Stellar Blade Demo Review | A slice of spectacle and potential

Estimated read time 5 min read

Stellar Blade is definitely a unique title. It’s a game that has garnered a lot of attention with its flashy trailers and very… interesting character models. Ahead of the game’s release, we got to try a demo build of the game that allowed us to play through up until the first boss of the story. While I would say that, for the most part, I enjoyed my time with it, I also felt that the demo was not a good representation of what the game had to offer. It shows signs of an exhilarating action game but its bogged down by systems that feel underbaked with the limited amount of time we’re given with them. Here’s our Stellar Blade demo review.

The trailers for this game have been, for lack of a better term, stellar. It showcased flashy action with incredible graphics. I thought it was going to be another experience with the likes of Devil May Cry or Bayonetta. Having gotten hands-on with it, I now realize it more or less takes after games like Dark Souls. Or at least, a slightly awkward interpretation of the formula. It doesn’t mean that Stellar Blade is a miss already. Quite the contrary. In the times where the game focuses on the spectacle of the action and the feel of it all, it’s one of the best gameplay experiences of the year. However, it also tries to add in world exploration in the mix that feels a little shallow in its execution.

The game actually kicks off at a high point. Literally. You play as EVE, member of the 7th Airborne Squad. You are hot-dropped into an alien-infested Earth, and it all goes south very quickly. This is where you’re introduced to the main combat mechanics. Stellar Blade is a simple third-person melee action game. You only have one set of light and heavy attacks which you can synergize together for some combos alongside dodges, blocks, and parries. There are also special skills you can use before they go on a quick cooldown. Combat animations are fantastic. Truly. If you’ve seen the trailers, you know what I mean. It is a visual treat, through and through.

If there was one issue I have with it, it’s in how slow it feels in the moment-t0-moment gameplay. Locking onto the enemy forces EVE to just slowly walk, unless you toggle sprint. This significantly throws off any momentum. It also doesn’t help that dodging, blocking, and parrying animations feel like there is a certain delay to them. Some of the enemies, especially the bosses, hit fast and hard and you can only chain together your defensive abilities for a few times until animations have to fully go through and reset, leaving you vulnerable. This can be a result of EVE having little to no upgrades at the beginning because looking at the skill trees, you do get to unlock tiers that feel like should’ve been a default option from the start.

On a brighter note, the presentation in the opening level is spectacular. You are thrusted into the middle of a war that you’re essentially losing, and the environmental visuals go above and beyond to communicate it. The same graphical quality can be said for both the character models (but you already knew that) and the enemies themselves. Stellar Blade is an impressive looking game, all while running on smooth performance. I played it on balanced mode, a nice in between favoring framerate and graphical fidelity, an option which I firmly believe more games on consoles need to have.

The problem with the demo is how it doesn’t do the game’s story any justice. After a great opening, a major turning point forces EVE to progress, but I’m not exactly sure as to why she’s doing it. The next part of the demo sees you exploring a destroyed city. An area in which the visual quality and narrative hooks take a significant nosedive.

In the demo build, exploration isn’t all that rewarding. More or less, you are set to go down a linear path that has a few, very obvious side streets that offer up extra enemies to beat for additional XP or some loot to collect. There are locked doors that you could only open on the other side, revealing a “shortcut” to an area that you really have no reason to come back to. Some of the main doors that you have to go through are unlocked by inputting a code that is just stored at a stone’s throw away. Hopefully, the level design and complexity significantly improve beyond the opening hour.

Once you bet the first boss, a kickass trailer montage, showcasing future events and highlighting what the latter game combat looks like. All of which paint a much more enjoyable experience that the demo build doesn’t really do a good enough job of teasing. As an additional cherry on top, an additional mode gets unlocked in the form of Boss Challenge. This is where you get to fight a slightly harder version of the same one but with more unlocked skills and move sets. It looks, feels, and plays so much better. This answered a lot of the core issues I had.

Stellar Blade continues to be a game that I’m excited for. But only because it has shown what it can be like, and not because the demo build is all that convincing about it. I only hope that when it comes to the full release, it does a lot more at what it’s already so good at: delivering fantastic action, striking visuals, and an intriguing story.

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