Stellar Blade Combat Tips To Become The Best (And Prettiest) Sword Swinger

Screenshot: Shift Up / Claire Jackson / Kotaku
Screenshot: Shift Up / Claire Jackson / Kotaku

Stellar Blade, the PS5’s upcoming action game where you get to play as a cute lady (feels good, right?), has had a demo out since March 29. Perhaps you’ve been playing it? Whether you’ve been enjoying it or found it too cumbersome at first, it’s always a good idea to brush up on some basics again.

Read More: Yoko Taro Explains Why He Envies Stellar Blade And Its Director
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Stellar Blade is actually a good time and just maybe Yoko Taro is on to something about how compelling the action on offer here really is. After spending a bit of time with this demo myself, my initial discomforts over how slow the game initially felt have slowly faded away. Here’s what I’ve learned and wish to share with you about playing Stellar Blade.

Combat is slower than you probably expect, and it comes in layers

Upon first glance, Stellar Blade might give the impression that it’s a super-speedy hack ‘n slash bonanza like Devil May Cry. That just simply isn’t the case. Stellar Blade starts much slower than you’d expect, and protagonist Eve doesn’t necessarily move the fastest. Over time the game can evolve into something speedier, but you need to learn the game’s rhythm first. In fact, the game is way closer to a soulslike than it is to a DMC or a Bayonetta.

It’s not a bad idea to consider combat in Stellar Blade as existing in layers, which expand and change depending on what skill points you invest into the elaborate skill trees. Think of combat in the following layers to start:

  • Basic attacks with square and triangle (these buttons can be used for a variety of combos)

  • Reactions to enemy attacks with various combinations of circle, the left-thumbstick, and L1 (often signaled by colors that flash on the enemy and on Eve’s sword)

  • Beta Energy (BE) attacks activated with L1 + any of the face buttons

As you continue to play the game, you’ll unlock new combat abilities such as:

  • Holding L2 to turn your drone into a gun

  • Burst skill attacks activated by holding R1 + any of the face buttons

There’s also an ability you’ll unlock later on very similar to Devil May Cry’s “Devil Trigger,” which allows Eve to access even more powerful attacks. To avoid spoilers, I won’t get too much into this one for now, but you’ll activate it with L3 + R3 when the time is right.

Use the training simulator

Once you come across your first Rest Area, you can enter the training simulator by using the Skill Settings terminal at any Rest Area. You can train specific combos and moves (including ones you haven’t unlocked yet, making for a great way to test out how you want to build Eve) and you can set the training enemy to stand still, attack, only use special attacks (great for practicing Blink), or All Attacks.

Sadly, you can only pin one combo at a time to the HUD for reference and practice, forcing you to back out of the training simulator and sit through a few seconds of a black screen to load in between the training environment and the game’s menu. Fortunately, the game’s HUD will read out what buttons and combos you pull off in training, so you can still practice just about any move.

Perfect Parry is essential

Screenshot: Shift Up / Claire Jackson / Kotaku
Screenshot: Shift Up / Claire Jackson / Kotaku

You can unlock Perfect Parry from the survival skill tree early on in the game. This is a must-have.

Hitting L1 right before an enemy lands an attack will allow you to execute a Parry. Pulling off a successful Parry not only blocks an enemy’s attack, but gives you an opening to strike back, fills your BE gauge, and takes a point off of the enemy’s Stance meter (the yellowish dots at the very bottom of an enemy’s health information).

Read More: Best Settings To Tweak In Stellar Blade’s Demo

By default, a sword sound will erupt from your controller when you pull off a Parry successfully. As I advised in my settings guide, I think the DualSense’s little speaker is silly and you should shut it off (or don’t. Live your life. I don’t care). Should you change this setting, the Parry sound will play from your monitor/TV’s speakers.

When you deplete a foe’s Stance meter, they’ll get “Groggy” and you’ll be able to execute an even more powerful strike by pressing of triangle.

Fight up close; read enemy attacks blow-by-blow

Aside from key moments like Abaddon’s (the demo’s final boss) lightning attacks that hit various areas on the ground, Stellar Blade wants you up close when fighting. You’ll also need to read enemy attacks as best you can, learning when to Parry and when to get the heck out of the way.

To me, it seems like audio is also a big part of reading an enemy’s attack as they’ll usually let out sounds before striking. (Perhaps this is why there’s some obnoxious audio filter layered over the soundtrack to suck out any interesting harmonic timbral content, but I digress).

Gif: Shift Up / Claire Jackson / Kotaku
Gif: Shift Up / Claire Jackson / Kotaku

Use Rush to close the distance with enemies

Eve runs a bit more slowly than you might’ve expected. By unlocking Rush, in the Attack skill trees, you can hold down triangle to zoom up to an enemy you’re locked onto, following the motion up with a melee strike. This is a great way to speed up combat, particularly for enemies from which you might want to keep some distance.

