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  • Writer's pictureCourt Lalonde

Is the Stellar Blade Worth the Hype? Find Out in Our Review!


Stellar Blade

Stellar Blade wasn't on my radar at all before launch. I watched the trailers, and they gave me a NieR: Automata vibe, and that type of game isn't my favourite. Stellar Blade is the type of game I wait for to show up on PS Plus, try it then, and not buy it on launch. Everything about Stellar Blade was saying I wouldn't like it. The combat looked Soulslike, and the story looked disinteresting to me. The demo helped a lot as it gave me a great sense of what this game would be. It allowed me to feel comfortable with the parry system in combat, and I learned there was a story mode difficulty. I know many gamers love challenging and complex games, but I don't have the time to play games like I used to, so when a game has a story mode, it appeals to me more. The main character is Eve, whose goal is to save Earth from the evil Nayteba. This is the first AAA console game from Shift Up, and I have to say you could have fooled me. You would have thought this was made by a seasoned studio that has made many different AAA games and is hitting its stride. The story's complexity and the addictive gameplay made for one of my biggest surprises in gaming this year.


To say, though, that Stellar Blade is not without its controversy is an understatement. This review will cover gameplay, story, and overall experience. I'm not going to make Eve's attire or lack thereof the focal point of my review, but here at Three Dads, we always let our viewers and readers know if the game is appropriate to play in front of their kids or even let them play it. Stellar Balde surprised me, and I think I might try more similar games in the future.


Eve

More than meets the eye.


As always, I will give you a brief synopsis of the story with my reviews because I never want to be why someone is spoiled on something they were looking forward to. I can tell you that The future of humanity hangs in the balance, and you're sent back to Earth to defeat the evil Naytiba. There are twists and turns along with multiple endings to keep you guessing to the very end. Shift Up made one of the most fascinating stories I have played this year with Stellar Blade. It was the first game in a long time that I didn't know what would happen, and I lost track of time playing. You're provided with secondary characters like Adam and Lily, who offer you companionship and help move the story to the ultimate decision. Side missions are scattered across Xion and Earth, which add to the complex world Shift Up has created and help give you insight into the main story. Xion is the central hub that will provide you with the start of most story missions and side missions but opens your eyes to this disposition future that has been beaten up over the years. You will see how the humans have adapted and challenged themselves to rid the world of the evil Naytiba. Each area of the game adds to the story to help put more strands on the web unfolding before you. The number of twists and turns in the story blew me away and was refreshing. After travelling from the Colony, the 7th Airborne Squad member EVE arrives on the desolate remains of our planet with a clear-cut mission: to save humankind by reclaiming Earth from the Naytiba. This evil force has devastated it. But as EVE tackles the Naytiba one by one, piecing together the mysteries of the past in the ruins of human civilization, she realizes that her mission is far from straightforward. Never get too comfortable with what you think is about to happen because nothing is as it seems. I truly feel the game's story made me like it so much and detracted me from all the other outside noise surrounding it. There is a point in the game where you hit a point of no return, so I suggest cleaning up any side content you want done before proceeding. You will know when you're there.


Be prepared to battle


My time playing Rise of the Ronin before jumping into Stellar Blade prepared me for the combat. It's fast-paced, but you must get your timing down to parry/doge enemies' attacks. I played in story mode, so it was a lot easier to get the timing, but when I switched the difficulty to see, I would be killed rather quickly. At the start of the game, the demo, you're given a quick tutorial of the combat and the basics, but the difficulty spike at the beginning is by far the hardest. It becomes much easier as you level up Eve and become more comfortable with the combat. In your skill tree, you unlock combos and special moves to make the combat smoother and more fun. If you like, you can learn all combat moves in the skill tree by training for all of them.


skill tree

You don't have to do the training, but I recommend it at the start of the game so you can get the combos down. The combat almost becomes a dance with characters, especially the bosses and mini-bosses, as timing is essential to defeating them. The clash of your sword against the enemy's advances has bright flashes to let you know you succeeded, which adds to the excitement you get while defeating your foe. The music adds to that excitement when you're in boss battles and becomes in perfect harmony as it ramps up during intense fight scenes. The boss and min-boss battles are some of the most fun I have had in games, as they remind me of old games. Each boss has a pattern to learn from, and once you have gotten that down, you will feel quite accomplished as you take down these giant bosses. The cut scenes that follow as you take down the bosses are gruesome but don't detract from the game and only enhance the experience.


