Why I am Looking Forward to Stellar Blade

Now we’ve spent time with the demo, it’s clear Korean developer Shift Up is shaping things up to deliver one of the biggest Suprises on April 26th.

Posted By | On 19th, Apr. 2024

Why I am Looking Forward to Stellar Blade

In an era where Sony’s first-party studios are on hiatus, a blockbuster PS5 exclusive the like of Stellar Blade is very much in demand. Gameplay previews prior to the demo hinted at an action adventure a little bit like Metal Gear Rising Revengeance, or perhaps a bit of Ninja Gaiden, with an aesthetic akin to many similar modern action games.

Playing through the 90-minute demo and getting a feel for the combat and exploration makes clearer that what we’ve got our hands on is something more akin to a Soulslike, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice especially. This is because during combat you’ll spend a large portions blocking, parrying, and dodging, not unlike From Software’s samurai opus. Before we get into the nitty gritty though, let’s have a word on that awestriking cinematic intro.

Beginning with player-character starship convoy Airborne 7 emerging to break through an alien blockade perched above the stratosphere. The attack goes awry, the alien invaders easily piercing starship shields. The player character and her squad jettison in emergency escape pods, but huge numbers of the team die furing the chaotic descend through Earth’s atmosphere. As a spectacle, this sequence is awesome. The disarray and destruction communicates a desperation; these aliens are not to be trifled with, clearly, with strength in numbers being Airborne 7’s only chance of penetrating the blockade.

The player character herself barely scrapes through; her damaged pod door unable to open until fellow survivor Tachy breaks her out. Flames erupt, explosions are everywhere. It’s here we’re introduced to the game’s basic attacks, blocks, and parries. Combat is immediate, and together with Tachy we slay through fodder enemies on our desperate attempt to rendezvous with other survivors of our group. There’s a basic boss battle at this sequence’s culmination, and despite this Brute’s hulking size and wrecking ball hands the player character and Tachy take it down with aplomb.

The modern action games comparisons are easy to make given the cinematic finale of the Brute battle, but once we’re exploring the crumbling, collapsing ruined city we also get to explore the deeper nuances of Stellar Blade’s combat. More advanced dodges, combos, and parries are unlocked, and it becomes clear the game’s combat is a much more deliberate, methodical affair, not quite at the breakneck pace of modern action games. Patience is required, and studying enemy attack patterns is demanded which is why Stellar Blade’s closest direct comparison is the aforementioned Sekiro.

It’s certainly more forgiving though. The window for successfully deflecting a parry is definitely wider than in Sekiro, for instance. Stellar Blade’s more forgiving defensive tactics are supported by controller inputs that are less responsive than its Soulsborne counterparts. There’s a temptation, at least early on, to button mash your way through combos, and whilst the game allows you to do this against the preliminary enemies it’d certainly become a less worthy tactic as the difficulty ramps up.

Also, the responsiveness of the inputs means quick firing your combos isn’t as effective as taking a steadier approach, and this is something you’ll learn early on. For their part, the combos you can execute such as Incursion or Onslaught are flashy and satisfying to pull off. Their combination of squares and triangles are intuitive enough but pacing yourself on their input is definitely the more optimum strategy.

You’ll be introduced to larger, more dangerous enemies early on too, with these foes having colour coded attacks which you’ll need to watch out for. A red cue signals a frenzied attack is incoming, with blocking, parrying, or dodging altogether being the best defence. Yellow cues cannot be blocked or parried, so getting out of the way swiftly is how the player character will avoid taking damage. Unlock the more advanced dodging ability Blink and blue cues will start appearing.

To execute the Blink ability simply tip the left thumb stick upwards and press circle whilst the blade glows the same shade of blue as her attacker. She’ll swiftly swerve behind the enemy, exposing their unguarded back as they swing fresh air. The blade glows blue a brief moment after the enemy has already started glowing blue, but the window to execute this specialist dodge is as forgiving as the player’s parry, so you’ll be evading attacks in no time.

