Stellar Blade – Our Accessibility Test

Lecture intro

Stellar Blade is an action game that was released for PlayStation 5 this month. In addition to the opportunity Sony offered us to take a closer look, and given public enthusiasm for the game demo, we thought you might be interested in its accessibility!

TypeAction adventure
PublisherSHIFT UP Corporation
DeveloperSHIFT UP Corporation
Release dateApril 26, 2024
Rating16 years and over

Stellar Blade is a new license from Shift Up Studio. It’s their first console game, with their previous game, “Goddess of Victory: Nikke” being for mobile.

You’ll play Eve, a cyborg and the only survivor of the 7th Airborne Squad, sent to what’s left of an Earth infested by creatures. This is a classic sci-fi theme raising the question of Earth’s future.

Stellar Blade clearly displays the sources of its inspiration, bringing it closer to a “Nier Automata” or “Dark Souls” than to a “God of War,” without copying them, however. But you get the idea: Your character will evolve in a closed environment through a series of combat, exploration and puzzle phases. Some areas will be infested with monsters, and you’ll have to adapt to their strengths and weaknesses. You’ll need to clean the area of the monsters in order to find one or more objects to unlock the door to the next zone. You’ll regularly face bosses, and you’ll need to learn how to deal with each of their combat phases in order to beat them.

Intermediate camps allow you to save your game, eat, gear up and upgrade your character. Dying or resting will return you to your last camp, which is always fairly close, and this resets enemies and collectibles in the zone.

Character management has an RPG aspect, with four skill trees on character survival and improvement, attack combinations, and the development of four special skills.

Your gear, especially your equipment and exospine, allows you to customize your gameplay and improve your skills. In-game repair consoles allow you to modify your weapon as well as the drone accompanying you. For example, your drone will help you unlock previously inaccessible chests.

Some of these chests will require you to solve puzzles and mini-games. We’ll mention those again when we discuss reactivity!

This type of game is based on different gameplays with their share of potential blockages. Will Stellar Blade help you overcome them? We had the opportunity to look at all this with BibiMaster and Amelitha. Here’s the video. But of course, we’ll cover it all in the article!

Lecture intro

What if I have a physical  disability?



As Amelitha plays mainly with one hand, she went straight to the settings to see what she could arrange, and it’s fair to say that her concerns quickly increased.

In fact, gaming with limited controller use means that you have to assign critical keys to the right places. And in Stellar Blade, that isn’t possible. The only key configuration possible is the default one.

It isn’t possible to modify or reverse the joysticks either. However, you can adjust the sensitivity of the various actions related to the left joystick. Camera and aim sensitivity can be adjusted over 10 levels for ranged combat. The right-movement joystick isn’t adjustable. There also isn’t any way to modify dead zones, which are nonetheless useful for players with limited fine motor skills.

In terms of key operations, it should be noted that critical actions are assigned to keys that are difficult to use. Sprinting and auto lock-on are, for example, placed on stick buttons (L3 and R3). In addition, Stellar Blade requires specific key combinations, and there are lots of them. For example, special attacks are powerful and will quickly become indispensable during gameplay. However, to use them, you have to press L1 plus another key. This requires you to use both sides of the controller, making it difficult to do with one hand. Nico, whose cerebral palsy limits the use of his left hand, quickly gave up the game because of this.

What’s worse, enhanced attack skills involve complicated key sequences. For example, the “Onslaught II” attack requires the following sequence: triangle, square, square held for one second, triangle. And, of course, the combo fails at the slightest mistake. However, as fights become more difficult, you’ll need to use special attacks more frequently for tougher enemies.

It’s been noted that these “long press” skills are triggered quite easily. So, if you don’t have very much control over how long you’re pressing, it’s going to get annoying. For example, the triangle’s “hair trigger” is quite sensitive, and the timing isn’t adjustable. So, if you risk triggering it unintentionally, and since it’s a skill with a cooldown, it can be frustrating. In any case, this was true for the team.

This is all the more annoying with heal being placed on the “up” button of the directional arrows. A single touch heals you quickly, while a “long” touch opens the menu where you assign a potion to this key. So, very often in combat, you might open the menu instead of just healing yourself. This interrupts combat dynamics.

So, we expected a lot of button mashing and hoped for some assistance. There’s a setting that automates casts, but only for a very secondary activity: fishing. On the other hand, Stellar Blade has an “autoloot” option, and collectible items are numerous, since chests and bosses can drop five or six items each. However, default loot is set to individual pick-up by pulling the trigger, without any priority to important objects. This autoloot setting will, therefore, save you a lot of button presses!

As for joystick management in combat, “camera lock” keeps the camera locked on the enemy, but it reverts after your first opponent dies. You then have to re-lock, using L3, and face the next enemy; otherwise, the camera won’t follow. Stellar Blade nonetheless offers an “auto lock-on” option, but your strikes will still only target the nearest enemy. So even if you can’t see them, you’re still hitting the closest enemy. Also, note that there isn’t any auto-aim option.

