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Stellar Blade Previews Say It's More Sekiro Than Bayonetta

Screenshot: YouTube / Shift Up / Kotaku
Screenshot: YouTube / Shift Up / Kotaku

A free demo for Stellar Blade, developer Shift Up’s character-action PS5 exclusive, will go live on March 29. Ahead of its imminent release, some gaming publications got early hands-on time with roughly two hours of the game, which contains the first level and its respective boss. Based on everything that’s being said from these previews, it sounds like Stellar Blade is going to be a stellar release when it drops on April 26.

That’s because our perception of the game might be all wrong. Instead of something closer to Bayonetta or Devil May Cry, action games that are more about rhythmically offensive attack strings, the Stellar Blade previews suggest that it’s more in line with games like God of War Ragnarok, Nier: Automata, and even FromSoftware titles such as Dark Souls and Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. There’s still some PlatinumGames-isms in the DNA of Shift Up’s upcoming PS5 exclusive. However, it sounds like what we’re getting is a much more methodical affair, one that requires a bit of patience and thought as you journey through its world. And I’m stoked, especially since all of the previews I’ve read thus far seemingly land on the same consensus: Stellar Blade could breathe new life into the action game genre.

So, without further ado, let’s get into what folks are saying about Stellar Blade.


Digital Trends

Stellar Blade doesn’t hold players’ hands, but it will reward patience. Eve can block, dodge, and parry attacks, but the window to perform the latter two options is much smaller than in a game like Rise of the Ronin. In a sense, the combat feels more like something you’d experience in a Soulslike game rather than a straight action game. In fact, Stellar Blade has its own version of bonfires. These are checkpoints that will resurrect all of the enemies you’ve defeated when activated, just like in a Souls game.

Game Informer

Stellar Blade’s combat is flashy in all gameplay footage to date, with Eve pulling off pre-determined moves and throwing the titular Stellar Blade into the air while her long hair twirls around the action, but those impressive animations don’t explain what players are doing moment-to-moment. Eve can learn various combos, but it’s not the kind of action game where you are memorizing a series of useful inputs and trying to execute the right ones at the right moments. Every encounter begins with the decision of going in offensively or defensively. Enemies will not wait for Eve to make a move, and she can defend, parry, or use evasive maneuvers. Countering enemies will put them in a groggy state, which opens the window to use combos or “Beta Skills,” as [game director Hyung-Tae] Kim and [technical director Dong-Gi] Lee refer to them. “There is also what’s called the Balance Gauge, and if you succeed in consecutive parrying, you can deal a huge blow to the enemies,” Kim says. “Other combat options include assassination, ranged attacks, and more, depending on the situation.”

Games Radar

There’s a variety of dodges, too, with several attached to Sekiro-like color-coded attacks. Dodge forward for blue attacks, dodge back for purple attacks, dodge anywhere for unblockable yellow attacks, and perfect-dodge anything else to trigger a red slow-time effect that can chain into follow-up hits. The special dodges sound and feel fantastic to pull off, giving some fights a rhythmic tempo that thrums along with the battle music. However, the normal dodge is so unbelievably unreliable that I’ve just been parrying everything instead. It feels like Eve dodges one half-step out of the way and has approximately two frames of invincibility. I’m hoping that some skill tree upgrades will fix this, but until then it’s a parry carry for me.

IGN

At a certain point in the game, Eve will become able to use a long-range gun-type weapon as well. Shooting projectiles from an over-the-shoulder camera perspective makes it feel like a typical third-person shooter. While melee combat remains the main focus, some instances require the use of your gun in order to advance, and apparently some stages are designed for this weapon, but I didn’t get to play any of those stages.

Push Square

While it will initially feel like your fingers are overcome with options, finding the rhythm is refreshing and satisfying. It’s hard to draw direct comparisons, because the gameplay relies on timing much more than something like Elden Ring, but it also doesn’t quite have the same kind of combo-based combat as a Devil May Cry. Perhaps the closest point of reference is a release like God of War Ragnarok, where timing those parries perfectly is so important in the tougher boss battles. In between all of the action, you’ll be exploring an abandoned Earth, which still harbours the remnants of humanity, among all of the destruction unleashed by its alien invaders. The visual presentation is absolutely stunning, and it’s enhanced by excellent use of the DualSense controller, which conveys the subtle pitter-patter of raindrops through the pad—as well as the clash of steel when you snag those aforementioned perfect parries.

Screenrant

Trailers have teased several costumes, locations, and enemies that Eve will encounter as she works to free Earth from the mysterious Naytibas. The game’s first level is a good indication that Shift Up is more than capable of creating a fair and engaging action experience that effectively borrows features from action games that have set a high bar. If Stellar Blade keeps the momentum that builds throughout the demo, Shift Up may raise that bar with its first complete game.


I don’t know about you, but all of this has me pretty stoked for Stellar Blade. It sounds like Shift Up has been quietly cooking in the kitchen, taking in techniques from its contemporaries while mixing in its Korean flavorings to offer something deliciously familiar that’s reinterpreted through the studio’s distinct skillset. Of course, this is all based on roughly two hours with the game. The full release could bear out something completely different, but for now, it’s really sounding like Stellar Blade could be the PlayStation 5 exclusive we’ve been waiting for. I’m so ready to find out when Stellar Blade lands on April 26.


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