Game Reviews PlayStation

Stellar Blade Review – Guardian Angel

Stellar Blade was revealed worldwide during a PlayStation showcase livestream event in September 2021. While Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 and God of War Ragnarök were the main attractions at this event, Shift Up’s single-player action-adventure game stood out as another intriguing title worth keeping a close eye on.

Fast-forward to late March when Shift Up released a robust demo for the game on the PlayStation store. I can confidently say now that if you enjoyed your time with this demo, then you’ll love the full game. Steller Blade isn’t just a great title but also feels like a breath of fresh air in a year with fewer quality releases. Here are more of my thoughts on the game and why you should consider picking it up.

Eve takes on the responsibility of saving humanity from the Naytiba.

A Thought-Provoking Storyline

Stellar Blade follows the aftermath of an unrelenting world invasion by a powerful breed of creatures known as the Naytiba. With Earth now decimated and abandoned, many inhabitants seek refuge at a colony in outer space. In a last-ditch effort to save humanity, the 7th Airborne squad led by main protagonist Eve is tasked with eliminating these monsters and restoring Earth to prominence. Eve’s mission revolves around exploring various regions to help those in need, uncovering secrets, and testing her skills against larger-than-life adversaries.

From a storytelling standpoint, Stellar Blade incorporates some of the same themes from Yoko Taro’s Nier: Automata. You’re thrown headfirst into a post-apocalyptic world where tragedy has run amok and many look at Eve as Earth’s Guardian Angel. As the player, you feel the weight of your decisions and the story can end in multiple ways based on your choices. It took me approximately 30 hours to complete the game and every side mission. I plan to start another playthrough soon to experience the other endings firsthand.

One aspect I love about Stellar Blade is how deeply engaging the narrative is. Even after completing the story, I kept thinking about the characters, fun boss battles, and key moments that shaped the ending. Eve, Adam, Lily, and several other supporting characters are all likable and add a ton of personality and charm to the overall experience. This is one of many reasons why I think this will be one of the most memorable games of the year and without a doubt, a critical success for Shift Up.

Strong characters coupled with rich storytelling are reasons why Stellar Blade will be memorable.

Beautiful Visuals

Stellar Blade is a visually stunning piece of artwork from start to finish. In addition to highly detailed character models, all the regions and grotesque monsters you come across are wildly imaginative and feel perfectly aligned with the narrative. The cinematic cutscenes and character animations are crisp and seamless which helps pull you even further into the action. The three graphics modes to choose from are the following:

  • Performance Mode – 1440p native 2460×1440 typical resolution 60 FPS
  • Balanced Mode – 4k 1920×1080 – 2460×1440 temporal reconstruction 60 FPS
  • Resolution Mode – 4k 3840×2160 typical resolution 30 FPS

The default balanced mode option is what I used for my playthrough. I did encounter one instance late in the game where frames dropped during a very intense boss battle where the creature was launching projectiles at me. Aside from that one incident, the overall performance was rock solid and the gameplay was addictive enough to keep me coming back for more.

Stellar Blade is a great game with three graphics mode options that you can choose from.

Hack, Slash, And Shoot

If you played the Stellar Blade demo, then you probably already know how extensive and satisfying the combat is. These mechanics evolve further as you get deeper into the storyline and level up your skills to unlock more powerful attacks. There are five distinct skill trees to level up and an option to enter a training module to test your newly acquired abilities.

When facing off against the various bosses, studying their attack patterns is essential before going all in. Combat can be challenging for first-timers, but leveling up your character and developing a strategy will guarantee the most success. The difficulty level in this game isn’t anywhere close to Dark Souls or Elden Ring so it’s much more accessible for those who might have been on the fence. As I mentioned above, the boss battles are also a lot of fun and you’ll feel a great sense of accomplishment after winning an intense showdown.

Completing boss battles gives you an adrenaline rush and makes you feel like even more of a badass.

Aside from fighting, the other key aspect of Stellar Blade revolves around world exploration. Traversing through areas, swimming, and solving puzzles are the main ingredients that keep things interesting. You’ll also interact with several humans and robots who ask you to do various tasks for them. Most of these side missions are worth doing because they help you build meaningful relationships, learn more about your surroundings, and upgrade your equipment. After the opening prologue mission, Adam controls an accompanying drone that allows you to scan your environment for objectives and key items of interest.

There are camps in every region when you need to stop for a breather. Once activated, these camps allow you to shop for items, repair your console, fast-travel to another activated camp, adjust your skill settings, change the current song, or rest. Resting naturally restores your stored items, health power, and Naytiba powers but also allows nearby enemies to respawn if you’ve already taken them out. This balanced approach to gameplay is designed to keep you ready at all times for whatever may come your way.

Another thing I love about the gameplay is how fun it is to complete side quests. After finishing the final task in a side quest, you get a prompt asking if you want to return to the client who asked for your help. Most of these side quests involve finding a lost item or person. While there may not be enough variety in this area, this easy-to-follow system will motivate every completionist to uncover every secret and collectible scattered throughout this world.

Lily helps keep Eve upgraded and ready for what’s ahead.

An Incredible Soundtrack

In addition to outstanding storytelling and gameplay mechanics, the musical score for Stellar Blade is on another level. The composing team of Park Jin-bae, Oliver Good, and Keita Inoue knocked it out of the ballpark. The beautiful melodies juxtaposed with the vocal performances have me still thinking about these songs and how they perfectly set the tone for Eve’s adventure.

If Shift Up does plan to release the soundtrack for this game then that is something that I will pick up. I recall the music was also outstanding in Nier: Automata which speaks volumes about how these games are alike but still different in certain ways. The voice acting is also superb and every actor and actress feels like the true embodiment of their characters. You can tell that a lot of passion was put into this project from top to bottom and fans of this genre will appreciate that.

Stellar Blade is a marvelous title from top to bottom.

Final Verdict

Stellar Blade is Sony’s biggest surprise so far this year and an undeniable certified hit for Shift Up. With a compelling storyline, addictive gameplay mechanics, and meaningful characters players are guaranteed to walk away from this experience satisfied and eager for more. The future is bright for Shift Up and I can’t wait to see what they do next.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This review was written based on a digital review copy of Stellar Blade for PlayStation 5 provided by Sony Interactive Entertainment.

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