Image: Shift Up

Stellar Blade Review

Stellar Blade is a solid action game that blends rewarding exploration and mesmerizing visuals to create an enjoyable experience, even if the story and world leave a lot to be desired.

Even though it’s become a tired point of discussion and the center of some truly disheartening discourse, there’s a lot to like about Stellar Blade. Developer Shift Up’s debut PlayStation 5 title has been shown off for what feels like ages now, and the finished product is far more polished than you’d expect from a primarily mobile development studio. Still, despite its fantastic presentation and satisfying combat, Stellar Blade unfortunately falls a bit short compared to other games in the genre.

Recommended Videos

Stellar Blade is a decent enough action game, though, and its great combat system does a lot to carry the experience. It initially comes across as more of a Soulslike than it actually is, placing great emphasis on perfectly-timed dodges and parries that open up enemies for a barrage of strikes. As you level up and unlock new abilities for Eve, however, Stellar Blade’s action game roots start to rise to the surface.

Image: Shift Up

You’ll start out afraid of most enemies that you encounter, but after just a few hours you’ll be dancing around crowds of enemies and making quick work of even the toughest boss battles. The game’s skill tree goes a long way in making the combat feel more fluid and responsive, widening parry and perfect dodge windows so you can focus more on flashy combos and high-damage skills. Stellar Blade exists in a strange middle ground between Dark Souls and Devil May Cry, and while I definitely started the game wishing it leaned much harder one way or the other, the combat finally clicked after a few hours of upgrades.

Upgrades are surprisingly one of the most satisfying things about Stellar Blade, too. The game’s levels aren’t as straightforward as they appear, and there are chests, combination codes, and challenging foes hidden around quite literally every corner. Exploring every nook and cranny of Stellar Blade’s world can easily add hours to your playthrough, and the developers know exactly how many rewards to place around every corner to keep you traveling along their tightly-designed trail of breadcrumbs.

There’s also a decent amount of flexibility when it comes to building Eve’s kit and abilities. The game hands you skill points so fast that you’ll be able to unlock one or two new skills every time you come across a safe zone, and the sheer variety of skills means that your Eve can look a lot different than someone else’s. Both perfect dodges and perfect parries are viable for combat, and you can focus on stringing long combo attacks together or barraging enemies with quick slashes to build up energy for your skills.

Equipment also plays a large role in this, with Eve able to equip various Nano Suits and other gear that have big stat boosts associated with them. I found myself focusing on raising Eve’s crit rate so I could spam light attacks and not get stuck in lengthy attack animations in case I needed to parry an incoming attack. Stellar Blade’s skill tree catered to this perfectly, letting me unlock passive abilities that increased my energy recharge rate with every successful strike. Others will play the game in completely different ways, which is why Stellar Blade’s progression system is so great.

Image: Attack of the Fanboy

Unfortunately, the other aspects of Stellar Blade fall short of the competition. The story is the biggest miss here, and a genuinely interesting premise and setup devolve into been-there-done-that sci-fi tropes that countless other series have handled much better. The excellent character designs and environmental work deserve a better storyline than what we got.

The world that you explore in Stellar Blade is interesting enough, at least, but the worldbuilding is paper-thin and leaves you wanting so much more. There are several corpses strewn about each zone with notes and letters attached to them, but they always contain just a few sentences of some of the most generic sci-fi stuff you’ve ever read. It’s usually a mixture of “do we really know what’s going on” or “these monsters are really scary,” neither of which is particularly compelling.

At the very least, Stellar Blade’s story and worldbuilding don’t get in the way of the action. Cutscenes are brief and most exposition happens while you’re exploring, so it’s easy to tune everything out if you want to. That won’t save you from the stilted voice performances, though. Outside of a select few cutscenes, you’ll get used to hearing bland line reads from Eve, her partner Adam, and the rest of the cast.

Image: Shift Up

Despite those drawbacks, though, it’s surprisingly easy to lose hours to Stellar Blade before you’ve even realized it. I’ve already mentioned the breadcrumb trail of collectibles and upgrades, but every swing of the sword feels impactful and every special burst skill feels weightier than the last. Slicing through a crowd with a charged slice or smashing a shield with Eve’s shield breaker ability never gets old. It’s just one of those games that tries way too hard to put the fun in front of everything else, no matter what suffers as a result.

Even something as simple as the sound that items make when you pick them up just scratches my brain in the best way. Plus, Shift Up turns the DualSense’s haptic feedback to 11 with just about every possible action making the controller vibrate in a deeply satisfying manner. A lot of games hype up their DualSense integration, but Stellar Blade’s implementation reminds me of a great arcade machine where every input has a tactile feel and an addicting response.

That’s the main thing about Stellar Blade. At its core, Stellar Blade is a game obsessed with instant gratification and intense dopamine rushes. The flashy combat is one thing, but developer Shift Up really knows how to keep the hamster wheel spinning and suck you into the game until you don’t realize how much time has passed.

Image: Shift Up

Ultimately, Stellar Blade is a solid action game that blends rewarding exploration and mesmerizing visuals to create an enjoyable experience, even if the story and world leave a lot to be desired. As long as you can put up with stilted dialogue and bland worldbuilding, the flashy combat system feels excellent in motion after getting a few upgrades under your belt. It doesn’t overstay its welcome, and a relatively brief, tightly designed action game is always welcome in my book.

Stellar Blade
Stellar Blade is a solid action game that blends rewarding exploration and mesmerizing visuals to create an enjoyable experience, even if the story and world leave a lot to be desired.
Reviewed on PlayStation 5

Attack of the Fanboy is supported by our audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn a small affiliate commission. Learn more about our Affiliate Policy
Image of Diego Perez
Diego Perez
Currently serving as an Associate Editor at Attack of the Fanboy, Diego Perez has been writing about video games since 2018, specializing in live service games like Destiny and Final Fantasy XIV. His work is featured at publications like Game Rant and The Outerhaven, but Attack of the Fanboy is home to his best work. When he's not editing or writing guides, he's yelling about Ape Escape or grinding Lost Sectors in Destiny. Plus, he has a Bachelor of Science in Telecommunication Media Studies for Texas A&M University.