Methodical outplays. An ever-challenging world. Head-splitting, rage-inducing boss encounters. It’s the very essence of what makes Dark Souls… actual freakin’ Dark Souls. It’s a game that delivers its gamers to their graves faster than a pizza guy can knock at your door. And Code Vein is no different. It kicks off with the challenging encounters and strategical gameplay swinging high and mighty with the “Anime-stethics” that looks and feels like God Eater in every way. Yet the biggest question is, how well does it separate itself from its source of inspiration?
Being the anime twin brother of Dark Souls, one of its most notable differences is its robust and exhausting character customization. Something that I made sure to take full advantage of as I spend countless hours going on and off as each area is completed. Creating characters that I wouldn’t normally be able to do anywhere else. Hatsune Miku anyone? The Seven Deadly Sins’ Elizabeth Liones perhaps? How about SAO’s Asuna Yuuki in her ALO avatar?
While not a perfect system due to its limitations towards accessory slots or the lacklustre amount of outfits, it’s far beyond what most games of the genre are even capable of. But with that being said, it does fail in making some things work. Hair clipping is one of my biggest complaints making the hours I spent re-aligning my twin tails, side bangs, or anything feel off after putting on the larger and heavier pieces of armour called Blood Veils. The option within the customization screen to preview your avatar wearing certain blood veils would be a nice addition in the future.
The story, however, starts off pretty bleak with the usual silent character we all know and love from the God Eater series. You wake up in the lap of a half-naked girl with only a thin sheet of fabric to cover up her erotic stature in a world filled with monsters they call the Lost. A few slowly spoken words later, you’re forced into slavery, murdered your very first male companion and realized you don’t give a fuck to what others tell you and picked up that vestige anyway which in turn sucks you into people’s forgotten memory as you slowly crawl your way to the door as the game meticulously deliberates its character’s story.
The story does pick up really well a few segments later giving their characters major highlights as you learn about their past and experience their presence as you progress through its narrative. It’s quite surprising how well each character collapses into each other and provide a broader scope of their own character development that I found myself crying over a few instances while completely being blown away by the sheer love and effort that went into its writing.
When it comes to its actual combat, it follows similar mechanics to Dark Souls and the like. Giving you a weak and heavy attack that consumes your stamina based on the type of weapon equipped aside from a dodge, block, parry and drain attack that can be fully utilized to your advantage. It plays out pretty slow at first making the combat pretty dull and lifeless. However, as you progress through the story, you eventually learn new Blood Codes which is considered the class system, that improves your arsenal of abilities and increases your options through inflicting damage or support. This is where the game really branched off and made itself unique. You can have a blood code equipped with the option to add up to a total of eight active abilities whether you’re focusing on melee, ranged or a supportive role plus four passive abilities that drastically changes the playing field.
There’s an undeniable weight to each ability giving you so many ways to implement your own style as you master the abilities of certain blood codes and then use them on another providing an even deeper amount of freedom. You can be an in-your-face brawler wrestling one of the meanest bosses with your heavy swinging greatsword or simply chipping off their health bar from a distance as a spell user. And the options are only limited as your imagination. Combat does, however, feel wonky as its controls. The lock-on system won’t switch to other enemies if they’re not visible in the field which is excruciatingly painful when faced with multiple bosses at once making the fight more about positioning than it is about whiff punishing the telegraphed move sets that often times have such huge hitboxes that it requires precise timing to get it right.
Unlike Dark Souls however, the game implements a buddy system in which an AI companion can join you through exploration and boss fights which makes both slightly easier than doing it alone. It also supports up to two players online if you’re struggling at certain bosses or simply want to join a friend in his dying breath.
Visually, the game isn’t as grand or as vast as the likes of Bloodborne when it comes to its world design. Most of which are settled in with the post-apocalyptic setting with very straightforward map design and lets you teleport through the different areas thanks to the checkpoints called mistles that also provides you a way to level up, inherit or master abilities among a few other things. This, however, makes way to provide an array of diverse landscapes from the snow-capped highlands to the blazing hot deserts.
And exploring every nook and cranny is its greatest reward. You get to obtain unique blood veils, blood codes or weapons that help you throughout the journey while also providing character story progression bits which is easily one of the best things about the game. Having a mini-map that takes note of all the areas you’ve been through is also a nice addition when you’re trying to fully explore areas before the imminent boss fight.
Code Vein is a welcomed addition to the expansive line-up of souls-like games. It offers a great narrative and explores its characters making them feel alive and relatable all throughout the journey. Despite my minor gripes with its outfits or even the wonky combat, Code Vein delivers the explosive flair of its skill-based combat system that both Souls and God Eater fans can appreciate. If you’re looking for a game with an impressive line-up of characters, a well-written story and decent combat system, I highly recommend checking it out.
Code Vein is an action role-playing game co-developed by Shift and Bandai Namco Studio and published by Bandai Namco Entertainment
Developer: BANDAI NAMCO Studios
Composer: Go Shiina
Producer(s): Keita Iizuka
Publisher: BANDAI NAMCO
Code Vein is available on the following Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows