Stellar Blade demo – A surprising romp of precision and ponytails

Stellar Blade has a dynamic combat system hidden behind its exaggerated curves.
stellar blade demo

If there’s one word to sum up the two hour demo of Stellar Blade from developer Shift-Up, it’s precision. For a game that has been widely discussed for the skimpy outfits and ample assets of its characters, the real appeal is how particular the timing is when it comes to combat.

From the moment you whip out the (admittedly sick as hell) triangle blade from protagonist EVE’s ponytail, your attention is required to slice and slash in precise movements, parrying and dodging to form impressive combos. While aesthetically, it gives Bayonetta vibes, it feels like a different beast entirely – and it’s an unashamedly violent one at that.

Playing as EVE, a member of the 7th Airborne Squad, you land on a post-apocalyptic world beset by the grotesque Naytiba – an alien race which looks vaguely like if someone took a collection of gruesome, beastly body parts and sewed them all together to form new creatures.

Slenderman-esque ‘Crickets’ and evil starfish-looking ‘Hydras’ wander the streets, while bigger bosses are towering and dangerous, with cavernous maws of sharpened teeth. There’s even one whose vertical mouth spins teeth like a chainsaw, whipping around their head in a flesh-tearing frenzy.

Enemies like these warrant an excellent takedown, and Stellar Blade doesn’t disappoint. As you fight your way through a dangerous landing zone, leaving a trail of these assorted Naytiba in your wake, you’re treated to a comprehensive, dynamic and exacting combat system that almost feels reminiscent of Elden Ring, or even Sekiro.

From parrying and dodging to quicktime events and stealth drop attacks, it’s remarkable how much depth there is – especially if you go into it expecting your standard fare of hack and slash warfare.

Stellar Blade naytiba
Image: Shift-Up / Sony Interactive Entertainment

Character design

I will be the first to admit that the trailers hadn’t exactly endeared me to Stellar Blade, in large part due to the characterisation of the female protagonist. The internet loves to crack quips about jiggle physics and sentient orbs for breasts – and it’s fair to say, because the clothing and figures are certainly provocative.

But it’s also surprisingly funny and endearing in parts, too. Never before have I delved into a Settings menu and seen “ponytail length” nestled among the other gameplay options. Players of The Sims will immediately recognise a resemblance to Alpha CC hair, and it is admittedly noticeable when that incredibly long ponytail falls at an odd angle, but pulling a sword out of a ponytail? That’s awesome.

EVE looks vicious and dangerous and capable as hell. Despite heel-less boots, she leaps and flips all over the battlefield. The first outfit EVE wears features wing-like streams of fabric that float behind her and feel reminiscent of Sky Dancers – the 90s toy which was banned in many schools because of how violently they fling into the air.

It feels like an apt comparison, because Sky Dancers were an undeniably feminine figure, capable of extreme violence and pain when prodded – and in Stellar Blade, EVE is a bonafide Naytiba-killing machine.

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Stellar Blade and stellar vibes

While the combat and character design are certainly the most noticeable aspects of the demo, there’s something to be said for the general vibe of Stellar Blade in the downtime and exploration parts of the game.

Whether you’re sitting at a camp checkpoint, swinging from bar to bar above a sharp drop, or just wandering around the desolate wasteland that is the post-apocalypse, it feels full. The ambient music is surprisingly soothing, and feels reminiscent of Final Fantasy or NieR: Automata – definitely something you could imagine the ‘lo-fi study beats’ girl vibing to.

The desecrated world is also beautifully crafted, and while the demo was only a couple of hours, it had snippets from the end of locales yet to come – and they look fantastic. In truth, the demo has turned my initial ambivalence into genuine intrigue. I look forward to the full release, and all the gruesome Naytibas on their way.

The free demo for Stellar Blade will go live to the public on 29 March 2024, with the full game slated for release on 26 April 2024 – and yes, your progress in the demo will count towards the full game.

Steph Panecasio is the Managing Editor of GamesHub. An award-winning culture and games journalist with an interest in all things spooky, she knows a lot about death but not enough about keeping her plants alive. Find her on all platforms as @StephPanecasio for ramblings about Lord of the Rings and her current WIP novel.