One positive point is that you use the Touchpad to carry out an environmental scan, which can be very useful. Amelitha explained that it’s convenient because the button’s big and centrally-located. So, you can activate it with any hand and with just a single touch. But the Touchpad is very sensitive, so if you’re overly-energetic in fights, it’s easy to swipe it instead, which triggers scans in mid-fight and can disrupt combat dynamics.

As far as muscle fatigue is concerned, note that vibrations can be deactivated. Moreover, if vibrations are a permanent problem for you, they can be permanently deactivated in the console settings. Amelitha shows you how in her video. Also, note that opening the menu freezes the fight, thus allowing you to take a breather if the fight gets too tiring for you.

Basically, as you can see, Stellar Blade requires fine motor skills and very quick reflexes to execute perfect parries and dodges. Depending on your abilities and preferences, you can choose a different tactic. For example, if your reflexes are fast enough, you can use special attacks that reload with strong parries or dodges. If your reflexes are slower, rely more on basic attacks, which can be strong if you know the advanced combinations. Actually, they’re just sequences of single presses, so you don’t need so much reactivity.

But even if you adapt your play style, the game offers little support and will be difficult to master if you have difficulties with motor skills or reflexes. Unanimously, all the players on the team wouldn’t recommend the game in this case.

Lecture intro

What if I’m visually impaired?

6 / 10


We explained the gameplay at length in the previous section, but let’s now address the visual impact of Stellar Blade. And it’s fair to say that we calmed down a bit when we looked at this aspect because we found some very interesting things.

The first interesting thing is the color-blindness filter setting options. Stellar Blade offers a filter adapted to each form of color-blindness. You can adjust the filters’ strengths in regard to interface elements such as chests. These filters also add specific shapes as alerts, so that’s a great point.

Regarding the menu’s interface, there’s little visual support to indicate which modifications have been made. Every time you change an option, it does, however, appear in a subtly shiny shade of sky blue on the menu. Since the default text is white against a gray background, the change isn’t very obvious. Note that you can’t change interface text size, and there isn’t any screen reader.

The most interesting settings to change if you lack visual information can be found in-game. This starts with PS5 additions such as haptic feedback and vibrations. One option allows you to prioritize features. That’s to say, immersive vibrations are deactivated to leave only those that are most useful to you in-game. The controller’s speaker also provides you with useful information.

You also have game mechanics, including the scan. During the game, you’re accompanied everywhere by a drone that can initialize a scan as soon as you press the Touchpad. It only lasts a few seconds, but it grays out the environment to highlight only important elements. Most importantly, this displays a compass at the top of the screen with your quest’s direction and distance.

By going to the settings, you’ll be able to activate the High Contrast option. All interactive objects are then identified according to a color code. Red is for enemies, useful objects are in orange, and doors and ladders are in yellow. The settings also offer different color options to suit different forms of color blindness. It’s so convenient that you won’t miss anything and this mode is so visually comfortable that it’ll suit everyone, won’t it, Amelitha?

For motion sensitivity, you’ll find settings to adjust motion blur and sharpness. These can be found in the Display Menu, but there are also settings in the Accessibility Menu. In particular, there’s a central point displayed on-screen, Eve always being slightly to the left. This point is very small but will still allow you to focus.

To allow you to follow Stellar Blade’s storyline, you’ll find subtitles in three size options displayed in the default system language, even if their size difference isn’t very great. The black background isn’t activated by default either. It improves visibility, but the background’s flush with the words, making it appear very thin and not very effective.

There’s also an option to add an opaque background to the character and enemy interface. The goal is to improve health point and energy visibility. We appreciate it, but this opacity is very slight and, therefore, not very effective.

In Stellar Blade, therefore, we have very useful options to help with visual support, such as filters to compensate for color blindness or the high contrast option, but this remains incomplete. Having good visual information requires significant timing and distance estimation, such as during exploration phases when it’ll be necessary to jump from one bar to another at a great height.

Impact noises aren’t clear-cut or reliable enough, making it difficult to find your way around the map. In addition, there isn’t any audible ping when approaching an interactive object. It’ll therefore be difficult to play with low or no vision. So, we give the game an honorable note of 6, because a good many players with mild vision disorders should still be able to play it.


Lecture intro

What if I have hearing loss?

6 / 10


Stellar Blade offers a few options to focus on useful sounds in-game. You’ll be able to adjust the sound from different sources to keep only the ones that are most useful to you. The handset’s audio can also be deactivated if required.

On the other hand, Stellar Blade’s subtitles are adjustable. You can display the speaker, which is not by default. You can also choose from three subtitle sizes. However, there isn’t any audio description in the subtitles. An opaque background can be applied to improve subtitle contrast, but the black background is placed flush with the words and is, therefore, not very effective.

However, a few problems have been identified once in-game. They begin with an important gameplay point. You can, in fact, develop skills for the perfect parry. It means parrying an enemy attack at exactly the precise moment when the enemy hits you. The visual effect between a simple and perfect parry isn’t any different, however, the difference can be heard. If you can’t perceive it, save your experience points by not investing them into this mechanic.

