Stellar Blade review: Supreme sci-fi slashing

Stellar Blade is a strong sci-fi action adventure, even if its story leaves a bit to be desired.


After spending the last decade developing mobile games, SHIFT UP is looking to forge a new path for itself with Stellar Blade, its first console game. Published by PlayStation Studios, this action adventure follows a woman sent back to Earth to reclaim it following a deadly alien invasion. While the story didn’t leave me with much to think about, Stellar Blade’s rich combat system and stunning visuals will firmly place it among this year’s best action games.

EVE’s online

EVE standing in the cockpit of a ship.

Source: PlayStation Studios

In the distant future, a race of violent aliens have invaded the Earth and made it their new home, driving humanity out into space. EVE, a member of the Airborne Squad, is sent back to Earth to reclaim it from the extraterrestrial threat. As EVE explores the desolate, abandoned Earth, she learns more about this race of aliens, their origin, and how the apocalypse came to be.

Stellar Blade’s story looks to spin an interesting mystery about the fall of mankind and the rise of a hostile alien race. While there’s nothing outwardly “bad” about the narrative, I found it to be quite generic and paint-by-numbers. The savior storyline and the “something going on beneath the surface” plot threads never managed to engage me. I found myself wanting to skip cutscenes to get to the next combat encounter, which could also be a testament to how much I enjoyed Stellar Blade’s gameplay.

Humanity’s last hope

The interior of the city Xion in the desert.

Source: PlayStation Studios

I was pleasantly surprised to see how well SHIFT UP executes combat in Stellar Blade. This game is a soulslike, full-stop. I’m talking enemies that respawn when you rest, parry and dodge-based combat, and a small inventory of healing potions that you use sparingly. It’s nothing you haven’t seen before, but we’ve seen over the years that delivering a good soulslike requires more than simply having the familiar mechanics and elements present. SHIFT UP gets it right.

Combat feels deeply satisfying in Stellar Blade. The DualSense lets out small vibrations with each clash, intensifying when you execute a perfect parry or receive a heavy amount of damage. Each enemy type (and boss) has a recognizable pattern that you can study, memorize, and then counter to pull off a wicked chain of moves and abilities.

The animations in Stellar Blade’s combat were the biggest standout for me. Many of EVE’s signature abilities have unique animations that are utterly beautiful to look at. They’re cinematic and give a real sense of weight to battles. Even with enemies, there are a lot of clever tricks that SHIFT UP uses to clue you into when you can and can’t perform specific counter maneuvers. This includes the enemy glowing different colors to indicate their next attack type, or EVE’s sword radiating light for just a second to let the player know they can execute a counterattack. Games of this genre can often feel cheap or unfair with how they treat the player, but Stellar Blade gives you all the tools to take challenges head-on.

A large creature beneath the glare of the sun.

Source: PlayStation Studios

I adored the boss fights in Stellar Blade. Partly because I enjoyed seeing all the gnarly alien designs that SHIFT UP concocted, but also because they felt like challenges that distinctly focused on what I had learned throughout the preceding level. Quick-time events are present but kept to a minimum, and it never felt like the game was cheating me when I had to take on the same boss multiple times.

Between battles, you’ll visit camps, where you can rest, buy items, and unlock new skills. You also need to spend Vitcoins to “activate” a camp, further adding to the need to carefully manage resources even outside of combat.

As you progress through Stellar Blade and unlock more gear for EVE, you’ll find pieces that enhance her strength and durability as well as provide unique stat boosts. I spent a lot of time mixing and matching gear before I settled on a set that fit my playstyle.

While SHIFT UP does a solid job at spacing out Stellar Blade’s combat encounters, I found the interstitial moments to be a bit rote. There are recurring platforming segments where you have to swing between bars or scale walls, and these segments usually feel like monotonous busy work rather than challenging and engaging environmental puzzles.

From the stars

EVE looking up at something off screen.

Source: PlayStation Studios

Stellar Blade ran buttery smooth on my PS5 aside from some slight hiccups when resting at camps. The game is gorgeous, which is often highlighted by close-up shots of EVE or her adversaries during cutscenes. You can see and feel the environment react to EVE as she moves through it, further immersing you in the world.

While the music of Stellar Blade doesn’t always match the bleak post-apocalyptic setting, I quite enjoyed the original tunes featured. There’s a fine blending of somber songs, K-Pop sounds, and rhythmic tracks that accompany my adventure through a desolate Earth. Bonus points for the record player at camps that allow you to skip songs without having to open a menu.

A successful shift

EVE standing on a cliff, looking out at a city in the distance.

Source: PlayStation Studios

Not only has SHIFT UP successfully established itself as a formidable console game developer, but it has provided PS5 players with a worthwhile AAA action game in a year that’s set to be exceptionally quiet for Sony’s first-party studios. Stellar Blade might not pack a narrative punch, but it’s a competent soulslike with satisfying combat and mechanics that make it an exciting challenge from beginning to end.

This review is based on a PS5 code provided by Sony Interactive Entertainment. Stellar Blade launches for PS5 on April 26, 2024.

News Editor

Donovan is a young journalist from Maryland, who likes to game. His oldest gaming memory is playing Pajama Sam on his mom's desktop during weekends. Pokémon Emerald, Halo 2, and the original Star Wars Battlefront 2 were some of the most influential titles in awakening his love for video games. After interning for Shacknews throughout college, Donovan graduated from Bowie State University in 2020 with a major in broadcast journalism and joined the team full-time. He is a huge Scream nerd and film fanatic that will talk with you about movies and games all day. You can follow him on twitter @Donimals_

Review for
Stellar Blade
  • Clever use of soulslike mechanics
  • Combat is equally challenging and satisfying
  • Engaging boss battles
  • Catchy soundtrack
  • Generic story
  • Platforming sequences are monotonous
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