Prepare yourself for Stellar Blade’s complex combat system!

The PS5 exclusive Stellar Blade is set to be a massive release, and the developer gave us a hands-on taste of what the combat system would be like. Developed by the Korean studio “Shift Up,” Stellar Blade draws inspiration from the likes of NieR: Automata and introduces several mechanics so satisfying to perfect.

This guide will help you understand the intricacies of fighting in the game and perhaps convince some of you check it out when it drops on April 26.

What is Stellar Blade's combat like?

Stellar Blade is not easy by any stretch of the imagination. The demo throws you into combat, and you must learn on the fly. It offers fast-paced combat but forces you to sharpen your defensive skills.

Our most significant challenge revolved around counterattacks, Perfect Parries, and Perfect Dodges. Although the offensive attack was straightforward, it was difficult to time enemy attacks and punish them accordingly.

Stellar Blade demo shows that you'll fight some enemies with NPC's help.
Stellar Blade demo shows that you'll fight some enemies with NPC's help.

A strong defense is crucial in this Stellar Blade's combat system, considering successful Parries and Dodges help build your Beta Skill meter - Beta Skills being EVE's most powerful abilities. It was evident early on that adjusting quickly to each enemy is imperative.

Otherwise, the combat is quick, and you will need to memorize many buttons to succeed.

The basics of combat in Stellar Blade

Stellar Blade utilizes every button on the PS5 controller, making it a complex experience. An in-game tutorial will guide you through the basics as the demo begins. Here are some of the basic attacks alongside screenshots for reference. 

  • X – Jump
  • Square – Quick Attack
  • Triangle – Strong Attack
  • O – Dodge / (Hold) Sprint
  • L1 – Guard/Parry/Beta Skill
  • R1 – Burst Skill
  • L2 – Ranged Mode
  • R2 – Interact / Fire selected ammo
  • Left Stick – Move / (Press) Sprint
  • Right Stick – Camera / (Press) Lock On

Quick and Strong attacks

Square and Triangle are your foundational combat buttons in Stellar Blade. You will use these Quick and Strong attacks in most fights while you build your Beta Skill. After blocking, you can counterattack using either of these options or hold Triangle to dash forward and attack. An air attack is possible by pressing a Triangle while dropping down on an unsuspecting enemy.

Beta Skill

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The Beta Skill is your specialty attack, dealing high damage once the ability is available. You have access to four Beta Skills at a time, which you can see in the lower right corner of the screen. Once your Beta Skill meter reaches the maximum level, you can use it by holding L1 and pressing X, Square, Triangle, or Circle.

Perfect Parry and Perfect Dodge

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You will want to master the Perfect Parry in Stellar Blade's combat system. A Perfect Parry occurs if you time and perfectly block an enemy's attack using L1. This mechanic gives you a brief window to counterattack while building your Beta Skill. The Perfect Dodge functions similarly, but you press Circle instead of L1.

The Perfect Parry and Perfect Dodge timing can be tricky, so practicing on non-boss enemies is best until you understand it better.

Is Stellar Blade similar to the Souls series?

As mentioned earlier, this game does not mess around. The boss fights were incredibly challenging, and we cannot fathom a difficulty any higher than normal. These battles throw everything at you, and dying several times is not uncommon.

The boss pictured above, named Abaddon, deals significant damage. He eventually reaches a stage that electrifies the immediate area, making it hectic to endure. The fact blocking is tied into you being able to perform Beta Skills more frequently, means you can't skip mastering it.

Calling Stellar Blade comparable to the Souls series is fair based on this demo. However, unlike Souls games, you do not lose rare items you used on your previous battle attempts.

More advanced techniques to consider

Now that we have covered some basics of Stellar Blade's combat system let's discuss the finer points. As mentioned earlier, this game is complex, requiring you to use every tool available to defeat enemies and advance further. Here are some deeper dives into the more advanced options.

The Skill tree

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Beta Skills are essential to defeat the more menacing boss characters. Navigating the Skill Tree allows you to access even more Beta and other skills. As you progress through Stellar Blade, you will earn "SP," which you can redeem for upgraded abilities.

The Skill Tree breaks down into five categories, but only three were unlocked in the Stellar Blade demo:

  • Attack
  • Survival
  • Beta
  • TBA
  • TBA

An example of a Survival skill is the "Blink" ability, which allows you to dodge an attack, teleport behind the enemy, stun the enemy, and charge burst energy. You can try various other Skills before adding them to your arsenal.

Here's a quick look at some of the Skills available via the Skill Tree:

  • Shield Breaker
  • Triplet
  • Aerial Blow
  • Rush Chain I
  • Shockwave

Outfits/Nano Suits

Once Stellar Blade launches, players can reportedly cycle through 30 Stellar Blade outfits. However, these have no bearing on the combat and exist purely for appearance. Still, there are some cool ones and even an NSFW one that punishes you if chosen. You can unlock "Gear" on your journey, adding benefits such as increased critical damage, Beta Skill Attack Power, and much more.

Equipment and throwables

Lastly, let's discuss equipment and throwables. Shock and Sonic Grenades are beneficial in this game, especially against bosses. Both temporarily immobilize opponents, creating a window of attack. We probably would not have overcome the Abaddon boss without Grenades, so carrying several throwables is worth considering.

Conclusion

The combat for Stellar Blade playable so far offers enough depth to make it hard to master, but not too easy its mindless. In the Boss Challenge of the Stellar Blade demo, we also see EVE unlocks a gun as a secondary weapon, which if timed well allows you to land extra attacks. If you're a PlayStation 5 owner, there's very little reason not to buy this game on release. Unless perhaps, you have yet to finish Final Fantasy VII Rebirth.

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