Stellar Blade Review-In-Progress: Pretty Shallow

Stellar Blade Review-In-Progress: Pretty Shallow

I haven’t played enough Stellar Blade to commit to a full review yet. Sorry. I’ve been horrendously busy lately, and time got away from me. I also feel like this review may run against the grain of popular opinion. I guess we’ll see when the embargo is up. I’m not actually trying to be contrarian here, just honest.

The few hours I’ve spent with Stellar Blade have left me with mixed feelings. Visually and technically, it’s a fireworks display. Again and again, a hundred different systems collide on screen to create a visual spectacle that made my jaw drop. The game itself, however, is a fairly by-the-numbers RPG brawler with Eve, a doe-eyed ingenue at its centre. For me, this is the central hurdle the game struggles to clear: it feels committed to its aesthetic ahead of its design.

Eve has a little robot friend that floats around with her providing exposition on demand. Eve is kind of a dimwit, blissfully unaware of how the world around her works. She’s good at hitting guys with a sword, though. The exposition robot seems to feel that’s sufficient and who am I to argue?

The game’s opening hours see Eve moving through a destroyed city and slicing up a selection of From Software’s body horror cast-offs. Indeed, it spends a lot of time trying to emulate the Souls (or rather, Sekiro) formula, with (for me) uneven results. The RPG-like abilities screen used for building out Eve’s moveset is taken directly from games like Final Fantasy, the now-standard web of moves connected by Upgrade Pearls. Eve’s got a few different attack types to choose from — basic attacks, beta skills (which are heavy wallops on a cooldown), ranged attacks with her gun arm, and burst attacks (which are acrobatic Devil May Cry-style finishers).

Its combat hasn’t really grabbed me yet. It’s certainly flashy, but it isn’t connecting for me in the way I’d hoped. I know people who love the combat, and I fully expect to be in the minority on this particular point. In the very early stages, it reminded me a lot of Heavenly Sword on the PS3 — a game so similar that even their titles are a little too close for comfort.

Even the platforming sections leave a lot to be desired. I’ve frequently had to run sections multiple times because Eve won’t complete the actions I ask of her. I feel like all her movements are exaggerated just enough to make precision platforming a handful. Just swing across the gap when I hurl you at it, Eve! I know you’re a bit of a dim bulb, but you can figure this out. I believe in you, mate. This has made exploration more of a chore than anything else. The benefit of this is that it’s kept me on the golden path. The downside is that I’m missing a lot of crafting resources because I simply couldn’t be bothered poking around.

With about six or seven hours under my belt, I keep waiting for it to open up and show me something I haven’t seen many times before. It hasn’t happened yet, and I don’t know that it will. None of the ideas I’ve seen so far stretch the bounds of any similar game to release in the last 15 years or so. It’s content to copy everyone else’s homework, and that’s fine, I suppose. I understand that there are people who’ve been putting hundreds of hours into the demo? I’m afraid I’m just not sure what they see in Stellar Blade. I’m going to keep playing, though. Maybe it gets more interesting with more of the latter upgrades unlocked. I really do want it to click for me, so I’ll persevere and update this review once I’m done with it.

Review-in-progress conducted on PlayStation 5 with an pre-launch review code provided by the publisher.

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