Love it or hate, there is no denying the influence that Dark Souls has had on the gaming landscape. It’s reached a point where it isn’t really fair to compare a new game to a series that started 10 years ago anymore, but rather the sub-genre that it inspired.
Code Vein is a game which falls into this sub-genre that somehow rips the source off so blatantly, and yet still feels wholly unique and fresh.
The gift of rebirth
You play as a Revenant, a recently resurrected amnesiac who is stuck in an isolated city called Vein, which is surrounded by a mysterious miasma that prevents everyone and anyone from coming or going.
Code Vein is an action-JRPG that looks and feels like an over-the-top anime series. There is no doubt where it gets its inspiration from, but there’s a lot that makes it feels a lot different than anything that came before it. For a start, the challenge that the Souls-Like genre is known for is almost non-existent here. Sure, it is a bit more challenging than your average action-adventure game, and there’s no difficulty setting in sight, but it is a lot more forgiving in the way it plays.
It’s also very heavy on plot, featuring an endearing cast of characters that you will get to know and love as you play along. You start not having a clue what’s going on, but unlike other games such as this, it is a lot more direct and to the point, although a bit bonkers. This is a good thing though, as this, along with a lot more accessible and forgiving gameplay, could make it a lot more attractive than some of the more challenging and punishing offerings out there.
Once you’re done creating your waifu, you’re ready to go about three hours later.
JRPG, through and through
Code Vein features a pretty robust RPG system, which might catch a lot of people by surprise. To start, the character creator is incredibly detailed, allowing you to create your perfect Anime Waifu Hero. Most of the options are presets, but there are so many things that you can mix and match that makes it a lot of fun to experiment with. You will also be able to customise the character more from your Home Base, being able to do just about anything, except for changing the character’s gender. Once you’re done creating your waifu, you’re ready to go about three hours later.
The game has a lot of RPG elements to it, and it can be a little bit overwhelming at first, you can carry up to two weapons which you can switch between. Weapons vary in size, speed and damage outputs and can be anything from swords to machetes to massive hammers to the longer-range bayonets. Each requires a different playstyle and is really up to personal choice.
But that is not your only way of dealing out the pain, as each Revenant has their own unique Bloodcode, except for you (because you’re special) as you can use all of them. This is a type of class system, that is interchangeable once again to suit your playstyle. There’s a lot of them to choose from, and each of them comes with their special gifts, which are essentially your powers, which are used either passively or actively in either defence or offence. Going into too much detail here will take forever, but just know that there are so many gifts, that even though it’s bound to a certain Bloodcode, it can still be used with others once you have used it a bit and learned it’s latent powers. The options to suit you as a player is almost limitless.
You can equip up to eight gifts at a time, and you consume Ichor to use them. Ichor can be replenished by using items or simply smacking enemies a few times, which forces you to sometimes be a bit more aggressive. It gets a little bit overly complex, but fortunately, you can almost ignore all that, just get the gifts you enjoy the most.
Too easy for a Souls-like?
When you’re out and about, exploring the different locations, you will realise that it’s not nearly as challenging as the genre is known for. Sure, the enemies do hit hard, but you hit back just as hard. You always have a companion with you, and they are incredibly efficient in combat, and will even use their healing items to revive you, should you suddenly get stun locked by an enemy and run out of HP. This only happens a limited number of times, but it does allow you keep fighting a lot longer than you might have, and even make it to the next bonf- *cough* Mistle to recharge and continue the journey.
Boss fights, although quite creative in design, aren’t overly taxing and there were only a few of them that had me crying about BS moves and unfair hit-boxes. Some can be beaten on a single try, and most will be taken down in no more than four or five attempts. They’re still fun to play though, and having them be less taxing doesn’t take too much away from it.
The checkpoints are quite liberally scattered across the maps, which even though they’ve got plenty of branching paths, are not open world. The level design is very well done, for the most part, even though some of the later levels, and especially one in the middle of the game, can seem like the developers either ran out of time, or ideas. These levels look very old schools thanks to weird, frustrating mazes and an environment that looks the same everywhere. It’s not that well executed and is a bit of a blight on what is otherwise some very clever and nice-looking designs.
In-between all this you get to go to your Home Base, a place where you can go hang with all your anime cliche friends to chat with them, upgrade your gear or even go hang out in a hot spring because of course you can.
A thirst for some improvements
Code Vein is a good game, that’s well designed and a lot of fun to play. It also features a decent enough Online mode, which allows you to either assist others in areas you’ve cleared or get help from others. I didn’t manage to get any help from others in later stages of the game, but I did get to play online with some other people.
Online feels a bit weird though, as you get nerfed quite a bit, and it also feels almost like your hits on enemies don’t register, you see the numbers pop and the health bar shrink, but there’s no other auditory or vibration feedback from the controller. It makes combat feel a bit weird, and I found it hard to time my combos properly while playing online with others.
Overall, Code Vein is a fun game that might be of a lot of value to you. It can do with a bit of improvement in terms of level design, and the online element can do with some work, but it remains an enjoyable experience.
It will take you anywhere between 30 to 40 hours to beat the game once depending on your skill level, as well as your ability to find your way on some of the maze-like levels. It’s got a decent enough and a bit over-the-top anime story with a lovable cast of misfits, and the gameplay is fun and not overly taxing.
I enjoyed playing Cod Vein, and if you can look past the fact that it is a sort of Souls-Like clone, then I am sure you will be able to enjoy it as well. Provided you like anime of course.