stellar blade demo

Stellar Blade Demo Impressions – A Promising Start

Parasite EVE

I’ll admit that Stellar Blade’s debut announcement during a PlayStation Showcase back in 2021, when it was still running under the working title of Project EVE, didn’t immediately land with me. It’s clear that developer SHIFT UP, also responsible for the incredibly horny NIKKE: Goddess of Victory mobile gacha game, was putting its best asset forward from the jump, and while I can appreciate a well-rendered posterior as much as the next person there just wasn’t enough to really sell me on the game part of the game.

Fast forward to Stellar Blade’s most recent State of Play showing, where SHIFT UP very confidently showed off more of the overall tone and gameplay, and suddenly I was all in. Announcing a release date that wasn’t all that far off was the cherry on top for this showing, and I reckon Mission Accomplished as far as building pre-launch hype goes. It gets even better though, with a lengthy playable demo dropping March 30th for every curious onlooker to get their hands on the opening hour or two of the game, and I was lucky enough to get early access to this demo to really dig into what Stellar Blade is trying to achieve.

stellar blade demo

The Stellar Blade demo gives players the full early experience of the game, and it opens quite hot, introducing protagonist EVE as she hurtles toward Earth in an escape pod, her fellow members of the 7th Airborne Squad all but obliterated by an ungodly entity occupying our once peaceful planet. Control is given away to the player quite succinctly and an unplanned beach assault becomes its tutorialised slice of gameplay, hinting that this could be an adventure built mostly on vibes over lengthy exposition, and I’m totally okay with that. The whole intro does give off an air of homage to the likes of NieR Automata, including the musical score, but there’s also a charming 7th-gen quality to it that I’ve missed in recent years

Pre-order on Amazon at a discounted price of $109 with free release day delivery.

This opening introduces the Naytiba, the mysterious and gruesome creatures that have inhabited Earth and are the cause for humanity’s fleeing to the stars, and while there’s very little explanation as to what their origins or biology are at this point they’re at least cool as fuck to look at in a very Parasite Eve/body horror kind of way. And crucially, they’re fun to fight.

stellar blade demo

Something that surprised me initially as soon as I started the demo is how much weightier and more considered Stellar Blade’s combat is. I was fully expecting Bayonetta and instead got a little more Sekiro. There’s a big focus on parries and counter blows, and simply rushing in and mashing attacks will see you fail pretty quickly. It’s not as punishing as a FromSoftware game, but you’re certainly kept on your toes, at least on the standard difficulty setting. EVE’s shield is an interesting wrinkle. While blocking can fully negate damage from an attack, it depletes the shield gauge, and the more empty it is the more damage you take if you don’t manage to block a hit. It means that the more you block, the more you’re at risk, forcing you to keep moving and pressing your foes rather than just guarding and biding your time.

There’s a really nice overall rhythm to combat that, while not as high-octane as I might have expected, still manages to feel really dynamic – even this early on with very few skills unlocked. EVE has special moves, which she can use after filling up a “Beta” gauge through damaging and parrying enemies, and there are at least five skill trees with other abilities and augments to tailor combat further. The best part is the Naytiba themselves, with the demo already featuring at least seven or eight entirely different enemy designs that are both delightfully grotesque in their designs and also all unique in confrontation. An early highlight are the starfish-looking beasties that are able to go completely invisible, but can be seen by using the game’s equivalent of Detective Mode or Eagle Vision – proving that there’s still new utility in a lot of the design tropes that the game cribs from its peers.

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stellar blade demo

Stellar Blade’s mostly-linear level design seems to speak to the same inspirations as its combat, with the demo’s main featured stage offering a jaunt through a ruined city that’s fairly straightforward with some scope for added exploration and optional gameplay. There’s a bit of light platforming, climbing and environmental puzzles to engage with between combat and as areas open up you’ll be opening new routes back and forth to make puzzling out every last secret a bit faster and easier – though the game loves to throw a surprise enemy at you from around corners or near treasures, which got me almost every time.

A lack of patience with my own failures is a big reason I struggle to get into “soulslikes,” so seeing Stellar Blade’s camps for the first time – spots where EVE can recover her health and healing items as well as spend points on new skills – did give me some pause. And while using these does reset general enemy mobs there’s no punishing respawn mechanic in place where dying robs you of items and sends you packing to the most recent camp. Instead, there are regular checkpoints which give you a full heal and take nothing in return for your new shot at life. Larger rest spots also exist that allow for even further upgrades and crafting, as well as fast travel to other camps. The demo culminates in a pretty exciting boss fight that looks and feels quite Souls-y, though none of this really gives away how the game itself is structured and how this segment of the game will flow into the next.

stellar blade demo

Stellar Blade feels well-tuned to be approachable and still offer a challenge (there’s an easy difficulty if need be), and overall it’s quite slick. Visually, it’s an interesting one. It looks nice and performs well with three different performance levels to pick from that are essentially a 30FPS mode, a 60FPS mode and something in-between, with the latter being the way I played. Artistically it’s got that very “2000/10s anime fuck dolls in high-res environments” thing going on, which will or won’t be your bag, but I genuinely think I’m here for it. I’m unconvinced that it’ll turn out to be subversive in the way that NieR Automata aspired to but I don’t think it’s gunning for that at all. It’s tits and monsters all the way, and although I thought the male gaze had mostly died along with Dead or Alive, I guess sometimes we can have a little bit as a treat.

I will give a shout to the DualSense’s haptic feedback features in this game, which in this particular section feature a lot of lovely raindrops pitter-pattering in your hands. It’s a little thing, but it speaks to the polish and care that SHIFT UP has put into its first proper console game. I also adore that the game has a dedicated toggle in the settings menu for whether EVE has a short or long ponytail, which serves absolutely no purpose other than to let you decide what level of hair physics you can stomach.

stellar blade demo

In case it wasn’t clear across everything I’ve described here, Stellar Blade definitely feels like an amalgamation of everything that’s trendy in a modern action game. That’s not inherently a bad thing though, and the way that it’s all put together here and tweaked to feel fresh seems like a genuine success – at least so far. That’s all still an unknown until I manage to get my hands on the full thing, but as a demo this feels like a pretty solid success. It’s a good chunk of game to try out, there’s a taste of a little of everything, progress carries across to the full experience and it all just feels very confident and, most importantly, fun.

Stellar Blade launches on April 26th exclusively for PS5. You can download the demo starting March 30th on the PlayStation Store, and you can pre-order the game now on Amazon at a discounted price of $109 with free release day delivery.