Another important point, especially in a game where combat is essential, is knowing how to spot enemies, and that also goes for when you have hearing loss, especially for enemies outside of your field of vision. Unfortunately, there isn’t any indication of enemies other than by using scan or High Contrast. And again, even with this support, some enemies remain immobile and only move when you approach them. So expect regular attacks from behind because you don’t hear them growl beforehand!

The game remains playable, however, by adapting your playstyle. Story Mode can help if surprise attacks become too annoying.


Lecture intro

What if I have a cognitive disability?

5 / 10


From a cognitive point of view, we have to say that it’s hard to decide on the game’s playability. Let’s start by mentioning a particular point that created a lot of controversy. Stellar Blade is an Asian game, Korean to be more precise, and intended for a young male audience. Female characters are very voluptuous, which may trouble some players. There’s an option allowing you to lengthen the main character’s, Eve’s, ponytail to hide her curves, but the ponytail’s very thin.

This is an aspect that has already made some of our testers uncomfortable, so be warned. As Bibi said during the live test, some games’ level of violence is just as shocking, so Stellar Blade doesn’t necessarily deserve the controversy that it’s received, but for our audience, it’s good to know!

That being said, let’s move on to Stellar Blade’s accessibility in more detail. One frequent difficulty for players with cognitive disabilities is focusing on the game and knowing what to do. Regarding the first point, as discussed above, you’ll be able to adjust sound sources and, if necessary, also adjust in-game vibrations. This way, you can just keep the most useful information in the form that’s most comfortable for you.

However, apart from that, options for in-game information management are very limited. Either you have to display everything, even if you get overloaded, or you have to remove everything at the risk of not having enough information. A third setting allows the game to choose what’s displayed. In short, you have very little control.

High contrast mode is intended for visually-impaired players, but for lack of better options, it’ll also be of great use in reducing information overload. This mode uses color to highlight useful objects, so you don’t have to search for them. It makes the game more comfortable by reducing the level of concentration required.

Now, let’s get to in-game support. It can be difficult for some to understand all the mechanics of a game, so reminders are important. Stellar Blade, like many games, shows you actions once, when you start, in the beginning zone. You’ll find the game mechanics again in the menu, illustrated and in video form, so that’s a good point if you can find your way through written menus.

Then… well, there are some good things, but you have to find them! For example, you can practice as much as you need in the skills training module, but this module is only accessible when you’re in one of the many camps by going to a skills terminal, choosing the skill and using the square key to start training. Those are a lot of steps for something essential.

Secondly, it’s also a tactical fight game. There are many different enemies, and you have to know each of them to fight them well; for example, one may have a big shield, and you have to attack it by jumping on it or taking it from behind to get past it. So, if it’s difficult for you to patiently observe and analyze enemy behavior, you’ll soon be in trouble. Even more so for bosses who have several fight phases, each with its own characteristics. And to be effective, you need to place powerful strikes, sometimes requiring four or five key combinations.

For our team of testers, who all have attention deficits or analytical problems, their strategy is usually, “Let’s dive in!!!” After all, it works for a lot of games. But in Stellar Blade, that’s not enough, and by the second boss, everyone was stuck. Well, with our team, a lack of analytical skills is usually balanced out by patience and stubbornness, but it can still get frustrating.

Fortunately, the game offers a Story Mode that has a nice effect by reducing enemy health and damage. So, the game’s much more playable using this mode, but it still remains a challenge.

Another game mechanic is exploration. Firstly, you have to know where to go. For this, there is an in-game tool: the scan. It displays a compass with a directional marker to follow. There isn’t any map at all, so this is the only indicator you have, and you’ll have to remember to trigger it often since it only lasts for a few seconds.

If you have trouble knowing what to do, a default option displays a hint at the top of the screen, but it’s only in writing and you have to manually activate it using a button. So, it can also be an obstacle to some players.

The last potential pitfall is 3D management. Some elements are related to the platform itself. You have to cross zones by jumping and grabbing onto things. The game also requires you to aim well, judge distances in 3D and have fast reflexes. When you’re swinging from a bar, find the right direction and jump just when you’re at your highest point to travel as far as possible because it’s down to a matter of millimeters, and that can be three times in a row. It’s quite complex.

As we said, menus and quite a few items are in writing, and there isn’t any screen reader. However, the game launches in the console’s selected language, so you don’t need to go into settings to activate French [sic.].

This is where our hesitation comes from regarding the game’s accessibility for players with cognitive disabilities, and the average score suffers as a result


Lecture intro

    What We Think


Stellar Blade confronts players with the usual obstacles typical of action-adventure games. Boss fight mechanics, exploration, and puzzles are all well and truly present. If you’re comfortable with games like Dark Souls, that should suit you.

We really appreciated the visual support. In particular, color-blindness filters and a High Contrast mode make it easy for visually-impaired players and those with concentration difficulties to find their bearings, but these are really the only effective support features.

As is typical of action games, Stellar Blade can be demanding, with frequent series of key combinations and a need for very quick reflexes.

Review Scores

  • moteur - 4
  • visuel - 6
  • auditif - 6
  • cognitif - 5

We'd love to hear what you think! What difficulties have you encountered with this or other games?