[PlayStation 5] Stray Blade Review

by EdEN, Owner

Stray Blade from 505 Games and Point Blank Games is a new Soulslike experience on PlayStation 5 with a dash of Metroidvania. Is it one worth checking out? Find out in our Stray Blade review!

Stray Blade from 505 Games and Point Blank Games is a new Soulslike experience on PlayStation 5. It tells the tale of one Farren West, a self-proclaimed adventurer – and the finest explorer around – who has been traveling the known world for years. Farren likes to say that they conquered the world, traveling to satisfy the curiosity that burned through their heart. Having so much experience under their belt, Farren sets eyes on the only objective left: Acrea the Lost Valley. Acrea is a legendary valley that no one has managed to find, making it the perfect adventure for someone as talented and skilled as Farren.

Things don’t go as planned, and Farren ends up with a stone incrusted in their chest. Farren remembers, well, dying after the stone hit. And yet, Farren stands, ready for a new quest. Yes, Farren did die. Yes, Farren is now once again alive. Yes, there’s a price to pay for that privilege. You see, Farren is now bonded to Acrea and is forbidden from leaving it behind. Your quest will, therefore, have to do with finding a way to earn your freedom while still being able to leave the land alive and – mostly – well. You’ll be joined on this journey by Boji, a being that is half wolf, half Xhinnon.

The game can be played in one of four difficulty settings: Story, Adventure, Challenge, and Farren Must Die. Each one will affect the values for the enemy health modifier, enemy damage modifier, enemy poise modifier, and enemy poise regeneration speed modifier. You can also decide if you want to show enemy attack indicators or not. There’s even a fifth option called Custom that, as the name suggests, gives you a chance to change the values for each of the aforementioned modifiers.

Stray Blade Review - 1

You’ll control your character with the left analog stick as you use the right one to look around. To sprint, press in on the left analog stick. The X button will be for jumping, while the Circle button will allow you to dodge an incoming red attack. If you dodge red attacks at the right time, you’ll get to recover some of your energy. The Square button is for interacting. The D-Pad will be used for switching weapons, using a Heart Berry, checking your compass, or opening the Rune crafting wheel by pressing up, left, down, or right, respectively. When using the compass, it will point you toward the general direction of your next objective.

Your capacity to hold Heart Berries is limited, which is the game’s way of balancing things out. This is why you should always heal your wounds when needed. On top of finding them out in the wild, enemies will sometimes also drop Heart Berries. You can increase how many Heart Berries you can hold at any given time – more on this in a bit – but keeping Farren completely healed will be a must, especially if you’re not careful and fall from a considerable height. Because of this, you should be sure to activate all of the Acrean Life Shrines you run into. They will act as a save point, reviving you at the last one you visited.

When in combat, you can toggle between targets by pressing in on the right analog stick. You can also cycle between targets by pressing left or right on the right analog stick. The R1 button will be for light attacks, while heavy attacks will be mapped to the R2 button. Attacks consume energy, so you’ll have to pay attention to your energy bar at all times. The L2 button will allow you to block attacks. Pressing the Triangle button will make it possible for you to parry an attack – marked by a blue hue on an enemy – as long as you time it just right. Abilities can be used by pressing the L1 button and the Circle, Triangle, Square, or X buttons as needed.

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Most enemies will have a Poise Bar that regenerates over time. You can deplete it by attacking an enemy or by successfully parrying. Deplete it until s stagger indicator pops up, and the enemy will be staggered, and you’ll recover some energy. Once this happens, there will be an opening for you to use a finisher on an enemy. Stealthily approach an enemy from behind so that it doesn’t notice your presence, and you’ll be able to perform a backstab. This will deal considerable damage to an enemy.

Pressing the Touchpad on the DualSense will open up the main menu from where you can check your inventory, any blueprints you’ve found that can be used for crafting, the Skilltree, the world map, your journal, and the glossary. Your inventory will show all of the items, weapons, and other equipment you’ve managed to get your hands on. Your time with Stray Blade will start with nothing more than the clothes on you and your mighty fists doing the talking for you, so be sure to grab everything that you find!

Crafting will require that you find blueprints and the items needed to complete each project. But thanks to crafting, you’ll gain access to new weapons and new armor parts. The first blueprint you’ll find will be for the Military Longsword, which you can loot from the first enemy you defeat in the game. Explore a bit further, and you will find a treasure chest with a blueprint for a Winged Helmet. Collect leather, claws, green fern, iron bars, straps, teeth, Acrean stones, bandage weed, intium, mirror fungus, bonedust, and more to be able to work on crafting what each blueprint offers. You’ll need to use a forge for crafting.

The Skilltree is where you’ll be able to spend the Skill Points that you obtain as you level up from all the experience points that you’ll obtain from defeating enemies and bosses. It’s there that you’ll get to boost the damage for light, heavy, and special attacks, increase your health, lower the amount of energy required for blocking, add additional Heart Berry slots, add more energy to Farren’s total, lower the cooldown period for your skills, or make it possible to recover more energy with each successful parry. And that’s only Farren’s Skilltree!

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Boji will have a separate one that you can work on maxing out. Boji’s Skilltree is different in that it can be used by spending Lore Points. Lore Points are obtained by Boji when you find ancient relics hidden all over Acrea. You can either invest Lore Points in improving Boji’s abilities, or you can spend them on his Crafting Skills. You can call Boji to perform an Arcane Blast to attack enemies, have him revive Farren on the battlefield every now and then, or Boji might jump into action and distract enemies as you catch your breath and get your attack ready. Crafting Skills are important since Boji will be able to craft Runes for you, and you can improve them thanks to his Skilltree.

Your journal will contain information on every step of your adventure so that you never forget what has happened and what is currently going on. As for the glossary, it provides some valuable information on the characters that you meet, the enemies that you battle, the regions that you’ve explored, the Acrean legacies you’ve found, any notes taken about your quest, and the tutorials you’ve been shown.

And then, there are the game’s trophies. Stray Blade has a full trophy list with a Platinum for you to work on adding to your collection. The list includes crafting all weapons, crafting all armor parts, defeating each of the bosses in the game, beating 5 or more enemies with nothing more than your fists, entering each region for the first time, equipping three Runes on a weapon at once, complete each region 100%, finding all blueprints, locating all Runes, finding all story notes and Acrean legacies, and more.

Stray Blade Review - 4

Stray Blade is a Soulslike with a dash of Metroidvania that feels comfortably familiar. Its gameplay loop is one that will keep you busy and coming back for more as you try to find a way for Farren to escape from the bond that ties this adventurer to Acrea. There is some pop-in here and there, and the game’s framerate does sometimes drop when performing a finisher. The loading also feels a bit long, considering this is a native PlayStation 5 game. Stray Blade is out on PlayStation 5 with a $34.99 price tag.

This Stray Blade review is based on a PlayStation 5 copy provided by 505 Games.

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