Evaluate: Stellar Blade’s fight is the actual star

As I sat down to put in writing this evaluate, I noticed that Stellar Blade developer Shift Up had formally introduced that the sport can be “uncensored” in all areas. Predictably, there was a lot rejoicing from people who had been drawn to Stellar Blade protagonist EVE’s shiny buttocks like moths to a flame. To be trustworthy, I can’t blame them; she’s a surprisingly enticing digital particular person, a trait she shares with just about all the solid of the sport, who’re all both extremely scorching, badass cyborgs, bizarre fleshy monsters, or a very delectable mixture of two and even all three components. Nevertheless, as somebody who had completed the sport earlier that afternoon, I couldn’t assist however snort my sadly unshiny butt off.

Whereas Stellar Blade does function tight and generally revealing clothes, and its protagonist EVE boobing breastily all around the store, it’s as secure and sexless as the most recent entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Sure, the fan artwork and fanfic will likely be implausible, however there’s no fan service on show right here. I’m truly kinda glad, as a result of now that we’ve acquired all that junk behind us, we are able to get to the evaluate and say that Stellar Blade is usually a darn good time.

Stellar Blade is a flashy character-action sport like your Satan Could Crys and Ninja Gaidens. There’s a little bit of Soulslike in there, however solely to the identical extent as just about each motion sport today. Yeah, it’s acquired checkpoints, respawning enemies, and parrying, however that’s not sufficient for an entire style, y’know? The sport Stellar Blade is extremely paying homage to, and never simply because it’ll launch a thousand cosplays, is Nier: Automata: You’ve acquired a good looking balletic blade-wielding badass of a cyborgy-androidy persuasion who descends from house to rid a post-apocalyptic wasteland of rampaging nasties so that every one the great people may be secure. Oh, and she or he’s accompanied by a hauntingly pretty soundtrack full of soppy, ethereal vocals.

EVE, the protagonist of Stellar Blade, sits in a chair in one of the game’s resting places, which looks like an abandoned coffee shop

Picture: Shift Up/Sony Interactive Leisure

EVE, the protagonist of Stellar Blade (left), looks solemn as her robot companion (right) tells her, “Right. Hold on, let me take a look at the map data.”

Picture: Shift Up/Sony Interactive Leisure

A close-up shot of one of the monsters in Stellar Blade, a humanoid-like being covered in a dark maroon carapace

Picture: Shift Up/Sony Interactive Leisure

It’s not simply the floor components that Stellar Blade cribs from Nier, but additionally a willingness to mess around with style with a purpose to preserve issues contemporary. For instance, not too far into the sport, EVE’s little drone will get an improve that permits it to function a firearm. For probably the most half, I didn’t discover it a massively impactful addition to her arsenal, exterior of clearly signposted “shoot the glowing thingy” moments. Nevertheless, sure laboratory-like areas have some type of electromagnetic subject that disables EVE’s hi-tech electro-sword and the drone’s scanning capabilities, whereas leaving the shootybang protocol intact. Add some mutant monstrosities to the combination, and hastily it’s gone a bit survival horror.

Not all of the experiments are so profitable. The traversal is mostly easy and satisfying, nevertheless it’s marred in a couple of locations by some interminable precision platforming and even a bit the place it’s a must to dodge from cowl to cowl to keep away from immediate artillery-based demise. Even with the occasional misfire, I used to be glad of the range, as I’m not satisfied that the core fight may maintain the sport by itself.

That’s to not say that it’s unhealthy; in truth, it’s a heck of numerous enjoyable. Stellar Blade begins with a well-recognized weak assault/robust assault/dodge/parry setup that it completely nails. Every part is quick and responsive, and you’ll string collectively some impressive-looking combos with the 2 assault buttons. Pull off an ideal parry sufficient instances and also you’ll go away your foe open to a ending transfer that may kill most enemies and take a very good chunk of well being off a boss. Shortly after introducing unblockable assaults that should be dodged, the sport provides a few variations to fight. A blue flash means it’s essential press ahead as you dodge, whereas pink requires pulling again on the stick as an alternative. The previous causes you to do a ninja-like sprint behind your opponent, leaving them open to assault, whereas the latter causes you to do a candy flip-kick and opens up a weak spot so that you can shoot at.

A misshapen but still somewhat humanoid monster lumbers through the wilderness of Stellar Blade, its head replaced by bulging blobs lit up by a strange green glow

Picture: Shift Up/Sony Interactive Leisure

In addition to the fundamentals, you’ve a set of particular strikes that may be carried out by holding down the L1 button and the corresponding face button. These price factors drawn from a restricted useful resource pool, which regenerates as you’re taking and deal harm and, just like the core strikes, may be upgraded with talent factors as you degree up. Additionally accessible are therapeutic gadgets and a small choice of grenade-like weapons.

The issue is that by the point you’re a couple of hours into Stellar Blade, you’ll have seen every part the fight has to supply. The tantalizingly obscured talent bushes on the menu display get you all excited when the primary one is revealed to be the gun drone, however the different two ultimately change into one other set of particular strikes, simply keyed to R1 this time and with their very own vitality pool, and a kind of tremendous mode you may activate for brief bursts. They’re enjoyable to make use of, however they don’t convey something new to the desk. There are not any new weapons to gather, no completely different fight kinds, and the gear customisation falls squarely into “quantity go up” territory, moderately than altering up the way you play.

Because of this, Stellar Blade can generally really feel like a little bit of a slog. Enemies are delightfully diversified of their look, however the ways you employ to defeat them don’t must be altered a lot. There are sections that go on for manner too lengthy, together with a boring dungeon crawl by means of a sewer, the place it seems like the sport is throwing massive numbers of bullet-sponge enemies simply to sluggish you down. It’s a disgrace, as a result of when the fight shines, it’s completely exhilarating, and a lot of the boss encounters are implausible. Fortunately, the previous few sections of the sport are good and pacey, alternating massive boss fights and exposition with out an excessive amount of corridor-trudging and mob-killing slowing down proceedings.

EVE, the protagonist of Stellar Blade, wearing a schoolgirl uniform and black thigh-highs, looks up at a ceiling full of hanging pink flowers. She says, “Wow! The atmosphere here is so unique!”

Picture: Shift Up/Sony Interactive Leisure

Story-wise, I ended up pleasantly stunned. It’s 99% customary sci-fi guff for positive, however I’m a sucker for that stuff. There’s a lot foreshadowing and hinting at what’s actually happening that I used to be ready for the large reveals to be whimpers moderately than bangs, however some intelligent misdirection stored a couple of issues real surprises. The previous couple of hours of the sport had been a few of my favorites, which I really feel is a powerful achievement, as Stellar Blade was getting moderately stodgy by that time.

My playthrough clocked in at round 24 hours, having completed a lot of the aspect quests within the first open-world space however barely touching the second. Stellar Blade is likely one of the uncommon video games that I really feel extra positively towards now I’ve completed it than I did midway by means of. The rip-roaring opening and rollercoaster of a closing act make up for the padded center that, mixed with a scarcity of fight selection, stops the sport in need of true excellence. However in any other case, it’s a powerful console debut that means a really promising future for Shift Up.

Stellar Blade will likely be launched April 26 on PlayStation 5. The sport was reviewed on PlayStation 5 utilizing a pre-release obtain code offered by Sony. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These don’t affect editorial content material, although Vox Media could earn commissions for merchandise bought through affiliate hyperlinks. Yow will discover extra details about Polygon’s ethics coverage right here.

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