Complimenting the player’s Blink ability is Repulse, which functions as an inverse dodge. The player character will acrobatically backflip away when the thumb stick is pointed downwards whilst pressing circle, and the colour to watch out for this time is purple. With the player character at a safe distance, the optimum strategy next is the execute a swift strafe towards the locked-on enemy, with their cooldown animation giving you plenty time to unleash a combo or two, or perhaps even eliminate the opponent altogether with another of  the player’s abilities, her Beta Skills.

The Beta Skills are flashy blade strikes complete with electrical discharge, and these special moves are recharged via a meter which fills with every successful parry or block. Unleashing a Beta Skill is as simple as holding down L1 whilst you hit an attack button. The skill tree unlocks flashier, more elaborate Beta Skills as the game progresses, with the idea presumably being to mould these skills into satisfying finishers.

Also satisfying is the player’s Retribution finishers which are unleashed when an opponent’s balance meter is depleted. An enemy’s balance is indicated above their head alongside their health, and to whittle this down you’ll need to execute perfect parries. Although, again, we say perfect parry, but Stellar Blade is lenient. The Retribution finishers are super cool, unnecessarily elaborate, brutal enders for the enemies, with the player character plunging her huge blade deep into the recesses of her stunned enemies with grotesquely imaginative flips and slides acrobatically carving her blade through the soon-to-be carcass.

Stellar Blade’s combat is certainly the main draw here, but if you’ve been put off by the Soulslike comparisons and perhaps the chance of its steep difficulty, one thing to know is Shift Up have designed a game to be approachable to a wider net of players than FromSoftware ever have. For starters, there are two difficulty levels players can choose, normal and a less challenging campaign mode. For information, the writer of this feature completed the demo on normal mode so the comments on parry leniency applies to that.

Whilst Stellar Blade doesn’t hold your hand, it steadily and consistently introduces new combat mechanics and with a little bit of patience you’re soon feeling the unique rhythm fighting as the player character brings. The pacing of these new mechanics come thick and fast – at least in the game’s early stages – when you’ve only just gotten used to one thing and the game throws you another. But they’re tweaks if anything; it’s encouraging rather than disparaging. There’s going to be huge scope for playstyles as the player’s skill set expands as the game progresses too.

This game should not be slept on. If you’re a PS5 player and Stellar Blade isn’t on your radar you should give the demo a bash before writing it off entirely – it’s destined to be one of PS5’s biggest games of the year.

Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, GamingBolt as an organization.


Tagged With: , , ,

Amazing Articles You Might Want To Check Out!

Share Your Thoughts Below  (Always follow our comments policy!)



Keep On Reading!

Silent Hill Transmission Announced for May 30

Silent Hill Transmission Announced for May 30

Konami confirms it will be sharing new details on its psychological horror franchise with an update later this...

Test Drive Unlimited Solar Crown is Teasing a “Special Announcement” on May 30

Test Drive Unlimited Solar Crown is Teasing a “Special Announcement” on May 30

The open world racing game is in development for PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, and PC, but doesn't have a re...

Resident Evil Zero Remake is Being Led by Resident Evil 3 Teams – Rumour

Resident Evil Zero Remake is Being Led by Resident Evil 3 Teams – Rumour

The rumoured Resident Evil Zero remake is being made by K2 and M-Two, it's been claimed.

Call of Duty: Black Ops 6 Teaser Seemingly Confirms Gulf War Setting

Call of Duty: Black Ops 6 Teaser Seemingly Confirms Gulf War Setting

Call of Duty: Black Ops 6 is leaning into its conspiratorial themes with its most recent teaser trailer.

Avowed Moved to Unreal Engine 5.3 with Support from The Coalition – Rumour

Avowed Moved to Unreal Engine 5.3 with Support from The Coalition – Rumour

Avowed developer Obsidian reportedly received a helping hand from the Gears of War studio to upgrade the RPG's...

2K Picks Up FIFA License for New Game This Year – Rumour

2K Picks Up FIFA License for New Game This Year – Rumour

A new football game franchise might be kicking off soon, with rumours that 2K has penned a deal with FIFA for ...