Code Vein recently had their closed beta/stress test this weekend, where a small selection of people got to hop into the tutorial mission and level 40 dungeon. Showing off the intro to their story as well as the mechanics the game brings to the table, Code Vein seemingly just allowed us all to play what we had already seen in previous videos. Developed by Bandai Namco, who published the Dark Souls series, the game seems to take heavy inspiration from their partner developers FromSoftware.
Starting off the test, Code Vein allows us free reign of its character creation, with plenty of hairs, accessories, faces and more to choose from. The customisation is relatively similar to other eastern games, with wide selections, colours, positions and wacky choices, though seemed somewhat lacking in the number of choices. While you could choose the orientation of features, colour and whatnot, there were a few too many options that were too similar. You also cannot wear too many accessories as they have a “cost” which limits your creativity. Compared to western character creators, Code Vein offers plenty, though it could do with some more hands-on controls and sliders.
After our character is all prepped, there are no stat allocations to be had, we jump straight into the story. We awaken to find ourselves and our friend being amnesiacs because 1 forgetful cliché wasn’t enough. A slow walk later and we find a pure white spring, where our buddy gives us a good bite to let our blood revive the spring which creates blood beads. One nap later and we are abducted by some passing thugs.
Put into slavery we are forced into a nearby dungeon with a friend to clear out some Lost, Code Vein’s name for pretty much all the enemies. Our job is to find more blood beads as everyone is a vampire-like creature so blood is a necessity. Defeating a boss, getting our item and jumping ship from the slavers we come to the end of the story portion of the stress test.
The small taste of story is nothing to write home about, with plenty of information being optional dialogues with NPCs, characters who aren’t too interesting or die too quick and females who seem to have lost their clothes in the apocalypse… or the men stole them as they often have 3x the clothing.
Gameplay in Code Vein is very similar to the Souls franchise, probably asking for help from their past working friends. While it may be trying to emulate their past releases, Code Vein falls a fair few metres from the mark, landing on quality akin to The Surge, which I was none too impressed in. This is mostly in part due to the commitment in movements and the general sluggishness of the combat.
You have a light attack with Square, heavy with Triangle without any real combos in the beginning. Heavy weapons take a long time to swing and leave you wide open, with smaller weapons still requiring a good amount of time for animations. Most enemies get staggered from your hits, but bigger foes can often ignore that and hit you while you flail about. You can dodge with Circle, which changes depending on your gear from a roll, dash or teleport, though you are not invincible for long whilst doing so. Lastly you have a special attack when holding X, or as a parry from pressing L2, this also changed with your jacket, from a tail to 2 tentacle beasts that remind me of The Darkness franchise.
Instead of magic, you have gifts, which come in the form of buffs to your stats, attacks at varying ranges, heals and more. These all have cooldowns, with the healing gift being imperative as that allows you to revive co-op partners in combat when they fall. Gifts get better as you progress, with better ones being purchased with haze. Passives can also be bought, mastered and attached to your character and any blood codes.
Blood codes are the class system of this game, giving you stat increases to varying parameters. You have tank codes, dps, magic, ranged and more which you can freely swap out in your equipment menu. You’ll want to use them all at some point to master their gifts, allowing you to use them in other codes.
Levelling is relatively straightforward, once you gain enough haze, which is gained from defeating enemies, you spend an amount to increase your level which in turn raises your health, stamina and some small improvements to attack and defence. Levels don’t have any major feedback, whereas gear improving is much more beneficial to your character as the bonuses to damage is far higher. From the short experience with the systems at hand, improving your character seems to be a lengthy process.
Code Vein has a rollercoaster difficulty to it, which is mostly dictated by your weapon choices. Since you cannot cancel any action, like other action games, you have to commit to your attacks. If you miss, you’ll most likely get counterattacked. If you’re currently going through an animation you can’t really react to your opponents. Whilst this does lessen over time as you come to terms with the gameplay it continues to feel clunky and unrefined, giving me harsh flashbacks of my time with The Surge.
Co-Op partners make the game way easier, both in the splitting up of enemy focus and the fact that they can revive you if their healing gift is ready. Co-op NPCs are often very strong on their own, with the tutorial mission being mostly completed by your helpers, though this is not the case for the level 40 dungeon we were treated to. It is hard to say how long this occurrence will continue on for, but from the time in the level 40 dungeon, it seems like it does die off at a certain point.
Overall I was mildly disappointed with what Code Vein had to offer with their Stress Test. The gameplay was sluggish and slow when compared to other games in the genre. The story felt too broken up with the introduction feeling way too sped up and unexplained towards the end, not to mention the fact that characters don’t have much development in the short hour we are given with them. Female characters seem to be made as eye-candy, whereas all the men are clothed to the nines. While the music had some good rhythm to it, most of the game was quiet. Gifts and codes added in a slightly unique taste to the game but without a deeper look, I cannot say for sure if it will save the sinking boat. If you enjoyed The Surge, then this is a vampire skin coating of that, but if you want something with quality matching the Soulsborne franchise or Sekiro you may want to look elsewhere or wait for the full game review.