What is Stellar Blade and why has the game caused so much controversy?

What is Stellar Blade and why has the game caused so much controversy?

Stellar Blade is a PlayStation 5 exclusive game that has caused a bit of a stir.

On the surface it’s an old-school action game that welcomes comparison to the classic Bayonetta action titles. It stars an acrobatic player character, Eve, who can — if the player so chooses — wear skimpy outfits.

This has seen Stellar Blade become both the darling and the target of a group of terminally online gamers who claim the game has become a victim of censorship.

What is the Stellar Blade controversy?

The sorry saga began just before the game was released, when Stellar Blade’s official X account claimed the game would be “uncensored in all countries.” The game has a “17+ Mature” ESRB rating and an 18 rating from PEGI, leaving little reason for the game to be significantly censored in the first place.

Upon release, though, some claim Stellar Blade had indeed been “censored” as part of a day one patch.

This has led to the proliferation of a #freestellarblade hashtag on X, and a petition that currently has more than 55000 signatories.

The petition, and this miniature online movement, is spearheaded by former video game exec Mark Kern. He was co-founder of Red 5 Studios, which produced the now-defunct online multiplayer game Firefall.

Kern can now be found most notably on X, under the username Grummz, tweeting about his dislike for diversity and inclusion in video games.

Was Stellar Blade censored?

The main charge levelled at Stellar Blade is that one of Eve’s costumes has been changed, altering the line of the “Holiday Rabbit” outfit and adding a layer that covers up the character’s cleavage a little.

Developer Shift Up claims this was the final intended version of the costume. It was arguably not the most revealing of Eve’s virtual costumes to start with anyway. But this has not stopped gamers claiming Sony is behind the perceived censorship of the game.

Adding fuel to these rumours, Reddit users claim to have successfully requested a refund for Stellar Blade from Sony, after claiming “false advertising.”

It only takes a relatively small but vocal community to cause a perceived backlash against a game, but in Stellar Blade’s case the acrimony and adulation comes from the same, or a similar, community. As noted by Forbes, the game currently has an incredibly positive 9.2/10 user score on Metacritic, making it at least the third highest-rated PS5 game ever.

It’s only matched by Cyberpunk 2077: Ultimate Edition and DLC Resident Evil 4: Separate Ways, which also have a 9.2/10 rating.

Shift Up recently confirmed that Eve’s figure is modelled after a real-life South Korean influencer named Shin Jae-Eun. Game Director Hyung-Tae Kim said Jae-Eun’s body was scanned for use in the game because it was viewed as the “most attractive looking body” for players.

But not everyone agrees. The developers have been lambasted by some players for focusing on titillation in a bid to court lustful male gamers.

Critics have argued that Eve's physique and outfit are impractical for a soldier, and questioned how effective she would be in combat with such a revealing suit. Conversely, some players have appreciated her striking design or laughed off her gratuitous physique as an industry quirk.

There’s also an entire camp of players who are lauding Shift Up for what they perceive as an unapologetic approach to game development. In reaction to its latest announcement, fans (and probably some social media trolls) applauded the company for not succumbing to online pressure.

The controversy over Stellar Blade comes as the gaming industry fends off accusations of being “woke”. A toxic army of keyboard warriors are accusing some of the biggest hit makers of introducing diversity into video games by stealth. Even Elon Musk has waded into the dispute by claiming that “video games need to get rid of the woke bs”.

The debate was fired up again recently after the release of the latest trailer for female-led adventure Star Wars: Outlaws. As usual, the worst parts of the internet got involved by accusing developer Ubisoft of making intentionally unattractive female characters.