Stellar Blade is even better than I expected — it’s a must-own PS5 exclusive

Stellar Blade lives up to the hype

Eve from Stellar Blade preparing for battle.
Editor's Choice
(Image: © Sony Interactive Entertainment)

Tom's Guide Verdict

Stellar Blade is an excellent hack-and-slash action-adventure game that takes full advantage of the PS5's horsepower. Featuring thrilling combat sequences, an engaging story and drop-dead gorgeous graphics, this is a PS5 exclusive worth owning.


  • +

    Exceptional graphics

  • +

    Tight and precise gameplay

  • +

    Thrilling narrative

  • +

    Meaningful side quests


  • -

    No manual saves

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Stellar Blade specs

Platform: PS5
Price: $69
Release date: April 26, 2024
Genre: Action-adventure

Stellar Blade is the game I’ve been waiting for. It offers a refreshing change of pace from the deluge of remasters, remakes and sequels we’ve suffered through in recent years. This game has it all, including superb graphics, exciting gameplay and a captivating narrative. 

Sure, Stellar Blade isn’t reinventing the proverbial wheel, but it excels at its core mission statement: delivering a stellar gaming experience.

There’s no denying that Stellar Blade takes a lot of inspiration from another action game featuring an android protagonist — NieR: Automata. While I think the latter is more imaginative, developer Shift Up’s project holds the technical edge in terms of graphics, gameplay mechanics and story. And as a game created in Korea, Stellar Blade simply feels different from its Western and Japanese counterparts — which adds to its allure. While wearing its influences proudly, Stellar Blade feels wholly distinct.

If you can’t tell, I’m completely enamored with Stellar Blade. I was intrigued after its initial reveal trailer and subsequent demo, but the final product is even better than I expected. The fact that this is developer Shift Up’s first big-budget “AAA” title makes this project all the more impressive.

If you own a PS5 and have been hungry for games made specifically for Sony’s current-gen system, then you owe it to yourself to play Stellar Blade. Read my full review to find out why it’s one of the best PS5 games yet.

Stellar Blade: The basics

  • What is it? Stellar Blade is a hack-and-slash action-adventure game featuring a powerful android protagonist on a mission to liberate Earth from alien invaders.
  • Who is it for? Stellar Blade is for people who enjoy challenging action experiences and games with exceptional production value.
  • What's the price? Stellar Blade costs $69 and is exclusive to the PS5.
  • What other games has the developer made? Stellar Blade is the first AAA game from Shift Up Second EVE Studio, which is a subsidiary of Shift Up Corporation, who had previously made mobile games like Destiny Child.
  • What games is this similar to? Stellar Blade shares many similarities to NieR: Automata and borrows combat elements from the Dark Souls games.

Fight for humanity 

Eve and Adam from Stellar Blade discuss plans.

(Image credit: Sony Interactive Entertainment)

Stellar Blade’s story centers on humanity’s struggle against a race of hostile beings called Naytibas who have overrun the Earth. The humans who’ve left the planet frequently send fleets of spaceships filled with powerful female androids named “Angels” to battle the Naytibas. Stellar Blade picks up during such an incursion … one that fails like previous attempts.

You take on the role of Eve, the lone survivor of all the android squads sent to Earth during the latest incursion. Teaming up with a handful of human allies, Eve’s goal is to confront and kill the Alpha Naytiba to liberate the planet — which is certainly a tall order. Though Eve doesn’t have the strongest personality, her determination to complete the mission and loyalty toward her allies make her endearing as a character.

This is a plotline we’ve seen in countless other mediums, but the twists and turns keep things from getting predictable. Save for one padded sequence near the end of the game, Stellar Blade’s brisk narrative keeps you engaged.

Deadly battles 

Eve from Stellar Blade prepares to battle a Naytibas.

