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Stellar Blade reviews roundup: Critics love the gameplay and action, but not the story

Stellar Blade, the debut work from South Korea-based Shift Up, launches on April 26. The highly anticipated release is preceded by a wave of mostly positive reviews that began publishing April 24.

Though most say this is a good game, few find it to be a breakthrough or transformative work, despite the pre-release clamor from PlayStation fans.

Taking a look at eight major sites’ appraisals of Stellar Blade, the consensus seems to be that the gameplay — particularly its combat — is where Stellar Blade and its heroine, Eve, shine the most. Nearly all of them found the story and characters dull or underdeveloped, or both, though they diverged on how much this disappointed the rest of the game for them.

Taken together, it seems critics take a positive view of what already looks like a crowd pleaser thanks to some impressive demo download figures. But it might also be that Stellar Blade is more of a popcorn flick than a cult hit, but also not something that shows up on a list of nominees later in the year.

Stellar Blade, published by Sony Interactive Entertainment, is a PlayStation 5 exclusive. Metacritic currently gives it an 82 score based on 98 reviews. The scores below are normalized to a 10-point scale.

IGN

IGN reviewer Mitchell Saltzman enjoyed Stellar Blade’s visuals, gameplay and combat, saying it lives up to its inspiration in Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. But the story arcs, minimal role-playing, and lack of character development gave little reason for players to immerse themselves in the sci-fi adventure.

Praised: “Thankfully, the most important part of an action game is the action itself, and Stellar Blade checks pretty much all of the boxes when it comes to its combat. It’s smoothly animated, challenging, satisfying, has a healthy amount of enemy variety, and while there’s a lot of depth, it never became overwhelming in what it demanded of me.”

Panned: “Both its story and characters lack substance, and some of its RPG elements are poorly implemented, like dull sidequests that very often reuire you to retrace your steps through previous levels with very little done to make the return trip feel unique or rewarding.”

Score: 7 out of 10

Eve and her companion face each other, in the background a set of stairs leads up to a futuristic looking chamber whose door is glowing blue.

Gamespot

GameSpot’s Imran Khan likewise felt Stellar Blade’s story and inscrutable character motivation poorly served a visual style and gameplay reminiscent of standout titles like Bayonetta and Nier Automata. Khan doesn’t feel the game reaches those heights, “but that it attempts to do so without falling on its face is remarkable enough.”

Praised: “Gameplay is bolstered by an interesting and exciting combat system that leans heavily on parries and dodges at its corefoundation. Far from a combofest, Stellar Blade puts meat on the bones by feeding all your actions in battle into ultra-powerful special moves.”

Panned: On pacing, “the problem is that individual sections of the game are entirely too long. […] Things that should feel like set pieces you are meant to tear through start to feel overlong in their execution […] In that sense, it is often like Stellar blade wants to have its pacing both ways.”

Score: 8 out of 10

Game Informer

Matt Miller of Game Informer gave Stellar Blade a Game Informer must-play badge, acknowledging the game’s “convoluted and predictable” story but finding the game’s “unusual pace and flow” to be quite enjoyable.

Praised: “The further I played into Stellar Blade, the more it surprised me with the depth of its action and the breadth of play experiences. The story never clicked for me, but the world-building, top-notch art, and silky animation certainly did.”

Panned: “Eve is mostly a blank slate of a character, and it’s disappointing that we see so little character development throughout her lengthy adventure.”

Score: 8.75 out of 10

promotional image of Stellar Blade showing hero Eve centered, striking a combat pose with her hip thrust out

The Verge

The Verge’s Ash Parrish noted the same disparity between story and gameplay, but found that disparity more harmful to one’s enjoyment of Stellar Blade than some of the more forgiving reviews.

Praised: Parrish found the opening acts of Stellar Blade to be “impossibly dull” to the point she “very seriously considered quitting altogether.” But the gameplay saved the game: “Enemies, even basic ones, got frustratingly hard to the level I would expect in a soulslike,” meaning this is what she wanted from combat. “Once the game gets going (which can take anywhere from five to seven hours) […] regular enemy fights are much harder and much more engaging than some bosses.

Panned: “The platforming sucks and there’s way too much of it. […] Unlike combat where you at least learn something when you die, platforming in Stellar Blade felt more like muddling your way through awful, much-too-long sections until you finally figure out exactly what the game is asking you to do.”

Score: The Verge does not score its reviews.

Stellar Blade's hero, Eve, seen in profile gazing rightward at something off-screen

Other review scores and critics’ comments

Polygon: “The rip-roaring opening and rollercoaster of a final act make up for the padded middle that, combined with a lack of combat variety, stops the game short of true excellence.” (Unscored)

GameRant: “The near-naked main character is unsurprisingly stealing a lot of attention, but remove that element from the equation and what’s left is an absolutely incredible action game that provides a satisfying challenge and rewarding melee combat.” (9, or 4.5 of 5 stars)

GamesRadar: “Repetition dulls its world, a few lovable characters can’t stop the story from losing steam, and annoying inconsistencies in its most core mechanics keep Stellar Blade from true greatness.” (7, or 3.5/5 stars)

PC Magazine: “Tight defensive systems, excellently designed enemies and bosses, a fascinating setting, and bombastic character designs combine to produce a PS5 game that earns our Editor’s Choice award. Action fans shouldn’t miss it.” (9, or 4.5 of 5 stars)

Images via PlayStation.com