Stellar Blade - Sharp Stuff!
Stellar Blade comes damn close to living up to its own adjective in a slick action-adventure. Just don't play it when your nan is over.
4.0Overall Score

Battlefield Earth

Flooded, devastated cities, violent mutated bug monsters, a general sense of hopelessness… no, not modern Britain but the premise of Stellar BladeStellar Blade is an action adventure game that borrows from many sources, with admittedly few of its own tricks. As a new first-party exclusive published by Sony and developed by Korean developer Shift Up, this follows Rise of the Ronin as a refreshing change of pace for Sony. Far from their cinematic third person output, this is very much a video game of moment to moment action rather than narrative emphasis. This is a godsend as the narrative is probably the ropiest aspect! So does Stellar Blade live up to its name or is it about to be cut down to size?

Stellar Blade Running

At first then combat comes across as quite basic, the standard attack, counter attack then punish loop. Quickly though you’ll unlock new moves and different types of counter attack opportunities that make fighting monsters a much more engaging process. Every slash feels visceral, the super moves you charge up landing with an exceptional oomph. These moves can break shields and interrupt combos so timing their use is essential. The counter is also very satisfying, not as unforgiving as recent similar games. Knocking enemies into a staggered phase never gets tired. Despite some really wacky enemy designs their attacks are very readable, truly mitigating the usual frustrations of these systems. Exploring the environments for health and attack energy upgrades leads to some interesting traversal opportunities and challenging combat encounters, so going off the beaten track is definitely recommended. Unlocking Souls-style shortcuts to earlier areas is always pleasant, bringing you closer to base camps where you can purchase items , upgrade abilities and save. 

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A Cut Above?

Graphically this is a real tale of two (flooded) cities. The world and monsters look superb, the post-apocalyptic world being a mix of realism and a kind of maximalism seen in classic depictions of Gotham City. However, the human characters… are just plain creepy. Eve and her fellow space-warriors all share a bizarre plastic quality. This, combined with their cartoonish proportions give the impression of playing as an expensive sex doll. Initially decked out in the tightest wet suit it’s a relief when you finally unlock alternate costumes. As opposed to a Bayonetta or a 2B, Eve is just a wet blanket which only adds to the visual awkwardness . A very odd miss for a game with otherwise excellent visuals. The music is mostly melancholy pop-songs with repetitive lyrics. They oddly fit the tone of the game but could be incredibly off-putting for the less musically-forgiving.

Despite some rough edges, Stellar Blade is a rock solid adventure with an addictive gameplay loop. If you look past Eve’s screen-hogging bum, you’ll find a world of downtrodden splendour with alien freaks to battle and side-quests to discover.

If nothing else it’s inspiring to see a fairly new development team create a title this polished and simultaneously large-scale. Indeed, this may be the Eve of something great.

About The Author

Niall Glynn has been playing video games since he first realised that Mario could go INSIDE a pyramid on the N64. In-between his day job and sleeping you can find him watching poorly dubbed kung-fu movies and/or playing weird games on his Switch. Thinks Return of the Jedi is the best Star Wars and is colour-blind.

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