Preview: Stellar Blade Is the PS5 Exclusive Enthusiasts Have Been Praying For 1
Image: Push Square

If you were raised on a diet of Japan Studio oddities and quirky PlayStation published exclusives, then Stellar Blade is the game you’ve been praying for. Developed by Korean studio Shift Up – the infamous outfit behind the wildly popular smartphone shooter NIKKE: Goddess of Victory – this single player PS5 console exclusive feels like it’s stepped straight out of the PS3 era, and we mean that in the most positive possible way.

You play as Eve, a top-heavy tough girl in a skin-tight latex outfit. Set in a post-apocalyptic sci-fi future, where Earth has been conquered by an aggressive alien race named the Naytiba, you represent one of humanity’s few remaining hopes – and you have all of the acrobatic acumen to overcome the odds against your intergalactic enemies.

Enormously inspired by anime, the demo – which documents the opening hours of the campaign, and will be available for everyone to play from 29th March – is stylish to a fault. It opens with a fleet of pods descending on Earth, as Eve and her allies spring an attack on their Naytiba nemeses. This beach scene is seriously impressive, as buildings collapse, space ships soar overhead, and trees wilt in the wind.

Preview: Stellar Blade Is the PS5 Exclusive Enthusiasts Have Been Praying For 3
Image: Push Square

While the Japanese-style character designs may lead you to believe this is a character action game akin to Bayonetta and Devil May Cry, the combat is actually much more deliberate than that. While it doesn’t have the stamina system of Dark Souls, you’re forced to play cautiously, as hammering the attack button will consign you to an early grave.

The gameplay, in these opening exchanges, relies heavily on counter-attacking with perfect parries. You need to read the movements of your opponents, and react appropriately. Timing your guard just right will lead to a perfect parry, and sometimes you’ll need to chain these in quick succession. It’s rhythmic and challenging, but it feels sublime when you get it right, and we can already imagine the “pro level” gameplay streams that are going to come out of this.

Each time you successfully execute a perfect parry, you’ll remove a point from your opponent, and when these are all gone, you’ll stagger them. This is the perfect opportunity to unleash a flurry of attacks, including your Beta abilities, which recharge each time you execute an offensive action. While these represent the core systems in the game, there’s a lot more going on under the hood.

Preview: Stellar Blade Is the PS5 Exclusive Enthusiasts Have Been Praying For 7
Image: Push Square

Indeed, it’s clear that combat will be dramatically different at the end of Stellar Blade than it is at the beginning. A robust skill tree, filled out by earning and spending Skill Points, teases Street Fighter-style depth. For example, coloured attacks from your opponents can be countered by pushing forward and dodging when Eve’s sword glows, enabling you to get in behind your enemies and follow up with mass damage. You can also perform perfect dodges, by tapping out of the way at the right moment.

While it will initially feel like your fingers are overcome with options, finding the rhythm is refreshing and satisfying. It’s hard to draw direct comparisons, because the gameplay relies on timing much more than something like Elden Ring, but it also doesn’t quite have the same kind of combo-based combat as a Devil May Cry. Perhaps the closest point of reference is a release like God of War Ragnarok, where timing those parries perfectly is so important in the tougher boss battles.

In between all of the action, you’ll be exploring an abandoned Earth, which still harbours the remnants of humanity, among all of the destruction unleashed by its alien invaders. The visual presentation is absolutely stunning, and it’s enhanced by excellent use of the DualSense controller, which conveys the subtle pitter-patter of raindrops through the pad – as well as the clash of steel when you snag those aforementioned perfect parries.

Preview: Stellar Blade Is the PS5 Exclusive Enthusiasts Have Been Praying For 9
Image: Push Square

The excellent presentation extends to the audio soundtrack too, which improves on Shift Up’s stunning work on NIKKE: Goddess of Victory, with a soaring vocal soundtrack that will have you bobbing your head. You unlock camps as save points throughout the campaign, and each of these has a record player which allows you to simply stop and enjoy the music away from all of the chaos of your main mission.

The only thing we’re not so keen on is the English dub, which feels detached and lacks emotion. Fortunately, you can switch the talking to the game’s native Korean, and the actors put in a much more meaningful performance here. We suppose the options should be appreciated above all else, so if you really can’t get on with the English voice acting, you can toggle it from the main menu at any time you like.

We’re impressed overall, though. Stellar Blade is not quite the game we were expecting – it’s more difficult and deliberate than we’d anticipated based on the key art. But it’s clear there’s a dense combat system at play here, and it’s backed up by a beautifully rendered world and some authentically anime cutscene direction. Most importantly, this feels like the type of game fans have been demanding from PlayStation for a while: original, single player-centric, and gameplay focused. Next month can’t come quick enough.

Preview: Stellar Blade Is the PS5 Exclusive Enthusiasts Have Been Praying For 4
Image: Push Square

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You’ll be able to try out Stellar Blade’s demo for yourself on 29th March. Any progress you make in the demo will transfer across to the full game. Will you be giving Shift Up’s console debut a stab? Somersault into the comments section below.