Review: Stellar Blade blissful combat makes up for its shortcomings 

stellar blade

Korean developer Shift Up Corporation‘s Stellar Blade is a game that seemingly popped out of nowhere for me. Originally announced in 2021 but only named and shown a year later, it somehow eluded my radar until very close to its release sometime this year. Thankfully, I found it to be an enjoyable experience despite the fairly exploitative design of its protagonist. It’s got fantastic combat, and cool enemies, albeit wrapped by a somewhat drab story and lacking much personality overall.

It all takes place on Earth in the far flung future when a hostile alien race has taken over the planet and basically wiped out all life. As part of a special group of female space warriors, you land in a dense urban environment in order to destroy the enemy’s alpha unit and somehow take back the planet. EVE was obviously designed with Bayonetta in mind as trying to appeal to the male audience in how she’s basically naked regardless of what skin tight suit she’s wearing, but it seems the developers forgot what made the umbral witch so likable in the first place, giving the our hero not much of a personality to speak of.

So it’s a good thing that everything else about the game works so well. First and foremost, its combat feels great. It’s smooth and easy to engage with, and the further you get into EVE’s numerous skill trees, the better fights become. It’s also noteworthy how neat some of the monsters you’ll square off against are, offering plenty of unique fights that are simply a blast to get through. Weirdly enough, Stellar Blade borrows some elements from the Souls games and applies them in a light manner, such as the way its levels are designed with exploration in mind, with alternative paths that have to be unlocked by taking the longer route, thus finding all manner of knicknacks along the way.

stellar blade
Boys, meet EVE. EVE, meet the boys.

Before you say anything, yes, we’ve seen a number of character action games over the years that pretty much offer the same or a close approximation of what this one does, and while there’s nothing particularly incredible about Stellar Blade, it is well realized and fun enough to make it worth picking up and playing. Then there’s the simple reason that PlayStation 5 simply lacks any exclusives that fit into the niche that this one is a part of, and apart from the things that were pointed out early in this review, mainly the less than ideal representation of its main character, there’s nothing egregiously bad about Stellar Blade, it’s just generic in its presentation and overall list of goals and story.

If you do manage to turn off your brain for the time that you spend playing this and look past its shortcomings, there’s definitely a fairly fun game to be had with Stellar Blade. As an exclusive, it’s not what I would call a killer app or anything, nor is it enough of a reason for anyone to go out and get a new console in order to play it. For one, it’s a given that Sony will eventually port it to PC as they have been doing with most of their PS5 exclusives lately, but knowing that the system has more than enough good games to be enjoyed, it makes for a better case getting Stellar Blade.

Then again, if this game was not given to me via a code for this review, I don’t think I would go out and buy it on my own, but rather wait til it hits PS Plus in order to try it. Knowing how good it is now but looking at my backlog, it would be what I would do if not for this review. That doesn’t say anything in regards to it as a product but more about me as a player. On the other hand, if this were to be a fictional Bayonetta 4 or something with as much character as Kamiya’s works, it would be an entirely different story.

stellar blade
Stellar Blade’s monster designs are pure Hellraiser level nightmare material.

Despite its name, Stellar Blade is anything but stellar. It feels like a list of features that a predominantly male group of devs came up with without any outside consultation. The end result is a game that’s perfectly playable but noticeably hard to stick with even taking into account its incredible graphics and, well, curvy protagonist. Honestly, even if I did feel the urge to keep playing only because of her looks, they certainly wouldn’t be enough as the rest of the game’s features, notably its story and world are equally one-note and remain so the more time that’s put into playing it. 

In the end, it’s Stellar Blade’s shortcomings that make it a game that would be otherwise passable for me if it weren’t for producing content for the site. Its combat is surely enjoyable and I did have a great time with it for the hours that were played in order to come up with this article. It’s the rest of the package that makes it lacking though, and if I had at least a bit of interest in its story, world and characters, those would make for reason enough to keep at it for a while longer. Sadly, that’s not really the case here.

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