Stellar Blade is a unique project. The studio, which had previously been developing and supporting mobile games with monetization inherent in this platform, suddenly releases a game in not only a new genre for itself, but also on a different platform and without micropayments. The most recent examples I can think of are the wonderful Dave the Daver from Nexon’s subsidiary (play it, by the way, it’s great) and The Day Before, which is better not to mention at all.

Game Stellar Blade
Genre action/adventure
Platforms PlayStation 5
Languages English
Developer Shift Up
Publisher Sony Interactive Entertainment

The reasons for such an adventure for the studio can be called both portfolio diversification and the desire to reach new markets and audiences. However, in my opinion, it’s much simpler than that. In an interview, Hyung Tae-Kim, the founder of Shift Up, admitted that after completing NieR: Automata, he was so inspired that he set out to create something similar.

“I was so inspired by NieR: Automata that it’s hard to single out any one aspect. There are so many fascinating elements in the game. I was struck by the image of a strong female warrior in a devastated world left by its inhabitants. I was also impressed by the quality of the narrative. I really enjoyed playing the game, and of course I saw all the endings coming. However, because Mr. Yoko’s talent as a storyteller is exceptional, I knew I couldn’t make the story as flawless as this.” says Hyun Tae-Kim.


“Sweet Liberty, my arm!”

Stellar Blade wastes no time in getting you started. After a short video, you play as EVE, a member of the elite Seventh Airborne Squadron, and find yourself on Earth, which has been invaded by Neytib monsters. In a matter of minutes, your unit is completely destroyed, and the mission to destroy the Elder Neytib falls on your fragile shoulders.

At some point during the introductory level, the player may think, “Okay, wait, the future, landing on an Earth with no humans and invaded by a hostile race. It’s been done before!”. And he’ll be absolutely right, because the game is very much like NieR: Automata. If you’ve played the Yoko Taro game, then from the heroine’s appearance and background music to certain plot tropes, it sometimes seems that Stellar Blade was developed using a template. And this is not so far from the truth.

Stellar Blade pays homage to the best genres and projects in these genres, if not borrowing them. In addition to the already mentioned plot tropes and general premises from NieR, there are borrowings from the Dark Souls series (where else) and God of War, Dead Space, and Uncharted 2. There are also nods to other media. For example, on the all-yellow EVE suit you can clearly read the inscription KILL KILL.

It seemed that with such a crazy mix of borrowings and allusions to the best games of the last 20 years, Stellar Blade should be a complete mess, but it’s far from it. You can enjoy the game, but with a note “when the game mechanics work”.


Death by a Thousand Cuts

Stellar Blade’s gameplay can be described as a hodgepodge of all games in the genre. From Sekiro, the focus is on parrying and reacting to enemies’ special attacks. From God of War, there is a set of special attacks – four basic and four additional ones. The enemies have a balance indicator – from a few points for small nethers to eight or more for bosses. To reduce the balance, you need to clearly repel attacks, each parry removes one point of balance from the enemy. After it drops to zero, EVE can deliver a super attack, which, although it doesn’t do much damage, looks impressive.

Animations, especially those of additional skills, also look impressive. One of which, for example, literally pierces the entire screen with dozens of blades and, after a short pause, causes damage to enemies. Something similar happened in Devil May Cry, by the way…

However, to use the skill, you need a resource – local energy – that needs to be generated by successfully parrying or dodging attacks at the right time. And this is where I started having problems.

On the one hand, the design of the enemies is a bit confusing, especially the neutibus with tentacles and other organs instead of limbs. Sometimes it’s just not clear what the enemy is doing – whether it’s trying to hit you or just scratching its own back.

On the other hand, there are some incomprehensible “windows” for deflecting attacks and dodging, or inconsistent animations of enemies. If you’re used to the mathematically precise parry systems in From Software or Platinum Games, Stellar Blade will feel strange at least.

There is also a lot of roughness in EVE movements. Running around in the local deserts is fun, but at times when you need precision jumps to complete platforming episodes, you have to fight with the gamepad. Most of my deaths in the game were caused by accidental falls, because EVE literally “skidded” on the turns.

In general, the word roughness can describe most of the game elements of Stellar Blade. The feeling that the game lacks something does not leave until the end. The developers either didn’t have enough time to polish everything or experience.

Probably realizing that players would be annoyed, the developers did not add any penalties for death. You simply resurrect at the last “bonfire” without losing any experience or resources.



The main mission of the Seventh Airborne Detachment, to which EVE belongs, is to kill Elder Neytib. Of course, even as the only survivor of the squad, EVE did not give up. She is assisted by Adam, one of the few people on Earth who have rallied in the last city in the middle of the desert, and Lily from the Third Airborne Detachment, who has been lying in her capsule since the landing.

And to be honest, it would be better if they didn’t help.

All the characters in the game, from EVE itself to the merchants, are very poorly written and very poorly voiced. The absence of any emotional background in most of them could be explained by the plot, but Lily is just too overacted.

Any interaction between EVE, Adam, and Lily has no meaning and ends in nothing. And the worst part is that you can’t skip any of it. Dialogues during additional tasks can still be sped up a bit, but you’ll have to watch all the cutscenes in full.

Boss battles make up for it. In order to find the Elder Neytib, you need to collect cores from the Alpha Neytib. Battles with them and other elite enemies are the best thing about the game. Unfortunately, Stellar Blade is not very generous in this aspect – there are just over a dozen bosses, and you will meet most of the Alphas only at the end of the game.

Also, two missions in the middle of the game dilute the gameplay quite well, in which EVE’s radar and sword do not work and she finds herself locked on a space station in an underground bunker with a bunch of mutants. Stellar Blade doesn’t turn into a horror, but be prepared to be attacked from almost every corner.


The first pancake is gone

Despite the fact that most of the material was spent on criticizing the game, I can’t say that it’s bad. Of course, when you play something for review, the focus is on noticing all aspects – from pros to cons, references and borrowings. Stellar Blade is not a project where you need to do that.

At the moments when you can turn off your brain and just explore the game’s open locations in search of something interesting to meditative music, Stellar Blade is good, and most importantly, it’s not boring. “Yes, and here’s what’s behind that stone, and here we have an oasis, oh, you can go fishing, and here’s another loot.” Although the world of Stellar Blade is empty of emotions and interesting characters, it is filled with secrets and various mechanics.

The combat system may not be as flawlessly polished as we would like, but it has its advantages, especially in terms of the use of skills and how battles look in dynamics.

And we shouldn’t dismiss the context. For Shift Up, this is the first game of this format. It is clear that the developers have made every effort and tried to create the game they like.

I hope that Hyung Tae-Kim will find his Yoko Taro and in the second part, if there is one, they will be able to fix the mistakes of the original and we will get another great series of action games.