Stellar Blade

Review: Stellar Blade

A studio’s first console game can often have the habit of being less than stellar. There’s so much to learn about making a game for consoles the best it can be.

Shift Up’s Stellar Blade is a fantastic example of a robust debut console showing. The South Korean mobile developer known for its battle girl gacha games Destiny Child and Goddess of Victory: Nikke brings us a game worthy of its title’s first part.

Stellar Blade’s Great World Building

Stellar Blades story closely follows the themes of Goddess of Victory: Nikke in the world being catastrophically destroyed and enhanced battle girls being our only hope against evil otherworldly creatures.

In the case of Stellar Blade, humanity went through global warming. It survived and thrived thanks to religious beliefs in technology until those beliefs brought about a reckoning and a war that has left humanity all but destroyed.


The story is not where Stellar Blade shines.

It’s centred around EVE being one-dimensional in her programming to save humanity and ease suffering while she builds a community around herself. There is enough intrigue and a tugging suspicion that something isn’t quite right to keep you going at the surface level.

However  like any good Soulslike game  there’s a compelling, heavily biblical-meets-science narrative of what’s come to pass and what may yet come told through text found throughout your adventure.

Honestly, I can say that the story gripped me best when learning about the Eidos group and how they both saved and doomed humanity. There’s a whole war story told through text logs that found fallen soldiers that hammered home the religious undertones. And the present-day tale will tug at you with feelings that something isn’t quite right.


Stellar Swordplay

Stellar Blade lives up to its name in the combat department with a complex, well-rounded system that is basic with growing intensity and need for skill.

On your initial playthrough, there are two difficulty levels. a Story mode that very much limits the difficulty of enemies for those simply wanting to jump in, and a Normal difficulty that gives you the complete challenge.

Normal will challenge you with combat that is fair but also tough. One thing I found myself disliking is that, unlike a lot of the best Soulslike games, Stellar Blade doesn’t give you the ability to cheese your way through battles.


Sorry… I should probably explain what I mean by cheese. Think of how games like Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order give you the ability to beat the terrifying Rancor by simply climbing and spamming the lightsaber throw ability. It might feel like cheating, but it’s rewarding to find out… it’s cheesing!

Stellar Blade hides its bosses in arenas with little environmental assistance aside from the occasional explosive set piece that deals extra damage, meaning you will have to dive right in.


Success comes in learning the various enemy types in full, pulling out the skills, parrying and dodging in the best way for each situation.

EVE also has a handful of quick-time dodges that trigger animations where she gets the upper hand and exploits a weakness. I can’t begin to tell you how satisfying these skills become. She also has a few base attacks, and combos make her a deadly weapon. Still, as you sink more time into grinding and the primary campaign, you’ll build five skill trees with further combos and triggered skills that allow EVE to slice and shoot through crowds of Naytibas and bossy Alpha Naytibas.


EVE’s build is predicated on health, shields that help protect health, and “Beta,” which is a form of magic point for skills. You can develop her health and Beta from there by finding fallen souls.

Our heroine also has two Exospine slots and four Gear slots. You will unlock these over time. They will give you buffs in attack and defence, ranged attack and more. They are the best way to build EVE out in your image and to your skill level.

In Stellar Blade’s early sections, combat is linear, with the game opting to teach you in the first hours by introducing various enemy types. When you get to the open-world section of the game, combat becomes an exciting mix of enemy pairings to handle, and it’s here that Stellar Blade is at its best.


Stellar Shooting

To the dismay of Adam, EVE can use his accompanying drone as a gun that boasts several different ammo types. 

The base gun functions as an automatic rifle. Fire and electricity ammo help do damage over time. Shotgun bullets and the charged laser are slow but cause chaos if they land. Finally, the stinger missile locks onto multiple targets and provides some distance when you are overwhelmed by combatants.


The gun also has its buffs for those who prefer to do things with distance, but you will be relatively limited in how much ammo you have. 

There are also sections where you’ll find yourself only with your gun, presenting a new layer of intrigue. 

Alpha boss rush

Stellar Blade brings most of its flair in its Alpha Naytiba boss rushes. You’ll encounter eight through your adventure, with a few re-encounters on the way. 

These battles almost always use variation attacks of Naytibas you’ve fought on the way through the rush so that you are ready and warmed up.


The key to success is learning the telegraphed patterns and signs and when to pop off a block instead of dodging so that you can charge Beta.

Keeping up with the satisfaction, there was an Alpha Naytiba type that I couldn’t get the hang of. It had an attack pattern different from what I’d seen up to that point. It took me at least 15 tries to find my opening. But once I found the best chain of blocks to use, I got him down and felt instant excitement.

That excitement at picking up the skills you need to defeat Naytibas and Alpha Naytibas will carry throughout the game as Shift Up has a diverse cast of creatures that present several layers of challenge. 

The Eve of His Creation 

Look, there’s no way around this: EVE is very much a creation of the male gaze.

There has been and will continue to be a lot of discourse around this game.

Kim Hyung Tae wears his battle girl inspirations hard on his sleeves in his art and his previous games. EVE appears to be a Korean version of Yukito Kishiro’s Alita. As that famous ’90s heroine proved, male-created female leads must be as compelling as they are aesthetically pleasing.


In EVE’s case, I will admit to finding her a little one-dimensional sometimes. She grows through interactions at camp with NPC teammates Adam and Lily and becomes part of a community as she develops basecamp Xion. But she never feels fully developed, and her character has much room for improvement. 

I have been playing Stellar Blade with my girlfriend by my side. We’ve discussed how guys shouldn’t be into digital women but how these things happen. We agree that EVE does feel heavily sexualized in terms of outfits, interactions, and camera angles. The lean into EVE taking on the moniker “Angel” felt icky. As my girlfriend said, no woman likes to be called Angel by dudes just hanging around.

Customization of hair, glasses and clothing isn’t too robust and is locked behind progression, which my girlfriend said is terrible I agree with her. She also told me I had to make EVE look like her, which I think I did.

Getting Puzzled

Despite being in rough shape, Stellar Blade‘s representation of Earth is pretty. It’s a planet filled with dry dunes and futuristic ruins that feel unique enough.

However, it shines in its use of puzzles. Along the way, you’ll find basic logic and math puzzles, time trials and platforming puzzles that often hide collectables and keep things interesting.


These give ample breaks and make you feel as good as in battle. For example, my girlfriend and I struck it rich after discovering how a math-based puzzle worked. The satisfaction we shared in feeling like math wizards in one of these games was a huge shared moment. I’d say that was the highlight of our weekend!


With Stellar Blade, Shift Up is making a solid case for being a stand-out console game studio. Who would have imagined a mobile gacha game developer from a country still very much only known for MMOBAs and mobile titles could provide such an incredible first attempt at something larger? Unfortunately, Stellar Blade’s appeal has seemed one-dimensional so far, and its heroine will turn many would-be players off. However, if you get past that, there’s a genuinely spectacular game here.Recommended

[The publisher provided a copy of the game for review purposes.]

Reviewed on: PlayStation 5

Stellar Blade
Review: Stellar Blade
With Stellar Blade, Shift Up really shifts gears into overdrive to create an excellent debut console experience.
Great worldbuilding for those who read
Stellar swordplay that makes you feel so strong
Boss battles are amazing
Love me some puzzles along the way. Even more so when they make me feel smart
Didn't Like
Eve being called Angel and being sexualized feels icky