(Image credit: Sony Interactive Entertainment)

I compared Stellar Blade to NieR: Automata since both are hack-and-slash action games featuring an android protagonist fighting on a post-apocalyptic Earth. However, Stellar Blade takes its combat cues from titles like Dark Souls and Elden Ring. That means carefully studying enemy patterns, dodging and parrying at the right moments, and striking only when you have a clear opening. Mindlessly bashing the attack buttons won’t get you very far. That said, combat isn’t as merciless as in Dark Souls games, so there’s some wiggle room for mistakes.

Eve mainly uses a sword during battles but eventually gets access to a firearm attachment. As you progress through the game, you’ll unlock new sword attacks and firearm upgrades. While shooting bad guys is useful (and mandatory) in certain cases, most encounters have you slashing foes to ribbons with your blade.

A Naytibas from Stellar Blade

(Image credit: Sony Interactive Entertainment)

Learning how to precisely parry and dodge feels rewarding and also makes every encounter more thrilling. The game does a fantastic job of easing you from novice to master, even if you’re not great at action games. Subtle hints like your blade glinting let know you when to parry or dodge, which is a nice touch. And if you’re feeling overwhelmed, you can always knock the difficulty level to “Story Mode” which makes enemies easier and gives even greater prompts for when to parry or dodge.

Naytibas come in many flavors, from greyhound-sized spider monsters to city-sized behemoths. You’ll mostly face the same type of Naytibas throughout your journey but the game does a nice job of mixing up the different types so that encounters don’t become boring. The true highlight is the deadly bosses you frequently come up against since they put all your skills to the test. Bosses are so enjoyable that I wish there was a boss rush mode so I could replay these battles outside of the main story.

Facing multiple Naytibas at once is initially taxing since you have a limited move set. However, you’ll unlock additional abilities that let you cut a swath of destruction no matter how many bad guys surround you. Things get even better as you gain super moves that give you a momentary burst of enhanced strength and defense. Stellar Blade does an exceptional job of making you feel like a complete badass.

Steel sharpens steel 

Eve from Stellar Blade.

(Image credit: Sony Interactive Entertainment)

Like most games these days, Stellar Blade features a skill tree upgrade system for unlocking new abilities. This includes (but is not limited to) new attacks, boosts to defense and health, upgrades to special abilities and more. The game isn’t stingy with experience points. So long as you’re killing enemies and completing missions, you’ll earn enough experience to frequently unlock new abilities.

You’re also able to upgrade your sword’s strength, the number of health vials you carry and your firearm by using materials dropped by defeated opponents, found in storage boxes, or otherwise scattered across the world. This process is as simple as holding the X button, which is great if you’re not a fan of crafting. You can also create new outfits for Eve through this process, though these are purely cosmetic.

No stone unturned 

Eve from Stellar Blade exploring one of the world's environments.

(Image credit: Sony Interactive Entertainment)

Stellar Blade isn’t an open-world game but its expansive environments give you plenty of places to explore. There wasn’t a single time I went off the beaten path that I didn’t stumble on some cool reward, challenging Naytibas or unexpected narrative gold nugget. The game encourages you to scour everything you see (or don’t see).

There are certain areas where you can take a breather. Most of these camps have a vending machine for purchasing health items and ammo. There’s also a chair you can sit on to replenish your health. Other camps have stations where you can upgrade Eve’s components, use a battle simulator to test new moves, and a phone booth that lets you fast-travel to previously visited camps.

The city of Xion from Stellar Blade.

(Image credit: Sony Interactive Entertainment)

In terms of collectibles, there are nearly 50 soda cans scattered around the world. I bring this up because finding these cans offers one of the few moments of levity in an otherwise serious game. Seeing Eve get excited over finding soda cans never gets old. Finding all the cans unlocks a unique outfit for Eve as well — because of course it does.

The levels also have side quests, most of which you initiate in Xion, humanity’s last refuge and the game's main hub city. These side quests not only provide additional narrative flavor away from the main plot but also reward you with experience points and other useful goodies. Side quests are always worth completing.

Exceptional presentation 

Stellar Blade's cast travel by air ship.

(Image credit: Sony Interactive Entertainment)

There’s no denying that Stellar Blade is one of the most drop-dead gorgeous games out there. That’s an impressive feat considering it’s running on Unreal Engine 4. But despite utilizing an older gaming engine, Stellar Blade’s visuals don’t disappoint. ShiftUp makes exceptional use of the PS5’s raw horsepower to deliver a feast for the eyes.

Except for some questionable textures in natural environments, most locales have a stunning level of detail. This is especially true of high-tech areas filled with futuristic technology. The fact this game doesn’t have ray-tracing technology is even more impressive. Moody lighting in certain sections also amplifies the visual flair.

Lilly from Stellar Blade.

(Image credit: Sony Interactive Entertainment)

Characters receive the most attention to detail, especially Eve whose body is based on Korean model Shin Jae-eun. I can’t recall another instance of a game using a real person’s body scans for a character, but it works great, as Eve feels more realistic. This is somewhat to the detriment of other characters who appear to have the typical bodies seen in other games. 

That said, most of the supporting cast are as well-rendered as Eve, particularly in their detailed and expressive faces. It’s clear the developers put a lot of time into making the game’s cast appear distinct.

In case you’re wondering, there are three graphical modes to choose from: Quality, Balanced and Performance. Quality delivers a 4K resolution at 30 frames per second (fps) while Performance pumps out 60 fps at 1440p. As its name suggests, Balance straddles the middle, striving to maintain 60fps with a resolution that fluctuates between 1080p and 4K. 

The latter is the default setting — and the one I recommend since you get the best of both worlds. Though Stellar Blade is pretty fluid in both Balanced and Performance modes, there are certain places (particularly the desert areas) where the frame rate plummets to 30 frames per second. This can be jarring but it doesn’t break the immersion too much. Still, it makes me yearn for a PC version that can maintain 4K resolution at 60 fps.

Setting the mood

Orcal from Stellar Blade.

(Image credit: Sony Interactive Entertainment)

Stellar Blade has one of the best video game soundtracks I’ve heard in a while. Almost every level has its own song — and I use the word “song” literally since most tracks have female vocals. The ethereal singing along with music ranging from upbeat pop tunes to sweeping orchestral tracks do a lot to make the game world feel epic in scope. This is a soundtrack I’d love to own on a physical disk. That’s how good it is.

The sound design is also great. Every piercing slice, clanging parry or roaring beast sounds phenomenal. There’s good subtle too, as evidenced by people murmuring in the background or the gentle hush of wind washing over the desert. Every environment sounds distinct.

There’s not much to say about the voice work. It’s good and won’t pull you out of the experience. However, I can’t say there are any standout performances.

An exciting new adventure 

Stellar Blade has both style and substance. Even if the stunning graphics and well-animated protagonist are what initially draw you in, the challenging combat, thrilling story, and explorable environments will keep you hooked. This is exactly what a video game is supposed to be about — pure fun.

My biggest complaint is that you can't create manual saves. Yes, the game automatically saves and it also saves when you rest at camps. However, it would have been nice to be able to create a hard save of my own. This is especially true since there are multiple endings. But other than the lack of manual saves and some performance issues, Stellar Blade is nearly perfect.

If you’re tired of remakes, remasters and sequels and want a game that takes advantage of your PS5’s power, then do yourself a favor and pick up Stellar Blade. It’s absolutely one of the best titles of 2024 and of this console generation.

Tony Polanco
Computing Writer

Tony is a computing writer at Tom’s Guide covering laptops, tablets, Windows, and iOS. During his off-hours, Tony enjoys reading comic books, playing video games, reading speculative fiction novels, and spending too much time on X/Twitter. His non-nerdy pursuits involve attending Hard Rock/Heavy Metal concerts and going to NYC bars with friends and colleagues. His work has appeared in publications such as Laptop Mag, PC Mag, and various independent gaming sites.

    Good review. Might have pushed me over the edge and make
    This only my 3rd PS5 purchase!
    Am I tripping or do all these sidekicks look "hotter" and more interesting than the main girl Eve? Demo chick and the strawberry hair one in the review pictures.