Stellar Blade Demo Impression

The pace of combat is much closer to that of a Soulslike than your typical character action game.

Stellar Blade, developer SHIFT UP’s debut console title, wears its inspirations on its sleeve. From the character design sensibilities and tone of NieR: Automata, to ideas from several other high profile third-person action titles, Stellar Blade aims fairly high. Boasting a robust combat system, gorgeous graphics, and an excellent soundtrack, the only question left in my mind is whether it will be able to stick the landing.

The introduction starts with a literal bang, with main protagonist EVE crashing her pod into the ground and being rescued by her companion Tachy. Both are androids belonging to an unknown faction fighting against alien lifeforms called NA:tives. The tutorial is relatively smooth, slowly introducing the player to the combat system. Eventually, the player reaches a boss fight that they will likely lose, and the player will be teleported to the first real area of the game.

Combat will be familiar to anyone with experience playing action games. Basic attack combos build up to high-damage skills. The game places a high focus on perfect blocks and perfect dodges, forcing the player to learn attack patterns and respond accordingly. In this way, Stellar Blade actually distinguishes itself from NieR: Automata, which is more focused on flashy combos and character builds.

EVE, the main character of Stellar Blade

Outside of the main story demo, the boss challenge mode offers a more challenging boss than the one in the main story, complete with new customization options and costumes for EVE. This challenge reveals that the pace of combat is much closer to that of a Soulslike than your typical character action game. Both bosses present in the demo, the one in boss challenge and the one at the end of the demo, are a proper challenge, so those looking for a game with a bit of teeth, will find themselves covered by Stellar Blade.

From a graphical perspective, Stellar Blade nails almost every aspect. On performance mode the game runs at a smooth 60 FPS, the environments are beautifully rendered, all without sacrificing the responsiveness of the core gameplay. One issue that was encountered is that the character models and faces appear a little uncanny to my eye, but one’s mileage may vary on this aspect. The music, some of which is composed by none other than the one responsible for Nier’s incredible soundtracks, Keiichi Okabe, is a real treat. While only a small slice of what is to come, what is present in the demo matches the tone of the game perfectly.

Where the demo falters a bit is in the narrative department. It doesn’t offer much context as to what is actually going on in the narrative, and I felt a little bit shuffled along through the demo’s few areas as a result. The dialogue is also clunky and awkwardly paced, pulling me out of the experience a few times. The trailer the demo ends on certainly sparked my interest, but the events of the game the demo had to offer are a bit lacking in substance.

The three protagonists of Stellar Blade are missing development in the demo.

This points me to the main worry with Stellar Blade. The developers have gone on record several times citing NieR: Automata as a massive source of inspiration, and it’s easy to see. EVE’s design evokes 2B’s in more ways than one and the setting itself is evocative of Nier in general. As a massive fan of NieR: Automata, these elements are more than welcome. However, NieR: Automata used it’s outward appearance to draw in players and hook them, while then sowing the seeds for an incredible narrative experience.

A certain moment early in the demo is clearly meant to be that hook Stellar Blade is looking for, but without context or more time spent with the involved character character, it’s hard to feel attached enough to care. EVE’s reactions to the situation are understandable, but again so little is known about these characters, so it’s hard to feel anything, especially early on.

It is unclear to me if Stellar Blade will be able to live up to its inspiration, and in some ways that is a bit unfair to the game. If Stellar Blade is able to offer up a solid gameplay experience and an enjoyable narrative, that will be more than enough with the level of production value this game has to offer.

You may also like...

Leave a Reply