Learn Incursion combos first

Seeing long combo lists gives me anxiety like little else out there, so if you’re intimidated by all the combos, you’re not alone. Stellar Blade’s moves are totally learnable though, and you should start (preferably in the training simulator) with the combos that begin with the square button, referred to as “Incursion” combos.

There are four main Incursion combos to start. Commit these to memory (or screenshot ‘em) as just one of your base sets of combo attacks:

Incursion I: Square > Triangle > Triangle > Triangle

Incursion II: Square > Square > Triangle > Triangle

Incursion III: Square > Triangle > Square > Triangle

Incursion IV: Square > Square > Square > Triangle > Triangle

Practice these in any of these in the training simulator and the button indicators on the upper right of the screen will tell you if you executed them correctly.

Then, learn Onslaught combos

After Incursion combos, you also have Onslaught combos to learn as well. These moves start with a press of triangle. They are as follows:

Onslaught I: Triangle > Triangle > Triangle

Onslaught II: Triangle > Square > Square > Triangle

Onslaught III: Triangle > Square > Hold Square > Triangle

Onslaught IV: Triangle > Square > Triangle > Square > Triangle

Invest skill points in improving Parry and Blink first

As you play through the demo, you’ll be asked to unlock Perfect Parry and Blink. These are very important moves. Blink, which starts with a blue circle on an enemy indicating an attack, followed by a blue glow of Eve’s sword indicating you need to hit up on the left thumbstick + circle, can be hard to execute reliably.

Gif: Shift Up / Claire Jackson / Kotaku
Gif: Shift Up / Claire Jackson / Kotaku

You can invest skill points into Blink (and Parry) to widen the timing of these moves. Invest in these early if you’re struggling to nail the timing.

It’s okay to hold on to your skill points for a while

Yeah, there’s a lot to choose from in those skill trees. If you’re wondering about what to pick first, be sure to check out Kotaku’s rundown on the 12 essential skills to grab first. But if you’re overwhelmed with choice paralysis and are struggling to learn your existing skills, it’s fine, chill, hang on to those points while you learn the combat and polish off side quests with your current build.

Read More: The 12 Best Stellar Blade Skills To Unlock First

Once you’ve got the handle on a few of your existing skills, the next step might be to invest skill points into making existing abilities better.

The arrow on your map matches where your camera is facing, not the character

Oof. I never thought I’d say this, but Stellar Blade really could’ve used a mini-map. A quick swipe up on the touchpad will take you to the map, but going back and forth between gameplay and the map can be a little disorienting. Bearing this in mind, if you’re trying to reach a specific objective, Eve’s icon on the map points in the direction the camera is facing at the time, not her character model.

No, you can’t mitigate fall damage. Sorry

Eve is really susceptible to fall damage. Like, a lot. You can easily die or lose a ton of health from falling too far. Shortly into the game, you’ll unlock a mid-air dash and double jump. While you might be tempted to jump from high heights and then hit a double-jump to land safely, I’m sorry to say that won’t work. If Eve falls from high enough, she’ll take damage no matter what aerial maneuvers you do to try to cheat gravity.

Be careful not to accidentally activate Beta attacks

Beta Energy lets you unleash powerful attacks by holding L1 and pressing a face button. L1 is also your block and parry button. It’s all too easy to accidentally hit a face button like square or triangle to attack milliseconds before you release L1, triggering an inadvertent use of Beta Energy.

Beta Energy charges up through combat maneuvers, so it’s not a precious resource by any means. But as Stellar Blade’s tougher fights expect greater precision, you want to use your attacks and resources more intentionally.

Don’t forget to scan!

When you hold down the touchpad, your little robot drone buddy will emit a Death Stranding-esque scan of the environment. This is really handy for spotting enemies hiding around corners who won’t hesitate to jump out and attack you if you’re not prepared.

Scan also helps make the environment more readable as well, particularly in the rather dull environment the demo throws you into.

Eve’s longer hair looks way better with a bit of color in it

Screenshot: Shift Up / Claire Jackson / Kotaku
Screenshot: Shift Up / Claire Jackson / Kotaku

In my settings guide for Stellar Blade, I suggested cutting Eve’s ponytail short by means of the hair setting in Gameplay > Ponytail Length. When her hair is the default black, it looks kinda stringy and weird. But if you want to keep it long, add a bit of color from the hair stylist in Xion (like a nice red so Eve can do her best Nariko cosplay), and her extra-long ponytail looks more natural and way cooler during the fight animations.

That wraps my tips for Stellar Blade’s combat as far as the demo is concerned. Be sure to check back for a more fully featured rundown of the game’s combat when it launches on PS5 on April 26, 2024.

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