Dark Souls ushered in a new time of tough-as-nails games. The series inspired a lot of other developers into creating their own version of the game, albeit with original mechanics. Recently we reviewed the brutal The Surge 2, which had us ripping limbs from our opponents in order to gain new powers and gear. This time we head to the anime-side of the fence with Code Vein, which is another Souls-like game with a lot of original twists and turns. Code Vein utilizes a partner system, as well as the option to switch classes on the fly, which makes it a very interesting entry in the genre. We were quite stoked to start hacking our opponents and see how well we’d fare.
When booting up Code Vein, it’s hard to know what is going on. It seems the world has gone to hell, and that the human population has dwindled making our race become near-extinct. The humans live in cities, while revenants have to protect them. These revenants are vampire-like creatures that are made out of resurrected humans who have to quench their hunger with human blood. While these super-soldiers are forced to live outside of the human society, to slay ‘the lost’, which are monsters that have popped up out of thin air, things are not going well. The revenants have to make do with diminishing supplies of human blood, making them go frenzy and become another of the lost in the process. This makes it harder for the remaining revenants to do their job and not succumb to the bloodthirst. You play as an unnamed protagonist, who has the power to reawaken the dried up blood-springs. You join a band of likeminded revenants, not only to make life more manageable for the other revenants but hopefully to one day live in peace amongst the remaining humans.
The story is presented through in-game cutscenes that occasionally pop up between bigger boss battles. The story remains quite unclear for a long time, and some items take longer to become clear and after a while, it might feel like the story is only a small motivation to keep playing. Nonetheless, the story itself isn’t bad, but it somewhat reminds us of the fucked-up world we saw in God Eater 3, which was also made by Bandai Namco.
Graphically Code Vein is a very attractive game. The different areas you stroll through look lifelike and are properly created for the setting at hand. We did notice a reasonable amount of frame drops, but mostly for enemies in the distance. The character models are nicely made, and the different design options for the protagonist are rather impressive. While not everything looks extremely good or doesn’t push the PS4 to its limits, the game is a rather impressive sight to behold. The different boss designs push the game forward, even with the many grunts that are being overused.
The sound design in Code Vein is phenomenal. Not only is the voice acting top-notch for a Souls-like game, but the background music is also somewhat of epic proportions. You’ll be treated to a cinematic soundtrack with a proper orchestra accompanying you during the game’s many tough boss battles. We were quite impressed with the soundtrack of the game, which shows a lot of love and care the developers put into their project.
Code Vein is described as an Action RPG, which is certainly true, but it can be described better as a Souls-like experience. You’ll have to wade through many different enemies by studying their move and attack patterns, as rushing in means certain death. Experience is gathered by killing your foes, but it can as easily be lost when you kick the bucket yourself. You can only exchange your gathered Haze (EXP) at Mistles (the equivalent of bonfires in Dark Souls) and every time you do so, you’ll need more for your next level(s). The biggest twists are the class system and the fact you won’t be diving into all the battles alone. Be it offline or online, you’ll be playing as a two man team to combat the lost. This creates interesting mechanics and it also allows you to recover from time to time when your partner is taking on some foes.
We mentioned earlier that Code Vein has its own unique mechanics, which mainly have to do with the class system in the game. In similar games, you often choose a class at the beginning of the game, which will dominate your playstyle for the rest of the game. In Code Vein, you’ll be able to unlock new classes as you go, which you can switch to on the fly. This means that you can always adapt your playstyle to whatever it is you fancy at the moment, or to help you past different enemies. Each class has different (unlockable) skills but they also differ in stats. Some classes will allow you to move faster, use different weapons, have different HP, Ichor (mana) and Stamina stats, and so on. This creates very dynamic gameplay and allows the player to opt for different styles for clearing sections, if he gets bored with his first choices or if he simply wants some change of pace to match a shiny new outfit or weapon.
The controls in Code Vein feel somewhat sluggish like they do in many Souls-like games and that’s pretty much fine. You can’t start button bashing, as the game will finish commands before you’re able to dodge, so you’ll have to time and use your strikes accordingly. The only thing that feels somewhat underpowered is the block ability which still allows damage to seep through, even when your stamina is still full. This is only a minor inconvenience, but it makes blocks in certain situations a bit less of a viable and interesting option.
Code Vein is a very successful entry in the Souls genre and does a formidable job in creating its own interesting and unique quirks. The game does suffer under several difficulty spikes and still has a few hit detection problems which could end up being frustrating for those watching their moves but still getting hit. Nonetheless, if you like games such as Dark Souls, but want a proper story and love the aesthetics of an anime-like game, then Code Vein will be right up your alley.