Stellar Blade review – style over substance

Stellar Blade review – style over substance
Jack Webb Updated on by

Video Gamer is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Prices subject to change. Learn more

If you can’t recall a time you played a solid and fun action game, you’re not alone. With such a common genre, it is rare to find one that does it well, and if you take just the combat and the music from Stellar Blade, you’ve got a fantastic game. Sadly, this is not the whole package. While I want to give Stellar Blade endless praise for its truly, phenomenally fun combat; the art direction, story, characters, and world are all painfully bland and poorly presented that it’s hard to like anything outside of the fighting.

Stellar Blade’s combat is weighty, fluid, and extremely satisfying, even if the movement feels slow. The animations for the attacks and skills are brilliant and the visual effects are almost perfect; subtle crackles of electricity dance around after you parry an attack while awesome visuals and slow-mo play on-screen when you dodge. It’s never too flashy or distracting and strikes a delicate balance between being visually wonderful and demonstrating how weighty and impactful your attacks are.

Something I found especially impressive about the combat in Stellar Blade is the excellent flow of attacking vs. defending, which gives you several ways to tackle fights. You can parry to reduce an enemy’s Balance, or you can string together fabulous combos and stop them from acting. Enemies give you time to react and choose accordingly, and when the enemy acts, you can adapt on the fly with skills, dodges, items, or brute strength.

stellar blade review - eve parrys an attack.
Boss fights are fun and you can use several tools to take them down. Image by VideoGamer

The fact you have options and you can use them if you want gives you tons of freedom and meaningful, viable choices to make in fights which is seldom seen in action games. Whether you’re crafting together combos or just gawking at the slick animations, Stellar Blade truly has some of the most satisfying combat around.

“It is truly astonishing what a peppering of decent vocals, piano, and violin can do to enhance a game and this is done exceptionally well here”.

When there is a parry/deflection system in a game, more often than not, developers will create attacks designed to trick you, parry too early, and take the hit. This is manifested with awkwardly long wind-up attack animations or having an enemy hold unnaturally before swinging. While this is somewhat present in Stellar Blade, the combat is not designed around it. Instead, Fights are fun, weighty, and creative, not designed to trick you into cheap deaths for the sake of it. 

Not-so Stellar Blade

However, it’s not a stretch to say that the only things I found redeemable about Stellar Blade are the combat and the music. All I can say about the story is it’s certainly there, and I don’t care about it even a little. As soon as the game started, I already found it difficult to get invested in the characters and the story Stellar Blade is trying to tell when it’s selling itself the way it is. The main character, EVE, is two-dimensional and the supporting characters are wholly forgettable and dull.

stellar blade review: Eve, Lily, and Adam in the Tetrapod spaceship during a cutscene.
The main characters in Stellar Blade: Lily, EVE, and Adam. Image captured by VideoGamer

The worst thing about Stellar Blade is that if I ever had any semblance of interest in the story, characters or narrative, this was promptly stamped out due to the egregious levels of hyper-sexualisation of EVE. Oh, someone is telling us a story about how the world got destroyed? Well, EVE is standing there in a revealing bunny suit, giving these emotional reactions and trying to make you care about what happens, and it just doesn’t work. Throw in a smattering of weird camera angles and jiggle physics and you’ll realise that Stellar Blade exists as a fan service game.

Granted, outfits don’t change your stats so you can cover EVE up. Stellar Blade also doesn’t take itself too seriously on that front, so if you’re okay with it then that’s fine. On the other hand, I think it’s fair to say that EVE’s design is questionable and she only exists to serve as glorified eye candy at best. There’s nothing wrong with attractive characters, but revealing outfits are the norm for the female characters in Stellar Blade, while the men are covered head-to-toe in what can only be called appropriate clothing.

Stellar Blade plays out in levels. You clear one, move to the next, and then there are large regions and a main town hub to explore. The large regions are areas with fast-travel points while the set levels are more linear. Regardless of the area, each one has places to explore, quests to complete, and more revealing clothing to hunt down.

Exploring a haunting post-apocalyptic world should be intriguing, but Stellar Blade can’t get it right. Due to the way the levels flow – with re-used enemies, similar encounters, and poor storytelling – it struggles to create an enjoyable sense of exploration and is more tedious than anything else. This is especially true in the larger regions, where they throw the same enemies at you with tons of HP at every turn. These large regions suffer the most from aimless and monotonous exploration thanks to a lack of enemy variety and re-used boss fights.

Something about the design of the levels is unintuitive, and it’s probably because they expect you to return to them later. Sometimes you can’t do something early on and there’s no explanation as to why you can’t. The reality of the quests and the backtracking is you will frequent the same regions, but each time, you have already been down the road it takes you, leading to the same uninspired exploration.

One thing you may notice about Stellar Blade is it borrows aggressively from Nier. But the thing is, it does it well. I think the soundtrack and the music are one of the few saving graces of Stellar Blade. Dynamic combat themes rise and fall, while ethereal lyrics blend to make a fantastic experience. It is truly astonishing what a peppering of decent vocals, piano, and violin can do to enhance a game and this is done exceptionally well here.

Stellar Blade review- EVE looks over the Wasteland area
Some areas, such as the Wasteland, act as large hubs you can explore. Image captured by VideoGamer

If you come into this expecting something like Souls or Bayonetta, you are going to be disappointed. Stellar Blade will draw comparisons to Souls as it has rest areas and respawning enemies, but it has no stamina system and you can change the difficulty, so Souls shouldn’t even come into the equation. The combat in this game is in its own league, blowing Souls, Nier, and Bayonetta out of the water due to how weighty, satisfying, and stylish it is to perform combos.

Most people will want this game for one reason, and if by that you think I mean ‘it’s a fantastic action game’ then let’s stick with that. Stellar Blade is nothing more than style over substance, but it does the style so very well that this is enough to slog through boring dialogue, bland characters, and the painfully meandering story, just to get another taste of the combat.

stellar blade review: EVE fighting a Naytiba


If you take just the combat and the music from Stellar Blade, you’ve got a fantastic game. Sadly, this is not the whole package.
6 Combat is phenomenally fun and satisfying Absolutely incredibly music and soundtrack Stylish and slick animations Exploration is often unintuitive and tedious Re-used boss fights and encounters Poor story Two-dimensional characters