the lack of melee combat forced me to shoot enemies from a third-person perspective.

These chapters felt like a completely different game. Instead of hacking and slashing enemies apart while exploring a large hub, I was conserving ammo, shooting weak spots and solving puzzles in tight corridors. These moments provided a unique gameplay variety that flipped the table on the usual activities.

Stellar Blade Review

Speaking of which, Stellar Blade is also set across sprawling locations. Some are larger than others and some missions take place in more linear settings. However, everything in the game felt interconnected and well-designed. Some areas forced me to return much later in the game to continue a current side mission. Others offered hours and hours of exploration and missions to take on.

Every area is also littered with secrets to find, some puzzles to complete and powerful bosses to take down. Some of this is optional too. I often stumbled on a challenge I wasn’t able to complete. I then returned a few days later and breezed through it. All these activities help with the overall checklist of objectives.

Stellar Blade Review

The side missions, while not widely inventive, also offer various lore tidbits to uncover that tie into the game’s overall story. Sure, some of these feel a bit cheap in comparison to the main game but they are worth the time and effort.

The only gripe I guess I have with the world design is the damn passcode boxes. Stellar Blade is full of boxes locked by passcodes. So many of them too. You can only open the box if you have found the passcode somewhere in the game. I discovered passcodes for the first area in the game much later in the story. But I ran around each area thinking the code must be around somewhere only to give up. I likely spent hours doing this in total.

Stellar Blade Review

It isn’t a great system at all. Completionists will get annoyed by how badly paced-out this feature is and you’ll almost drive yourself mad searching for codes that you won’t find until much later in the game. It is also quite taxing to try and remember where each box you haven’t opened is.

There are also a few fun things to do outside of the general gameplay in Stellar Blade. The can collection system saw me collecting 49 different cans of drinks. Eve and her friends also have different outfits I could make. Not to mention the game also has its own vendor reputation system where the more you spend money at a vendor, the better your friendship is. Higher friendship tiers unlock more items to purchase.

Stellar Blade Review

I should also mention Stellar Blade’s visuals which are bad at all. This game looks rather impressive. It especially shines more in linear areas as these highly detailed environments look stunning on screen. I tweaked the HDR slightly to decrease the contrast and the game’s dark environments popped with gorgeous HDR highlights on lights and sparking off Eve’s weapons.

There are also various “wow” moments in the game where I was impressed by how Shift Up managed to deliver the scale of the world in such detail. Often Eve would stand in an area and the scale of the world would be fully imagined in the assets around her. Stellar Blade is gorgeous.

Stellar Blade Review

Beyond its minor flaws, mostly about the skill system, Stellar Blade is a phenomenal game. It is quirky and off-beat. Something we haven’t seen from a PS5 exclusive in a long time. This game sort of reminds me of the other great PlayStation exclusives which have all been forgotten in favour of Sony’s more popular IPs. Heavenly Sword, Folklore, Puppeteer. While it isn’t the master of anything, I hope Stellar Blade sticks around because there’s a lot of potential here.

This Stellar Blade review is based on a code sent to us by Sony Interactive Entertainment. The game launches on 26 April only on PS5. You can pick it up starting at R1499


From its incredible soundtrack to its brilliant world design and combat, Stellar Blade’s debut is a much-needed injection of fun across the PlayStation-exclusive library and likely the most refreshing new game on the platform to date.

Marco is the owner and founder of GLITCHED. South Africa’s largest gaming and pop culture website. GLITCHED quickly established itself with tech and gaming enthusiasts with on-point opinions, quick coverage of breaking events and unbiased reviews across its website, social platforms, and YouTube channel.

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