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Stellar Blade test: finally a Souls-like accessible to all

While the PlayStation 5 loses its exclusives one by one and players worry about a 2024 calendar devoid of big releases, Stellar Blade comes at the right time. First presented in 2019 under the name Project Eve, the game had the ambition to invest the PS4 and Xbox consoles as well as the PC. It ended up attracting the attention of Sony, which acquired exclusive rights in 2021. Two years later, the title is ready to make its debut and promises to make a name for itself.

Whether by its aesthetic which caused debate or by its gameplay revealed in a demo version, Stellar Blade has been in the news on numerous occasions, even before its release scheduled for next Friday, April 26. After all, this new nugget has managed to stand out from the crowd by drawing inspiration from mechanics that are particularly popular with gamers. For a first game of this scale, Shift Up Corporation manages against all odds to stand among the biggest in the industry to serve us a memorable PS5 exclusive. Far from being free from all defects, this Souls-like doped with action and adrenaline, however, has all the ingredients to convince a wider audience of players than its competitors.

A game that puts an end to the elitism of Souls-like

Difficulty in video games is undoubtedly one of the topics that most divides the community. While some advocate the benefit of complex experiences without possible adjustments, others campaign for increased accessibility across all video game genres. In the case of Souls-like renowned for their legendary difficulty, this debate is all the more virulent. And yet, in reality, this discussion does not deserve to be held. Include different gameplay options to accommodate various player profiles does not take away from the maximum difficulty that the most experienced gamers can expect. Just like the Star Wars Jedi series in the past, Stellar Blade has understood this well and has no use for the elitism specific to the genre.

© Shift Up Corporation / PlayStation

The title takes care of its players from its first configuration menus, to ensure that everyone can get what they are looking for. While regulars will not hesitate to try classic difficulty, newcomers will be able to be tempted by a “story mode”. As its name suggests, it was designed for gamers wishing to dive into the world of Stellar Blade without worrying about being held back by overly complex confrontations. Without transforming the adventure into a walk in the park, errors during parries and dodges prove much less fatal and allow you to understand the game mechanics with complete peace of mind. This mastered balance offers a perfect training opportunity for newcomers, who can then try their hand at normal mode, which can be activated at any time.

The gameplay of Stellar Blade truly shines with this emphasis on learning. In addition to these two difficulty modes, the title benefits from other options designed to encourage the progression curve for players. This feeling of growth that aficionados of Souls-like are particularly fond of is here within everyone’s reach. In story mode, players can decide to transform reactive mechanics – such as parrying or perfect dodge – into QTEs in order to better understand the timings applied. By adding to this a virtual simulation system in the rest camps in order to practice triggering certain techniques or confronting certain enemies, we obtain a particularly effective learning system. Stellar Blade does everything in its power to ensure that players remove the small spare wheels it offers one by oneif that is what we want of course.

Stellar Blade Ship
© Shift Up Corporation / PlayStation

Lots of good ideas, but not only

In addition to being particularly effective in its accommodation of different types of players, the title manages to capture our attention in different ways. He doesn’t take long to display all his good ideas to make us understand that the trip promises to be remarkable. From the first clashes, we are confronted with this devastated universe where creatures called Naytiba can destroy any living being (or any structure) in a few attacks. Despite all her training and equipment, the protagonist named Eve struggles to face the threat. Following this introduction, as grandiose as it is brutal, the tone is set: the adventure promises to be tough. But what are these aliens? What happened to Earth? Is Eve human? There are so many questions like this that rush through our heads after these few minutes of play which are enough to captivate us.

Even before convincing us with its gameplay, Stellar Blade draws us into his scenario brilliantly. This focus on lore proves particularly effective throughout the course. Many decorative elements allow you to trigger dialogues and other cutscenes to obtain new story elements. The world around us is not a corridor designed for confrontations: it is above all an immersive whole. But you still have to be sensitive to post-apocalyptic sci-fi universes, in which case world building risks seeming as cliché as possible.

Stellar Blade Skills
Eve’s skill tree. © Shift Up Corporation / PlayStation

Gameplay side, Stellar Blade offers a clever mix between classic RPG action and Souls-like, which can sometimes be confusing. Aficionados will find skill progression and camp rest systems that have proven themselves. As for the movements: that’s another story. If the heroine’s movements are reminiscent of those of Bayonetta or Cal in Star Wars Jedi, the attacks benefit from a dynamic specific to the Souls. This disparity ends up accentuating the fluidity of certain movements and the heaviness of others. The fusion of genres is also found on the controls side. By offering to attack with square, to dodge with round and to protect yourself with the triggers, this unusual control model risks destabilizing those accustomed to Souls.

Among the game’s bad ideas, we find in particular the placement of special attacks on the same button as the parry button. It’s easy to find yourself wasting this power bar by pressing the attack button too quickly after a successful counter. Same observation for the use of the R2 trigger to recover resources on the ground: who had this idea? We ultimately find ourselves leaving valuable resources behind because they are visually discreet and not intuitive to pick up.

Stellar Blade Camp
© Shift Up Corporation / PlayStation

A technical feat to highlight

Fortunately, these few flaws quickly fade into the background as the rest of the experience is fluid. Despite an almost constant linear aspect, the levels follow one another with pleasure and are full of surprises. The environment scanning function will push more than one player to explore side paths to seek rewards at their own risk. In addition to an effective structure and gameplay, the satisfaction provided by Stellar Blade is also amplified by truly stunning visuals. The Korean studio did not take the AAA affiliation lightly and offers us one of the most beautiful games on the PlayStation 5. Nothing in this title leaves anything to be desired visually speaking.

Stellar Blade Engineer
© Shift Up Corporation / PlayStation

From textures, facial animations, particle effects and even environments: each element is a feast for the eyes. If we would have done without the slightly too pronounced physics of certain parts of the body, the real-time animation of Eve’s hair has nothing to envy of Rapunzel’s long hair in the animated film of the same name. The immersion provided by the scenario is therefore all the more powerful thanks to the monumental efforts applied to the graphics. Better yet, players can also decide to customize this aspect of the game. With three different graphics modes – frame rate priority, resolution priority or balanced – everyone can enjoy the show according to their favorite criteria. In frame rate mode, the title does not suffer any slowdown and still offers a real visual slap. This shows to what extent Stellar Blade is optimized.

For the icing on the cake, the game is accompanied by excellent French dubbing. This manages to convey the right emotions, while letting us understand what is happening during action scenes requiring all our concentration. For a first attempt, Shift Up Corporation has left nothing to chance and will not fail to make a name for itself with players.

Mark Tyson
Mark Tyson
Freelance News Writer. Always interested in the way in which technology can change people's lives, and that is why I also advise individuals and companies when it comes to adopting all the advances in Apple devices and services.
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