Each encounter feels different, and if you like, you can go into the accessibility menu and even turn on hints that will occasionally appear if you're having difficulty with a particular enemy. Button prompts will flash on the screen, letting you know what to do, but as you gain the upper hand again, those prompts will disappear, so don't use them as a curse. Not only do you have a sword to use, which conveniently folds up into Eve's hair as a hairpin, but you also have range weapons in the game. The drone that follows you around Earth, voiced by your companion Adam, can turn into a range of weapons. You can use it to show bullets, which they call slugs in the game, missiles, laser beams, or shotgun shells. The laser beam was one of my favourites because it provides maximum damage on various enemies, but it does need to charge up, so use it carefully.


The traversal, which sometimes doesn't feel as accurate as it should be, especially during some puzzles, is excellent during combat sequences. I found it interesting that using the traversal during no-combat moves can miss and cost you health, but during combat, the dodge and double jump are a must and can be why you live in a battle. In the skill tree, you will see a lot of traversal moves that will help you in battle under the survival section. Most traversal moves like the double jump and dash are told you can do them by your other companion, Lily, who is the brains of your team and can fix anything.


A sight to see


The world Shify Up built and levels design feels like it's coming from a studio that has put out many AA games. It's an open-world-level design with a linear path you follow when going underground. Each area of the game is designed to provide you with tasks that need to be completed, and one task, turning on the power, is the only one that feels tiresome after doing it repeatedly. I can't wax poetic about the game all the time, and I think this is an area to improve upon if we get a sequel. The maps aren't significant; as with most action-adventure games, there are collectables. The reward for those collectables isn't too exciting, but I will discuss them later in this review. You feel for the people of Xion as it looks almost helpless with its dull colour pallet and industrial feel. You see a small glimpse of neon lights, but a lack of plant life and colour overshadows it. It sets the tone for the game and what you're fighting for.


Xion

Every different area you visit has its own unique enemy set and feel. You're constantly reminded that this world is out to kill you, and enemies can be around every corner. There are jump scares in Stellar Blade, so be prepared for it. The enemy design looks straight from a Guillermo del Toro movie, but it is one of the best-looking enemies I have seen in this generation's game.


enemy

No enemy is an easy out, and all have unique combat styles. The graphics aren't something to run home about, but I got 1440p with 60 fps playing on performance mode, which made for a great experience. You can have 4K 30 fps, but with the fast-paced combat, I wouldn't recommend it. If this is what Shift Up was able to do with their first AAA console game, I'm excited to see what they can do in their next game.


Never judge a book by its cover


Many early impressions surrounding Stellar Blade focused on Eve's attire in the game. I would love to say I didn't notice, but it's hard not to. Not only is Eve's costume design a bit risque but Lily's is also. You can change the suit you're wearing, and I did find one for Eve that had my wife question what I was playing a lot less. Even the collectables you see in the world go towards purely cosmetic rewards. You can collect pop cans worldwide, and the reward for that is an outfit that looks closer to longer than it would be for battle armour.


eve collectables

The suits you wear worldwide don't help you in any way so I suggest wearing what you want. I'm not here to yuk people's yum, but the character design is sometimes too much. I don't think it detracted from the gameplay and story, though. After I got it out of my head, I moved on and hardly noticed it. Unless you are sliding down a ladder or climbing, the camera focuses on Eve's rear end more time than I can count. I understand that sex sells, and it shouldn't be as taboo in society as it is, but I'm not sure what it added to the game at all. I wouldn't recommend you play this game in front of your kid, as it is more for a mature audience. The gameplay and story are fantastic, and that is why Stellar Blade is a great game, not because the character you're playing is curvy.


In the End


When I look back at my time with Stellar Blade after I rolled credits, I think about playing it again and wish I had set up random save files. I enjoyed my time with Stellar Blade, and I believe Shift Up has made a game that surprised me more than any other game this year. They made a game with tight combat that is enjoyable, along with a compelling story; what more can you ask for? Many games nowadays make these 80-hour epics, but Shift Up accomplished what most of those games couldn't in under 20 hours. If you want to finish all of the content in the game and see the multiple endings, you will be looking at around 40 hours. They offer you a lot of value and a fantastic gameplay experience in the 20 hours it took me to finish it. I wish they had a photo mode, though, and I hope they add it to the game in a future update. Stellar Blade made me like a genre of game that I didn't think was for me and has made me second guess my taste in gaming. I want to thank PlayStation Canada for providing me with a code for review and allowing me to play one of my favourite games this year.




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