Stellar Blade Eve
Image via Sony

Preview: Stellar Blade Is a Stealth Soulslike with Strong Potential

Stellar Blade is a game that’s constantly shifted my expectations the more I’ve learned about it. Now that I’ve gotten my hands on its demo, I noticed influences I did not expect.

Recommended Videos

When the game was originally doing the rounds as Project Eve, its trailers suggested a fast-paced, Bayonetta-style, sci-fi romp. Then its presence earlier in 2024 at Sony’s State of Play presentation showed an open world that evoked NieR: Automata. This influence was definitely present in the demo too, with an inevitably traumatic premise about ass-kicking women from space attempting to save an embattled humanity, plus a soundtrack that sounds like rave remixes of Keiichi Okabe’s work. However, what the demo also revealed was how much the game is a stealth Soulslike.

It’s not quite a full Soulslike though. Death feels much less punishing, and the combat system is a lot flashier than the genre usually provides. It feels like Shift Up wanted to dip their toes into the genre without fully committing to it. It’s a Souls-lite then. And as someone who was looking forward to Stellar Blade but also has previously never been able to get into that genre, I think they got the balance exactly where I like it.

Combat is tricky, less button-mashy than I was initially expecting. Enemies can be punishing if you let them, with occasional surprise attack chains and the ability to knock off significant damage. Even the most basic of enemy can stomp you if you’re not prepared. Timings for dodging and blocking are tight, which took a while to get used to. This is a game that encourages mastery of its systems or else you will struggle.

However, combat at this stage in the game felt limited. You have your standard attack and a heavy attack, and you can string combos out of them. But it’s often difficult to get long combos out due to the brutality of the enemies, and there’s little else adding to the combat. The demo featured two Beta Energy moves that needed time to recharge after use. While they were often useful, the charge discouraged a lot of their use plus they were often just a singular big attack.

That said, there were signs that these elements could grow into something significant in the final game. The skill upgrades hinted at improvements to these skills, as well as faster recharge times, which hopefully will help them all live up to their potential in later parts of the game.

Evidence of how much the moves on offer are likely to improve in the final game came with a skill named Blink. I unlocked this shortly before the demo’s final boss encounter, and it was a game changer. Up until this point, a few enemies had hit me hard with a massive desperate attack. While these attacks were possible to dodge, the timing window was tricky to nail. Blink is a move designed to counter these specific attacks, allowing Eve to teleport herself behind the enemy at the right time, dodging the attack and opening them up to a huge combo. Getting to throw it out constantly in the boss fight was incredibly satisfying, and hopefully more moves like this will be added to Eve’s arsenal as the game progresses.

Stellar Blade isn’t just about combat though. This is a semi open world game, with a ruined planet to explore. The environments are gorgeous and interesting to explore. The demo was mostly centered on a single city street full of abandoned pharmacies and bus stations, but even within this limited space, it was clear a lot of care was put into making these areas worth exploring. The promises of more expansive environments in the game’s trailers has me excited if they’re as well-crafted as this small space was.

The climbing aspects of the game were less impressive, however. There were plenty of areas where you could climb around on walls using customary marked handholds, although some of these were hard to spot. In other cases, places that looked climbable were not. Even the act of traversal was lacking, as Eve’s slow speed felt at odds with the swinging animation. I’m a fan of games with fluid movement mechanics, so this felt unpleasantly sluggish to me.

That said, Stellar Blade clearly has a lot to offer. The combat has a solid foundation and there’s enough mechanical complexity hinted at that should evolve it into something truly great over the course of the game. Although whether its story will live up to the heights it’s clearly set with its obvious Nier Automata influence remains to be seen.

Stellar Blade will release for PS5 on April 26, 2024.

Siliconera is supported by our audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn a small affiliate commission. Learn more about our Affiliate Policy
Image of Leigh Price
Leigh Price
Leigh is a staff writer and content creator from the UK. He has been playing games since falling in love with Tomb Raider on the PS1, and now plays a bit of everything, from AAA blockbusters to indie weirdness. He has also written for Game Rant and Geeky Brummie. He can also be found making YouTube video essays as Bob the Pet Ferret, discussing such topics as why Final Fantasy X-2’s story is better than people like to think.