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Stellar Blade Preview – It’s Giving Mother

The latest PlayStation exclusive comes out swinging

Stellar Blade cuts a striking profile. Initially pitched by Korean studio Shift Up as “Project Eve,” the title was swiftly picked up by Sony and from its first official showing during the 2021 State of Play, Stellar Blade found its sickos. It’s a showy title, overflowing with heightened sci-fi imagery, gorgeously rendered character models, and sharp, expressive combat. It feels almost lab grown for this exact moment in broader industry discourse too, its Souls-ish-adjacency and explicitly horny physics both lightning rods for an audience clambering for one and headily debating the merits of another (take your pick, I’m not your dad).

Now, just a month out from release, a short but incredibly sweet demo for Stellar Blade is hitting and having spent the past week poking at the edges of the thing, I’m beyond ready to see what the full game has in store.

Some nebulous time well into our future, humanity has been violently ejected into the stars by an invading force of aliens. The Naytiba, an odd assortment of insectoid creatures, have almost entirely colonised our pale blue dot and are in the process of pushing toward the final human stronghold, Xion. While the Stellar Blade demo doesn’t get you to Xion, it does do a solid job at setting the tone of the brutal nature of the war with the Naytiba and establishes that Earth as we knew it is gone, and now it’s time to dance in the rubble. In a genuinely thrilling opening cinematic, we crash into this perpetual battlefield as EVE, a wide-eyed but skilled member of the 7th Airborne Squad, elite warriors sent from humanity’s refuge, the Colony.

Stellar Blade puts its best foot forward here with opulent, borderline over-designed, sci-fi trappings infused with elements of classical art and loose anime trends. Gigantic warships slice into Earth’s atmosphere adorned with extravagant sculpting and stylised deflector shields, the first of many striking images the demo has to offer. There’s a pervasive cinematic quality to Stellar Blade, its less interesting notes (ruined city scapes and the like) papered over with killer cutscene direction, free flowing camera work, and a solid grasp on scale and art direction.

From what we can see in the demo – which seems to pale in comparison to the full release if the closing sizzle reel is anything to go by – Stellar Blade is rocking some killer aesthetic markers. The Naytiba are varied, their designs running the gamut from sick as fuck to middling fodder, but the array of gnashing teeth and contorted flesh make for a fun line up of foes. Elsewhere, EVE and the rest of her cohort are excruciatingly beautiful; I don’t personally go in for the jiggle nonsense but the collision of model fidelity and art design in these faces is impressive. Stellar Blade’s stylised sci-fi runs deep, infused into oddities of tech, weapons, costuming, the lot.

Stellar Blade’s character models and designs are gorgeous

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And as much as I’d like to spend this whole preview waxing poetic about Stellar Blade’s specific aesthetic choices and side character Adam’s impossibly perfect face, none of this really means much if the game’s core combat can’t keep up. Early signs, thankfully, indicate that it can. Given the relative brevity of the demo it’s difficult to speak to longevity but Stellar Blade’s combat is immediately arresting and fun to master. It all seems to pivot around your Beta Energy, a pool charged by attacks and parries that activates EVE’s ability to use high-powered attacks, mapped to the face buttons while holding L1. Building this energy through a flurry of basic light and heavy attacks, which can be chained into combos, also depletes a foe’s Balance, effectively weakening posture.

Stellar Blade’s signature visual flare punches up even the simplest combat encounter, though peeling away the initial systems reveals an interlocking and rewarding web. It’s often said of the best FromSoftware experiences that combat feels akin to a dance and EVE’s fluid movements and shifts between perfecting parries and different types of specialised dodges makes for a flow fitting the game’s already banging soundtrack. The initial window on the parry is a little loose for my liking, though this can be mitigated through an extensive skill-tree, but the rest of Stellar Blade’s toolset feels tuned just right. Boss encounters especially (of which the demo seemingly houses two plus an additional rush mode unlocked on completion) draw out the best in the combat, requiring you to deploy several learned move sets within moments of each other. Challenging at times, yes, but never punishing.

Combat is flashy and satisfying so far

At this stage it’s impossible to tell if these systems will hold water over the course of the full game, so anything I can say to balance and skills is subject to change, but the demo is teasing a robust and fun system all the same. This also goes for the game’s narrative, which the demo provides very little hints of beyond the initial set up, though even if Stellar Blade’s writing doesn’t set the world on fire, its confident presentation and eye for dramatic flare should carry you nicely through EVE’s one-woman war for Earth. The demo also allows for basic exploration, swimming and diving for loot chests, awkwardly manoeuvring objects for platforming, and some simple lock solving for good measure. Compared to combat and overall aesthetics, this downtime is fairly unremarkable, though later stages will seemingly allow for faster traversal and more interesting means of engagement with the open-zoned world.

While all too brief, Stellar Blade’s first hands-on impressions retain the impressive, sicko-magnet energy of its first trailers. If it all hangs together as well as we hope, Stellar Blade is set to be one of the best action titles of the year.

Stellar Blade releases for the PlayStation 5 on April 26

Previewed on PS5 // Preview code supplied by publisher

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Written By James Wood

One part pretentious academic and one part goofy dickhead, James is often found defending strange games and frowning at the popular ones, but he's happy to play just about everything in between. An unbridled love for FromSoftware's pantheon, a keen eye for vibes first experiences, and an insistence on the Oxford comma have marked his time in the industry.

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