stellar blade

What’s Going On With Stellar Blade’s “Censorship” Controversy?

This was always going to go well.

Stellar Blade launched last week to a pretty positive critical reception, garnering an 82 on Metacritic after 118 verified reviews, with our own scoring it a huge 9/10. The game, a debut big-budget console effort from mobile developer SHIFT UP, was always going to land weirdly though thanks to a lead character that recalls the heights of 90s/early 2000s over-sexualised video game women.

And while most people who’ve played or are playing Stellar Blade will happily confirm that the game manages to do a lot of good things besides being a vehicle for anime fuck doll eye candy, EVE has quickly become the poster girl for the same corners of the gaming community that tried to yassify Aloy and went berserk after learning that consulting companies exist. For Stellar Blade, a game about big swords and even bigger tits, and one that proudly proclaimed itself as “uncensored in all countries,” to launch to good reviews and strong sales would seemingly be the vindication the anti-woke gamer crowd was looking for.

Until this happened.

Once word got out that some of the costumes in version 1.0 of Stellar Blade were marginally more erotic than the ones in the game’s launch-day patch, you can bet that things went downhill real fast. As it turns out, SHIFT UP wound up altering a few outfits to add just a touch more fabric here and there, and because the version of the game printed to physical discs and played in its earliest iterations by the press and creators still contained the old versions the cry of “Censorship!” rang out.

At that point it was pretty much bedlam with the offended gamers quickly fact-checking a fictional woman’s wardrobe against early trailers, review footage and whatever else they could find – it even turned out that at least one modified outfit still had its old saucy version show up in the in-game tutorials (I checked this in my own copy of the game as you can see below and it’s true.)

Aussie content creator, game hacker and nudie-detector Lance McDonald spent a good while trying to shore up the facts in this big ol’ thread, concluding that the above example never even made it into Version 1.0 of the game (it appears it was changed between when the tutorial assets were generated and when discs were printed), before eventually reminding everyone that this shit happens all the time and just isn’t worth having a tanty over when there’s a good game to be played.

But what about the developer’s response? SHIFT UP reportedly already addressed the controversy well before it hit its fever pitch, suggesting that it wasn’t strong-armed into “censoring” or changing anything about the outfits, and that despite how last-minute it seemed to be, what’s in the current 1.0.0.2 version of the game is what the studio intended.

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CEO, Kim Hyeong-tae, has been quoted as saying at a pre-launch press conference for the game, “I think it’s a result of the Day One patch. We couldn’t prevent people from not connecting to the network. It’s true that the version of the costume was installed in the package before it was finally delivered to users. Erotic doesn’t always mean good. In some situations, there are things that need to be modified to make it work, and there are things that are less arousing or more arousing as a result. These are all intended outcomes. This patch is the final product we want to show you.”

Of course, that was never going to be enough to quell the raging boners storm now surrounding the game on sites like X and Reddit, and prominent grifters like Mark “Grummz” Kern have even started to rally their following against SHIFT UP and Sony with inane campaigns to “free” Stellar Blade. This one’s almost up to 50k signatures, which is wild. 

Some folks have reported being able to claim refunds from Sony for being “misled” when making their purchase, so if you’re up for embarrassing yourself on the phone with some poor call centre worker who’s going to have to go home and have the world’s most uncomfortable “So how was your day?” chat, you could certainly give that a go.

And look, nobody likes to feel like they’ve been “cheated” by a game’s early marketing. We learned that with things like the infamous Watch Dogs reveal trailer that looked lightyears ahead of the final product, and the industry’s kinda self-policed its way into making occurrences like that less common.

But a studio deciding of its own volition to rethink some costumes that, let’s all admit, have no value outside of some 40-year-old dudes creaming their trackies in the middle of a boss fight against a giant monster with a chainsaw head, shouldn’t be this big of a deal. Doubly so when this isn’t some days-later reaction to complaints about too much skin – in fact it all seems pretty quiet on that front, from where I’m standing – but something devised ahead of time.

Some folks worry that things like this could open the doors for studios or publishers to tinker with your purchased games after the fact, and while I don’t personally feel all that concerned about it, I understand why the thought upsets people. I just don’t believe that’s the situation here (maybe more will come to light in the days to follow and I’ll be wrong, and that’s okay.)

Besides, it could be worse. I’m really enjoying my time with Stellar Blade so far and have already pumped 20 hours in since launch, but the censorship in my copy of the game has run absolutely rampant: