Stellar Blade Review – Sexy Souls

Stellar Blade Review – Sexy Souls

All developers want their games to be commercially successful, but in a world where games are released daily, it can sometimes be hard to stand out. Stellar Blade, the first AAA game from Shift Up Corporation has made quite a splash in the lead-up to release, with a lot of discourse online around the physical attributes of the protagonist Eve, with some decrying the character as overly sexualised and pandering to a sub-culture of gamers that believe that this should be the true representation of females in video games. In contrast, others believe the character heralds a return to the ‘golden times’ in video games, and are applauding Shift Up for being brave enough to portray a ‘traditional’ female character despite ‘wokeness’ gripping their beloved hobby. It has become just another flashpoint in the culture wars of those who want to see accurate portrayals of female characters in games and those who want their female characters to be cannon fodder for their late-night fantasies. 

So, we might as well get it out of the way now and talk about Eve’s assets. Using South Korean influencer Shin Jae-Eun as the body model, the Eve character is an actual representation of a human female. While there can be discussions about the unrealistic body standards of females portrayed in media, here we have a character who is a soldier, one who will spend a lot of time running around the game world. It makes sense that Eve will have a slender build. Yes, there is breast jiggle in the game, but to be honest it is funnier than it is sexy. By all means, developers are free to make representations of the female form, but if you are going to do it in skin-tight suits you have got to make sure your character model rigging is on point.

Stellar Blade Screenshots_Prologue_08

Despite what some of the creepier parts of the internet have insinuated, the jiggle physics in Eve’s character could have had a bit more work done to make it look a little less bouncy. In the real world a woman’s breasts don’t start wobbling as she turns her head during a conversation, and they sure as hell don’t bounce the way they do during the walking animation. For most of the game, you will see the back of Eve as you travel through the game world and combat is way too fast to focus on boob jiggles, so it will only be in cutscenes that you are confronted by the sight of these wildly unnatural wobbles. I know some online have been making a big deal of the way Eve looks when climbing up ladders but here again, the character model rigging just feels off, and every time Eve was climbing a ladder, of which there were many, I just found myself giggling as the backside drooped and sagged like a full water balloon being dangled from a moving hand. 

Where I will admit the game does feel a little bit creepy is the overly sexualised alternate skins that can be unlocked for Eve. Some of these are alternate combat suits but the majority of them are skins that have Eve in ‘sexy’ clothing. Where it got really creepy though was the realisation that Eve’s breasts increase in size for these non-uniform skins, my wife gave me a weird look when she walked in on me doing my comparison. Fortunately, I never bothered with the ‘skin-suit’ look, which is exactly what you think it is, or I may have had to sleep on the lounge for a few nights.

Stellar Blade Screenshots_Eidos7_07

So now that the physical aspects of Eve have been discussed let us get into the game itself. In a lot of instances, people would assume that this sexualisation of the character model may be used to cover for weakness in the overall game, but here you do not have to worry about that. Combat is fast-paced and as players gain more skill they will start to find the flow, knowing when to strike and when to parry or dodge. While you do gain access to a gun for ranged attacks it is almost worthless against enemies, only becoming useful in certain missions where you are locked out of the use of your sword and its damage output mysteriously demolishes almost all of these enemies in a couple of shots. There are one or two moments in boss fights where you will use the gun outside of these levels but most of the time I would not even bother. For those like myself who do not subscribe nor revel in the ‘git gud’ aspect of Souls-like games, Stellar Blade provides a Story Mode difficulty level and an assisted mode that will trigger a bullet time effect at points to help the player parry or dodge attacks.

Like most Souls-like games, resting at a camping spot will cause all your enemies to respawn, sometimes forcing you to make a tactical choice, especially in the game world. The placement of camps is nicely spaced during the linear missions and if you are coming up to a particularly challenging area the dialogue will hint that you should take a rest, Most of the time in these instances I did because I was not about to go back where I had come from anyway. A few deaths occurred shortly after these camps due to environmental dangers I was not quick enough to dodge, making me very happy that I took those hints to rest.

Stellar Blade Screenshots_Prologue_07

The game world looks gorgeous, from the ruins of the city of Eidos 7 to the Great Desert and the haven city of Xion, you can tell a lot of work has gone into this desolate future Earth. For the most part, the level design is on point, especially the dark and tight confines of the underground portions and almost all of the environmental puzzles can be solved with just a little bit of thought and effort. The game bounces between linear mission areas and open-world sections where you can do side-quests to level up and unlock greater abilities. These side quests are by far the best way to gain experience and they will provide you with materials for supplemental upgrades to Eve’s combat abilities. There are some reused assets you will notice later in the game, but there are not many of them at all and can be explained away through context in the narrative. 

I was pleasantly surprised by the narrative as well. While there were some story beats that I did see coming, there was one twist that I did not, along with a small branching at the end of the game that allows you to decide how you want the story to finish. I don’t want to say too much and spoil anything, but the premise is you are fighting your way through all kinds of Naytibas, the creatures that have overrun the Earth, to find and exterminate the Elder Naytiba in the hope that its death will lead to the end to all of the creatures. 

Stellar Blade Screenshots_Eidos7_03

There were a few minor irritants that hampered my enjoyment of the game. While there are limited camps spread around the open world areas, there are numerous phones that are utilised as fast travel points. What I had to find out the hard way was that while they highlight on your screen as you approach, they do not automatically activate. Without picking up the phone to manually activate these fast travel points you will be in for a long walk back if you go down while fighting a group of Naytibas, as you can really struggle and die quickly when you start getting multiple enemies attacking at the same time. The other annoyance is the decision to lock some chests behind codes that you need to enter in a different alphabet set that appears on the screen when you press the triangle button but then fades away. Given that you cannot attempt to enter the code without finding it first it makes the whole entering and hiding of the code rather redundant.

For a first big outing, Stellar Blade is a solid product that will keep players occupied for twenty to thirty hours. While there is a place to discuss the sexualisation of Eve, especially in the unlockable character skins and augmented breast size, when you look at the game itself on its other merits you get an enjoyable experience that provides fast, smooth combat against a variety of difficult foes in a wonderfully realised game world. It does falter in some aspects, like the utility of the ranged attacks in the game world, but overall Stellar Blade is a solid action game.

“While discussion is sure to be dominated by the sexualisation of lead character Eve, looking past that, Stellar Blade provides a solid action experience for fans of the Souls-like genre”

Stellar Blade was reviewed on PS5 with a code kindly provided by PlayStation Australia

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