There is no way to address Code Vein without comparing it to Dark Souls. It is Anime Souls in virtually every single comparison that could be made. Published by Bandai Namco, like Dark Souls, I am sure even that is what the publisher was looking for when it struck out to fund a new game from the God Eater guys. “You know that game we published Dark Souls? We want that. But with anime.”
So, right out the bat – Code Vein is a Dark Souls clone– a very well-made Dark Souls clone. Where Code Vein is at its best is when it is following in Dark Souls footsteps, with incredibly fluid hack-and-slash combat. It takes a formula that worked, throws in some of its own style and you have combat that is very fun. You have your basic fast attacks, your heavier hitting slow attacks, which can also be charged, and then you have your dodge roll and weapon block. If you know the formula you will jump right in, aptly swinging your sword and dodge rolling out of harm’s way. If you are new to this style of game, Code Vein will be your best friend though, offering a full tutorial that will really help get you acclimated to the game.
Striking out with something new, all of your offense-based skills are powered by ichor, which will recharge on its own as you fight or through Blood Veil attacks. Catch an enemy from behind, parry an attack or just over charge the veil attack button and your character will launch into a satisfying glory attack with the blood veil, that will either pierce the enemy with a giant claw, rip them apart with 2 hounds created from your cloak or a few other weapon specific animations. This skill system by and large is one of the biggest changes to the fomula established by Dark Souls. All these skills are learned through the class system, called Blood Codes.
Blood Codes do everything at the core of the game, allowing you to play a more streamlined experience than say a Dark Souls or even a Nioh. When you level up, all you do is choose to level up, that is it. Blood Codes handle everything else. And the joy here is they can be switched on the fly. Want to be a speedy rouge with high dexterity? Go for it. Caster with high ichor stock and high magic attack? Again, go for it.
Each Blood Code will change your stats, accordingly, allowing customization through learned skills from other blood codes. Once you learn a skill, and master it, it can be used with any other available blood code. The end results give you a lot of freedom to play the game how you want; there is no wrong or right way. You can never level up so poorly you have to restart. However, you feel comfortable playing, the game wants you to play it that way.
That is where Code Vein is at its best, as every so often I find myself wanting to try other things, branch out from what was comfortable. It also helped make every situation feel winnable, that the correct answer was in your toolbox, and all you had to do was tinker with it a bit and see if you could tackle the problem better. Experimentation is the core of combat in Code Vein, and that aspect is a lot of fun. Tweaking your play style, and your move set until you have it just right can be very rewarding.
With a Dark Souls style you come in expecting some things to be key, like raging hard difficulty. If you are new to this genre, you will find the combat to be very rewarding, challenging, but beatable– never hitting the difficulty spikes that Dark Souls hit. But if you are a Souls-like veteran, combat will not be so easy that you don’t find some sort of challenge in it, and be you a newcomer or veteran — if you need help it is just a click away, offering a bit more streamlined online experience in jolly good co-operation. (But avoiding PVP for the time being.)
In fact, I would highly recommend this game to people who are curious about Dark Souls, but don’t have the patience to test its difficulty. Code Vein is a very accommodating entry point into a Souls-like journey, and who knows by the end you may find yourself with some new skills you didn’t know you had, ready to tackle a harder
As I already called it Anime Souls, I would be crazy to not discuss the graphics. They look amazing. The visuals are not going to win any awards for hyper realism, but they DO look like you are watching an anime. Each environment offers up something new for you to ogle over, though ruined post-apocalyptic city scape is the offering of the day. Code Vein shines with its anime engine though, and combat looks outstanding. Much of the games story is told through cutscenes, and those are very well done.
Throughout the game you can repair blood codes, and watch memories of your comrades. Even those scenes, which use static set pieces, look good as you walk through them. The only issue I take with the graphics is the jarring decision to not have characters’ mouths move while talking in non-cutscene dialogue. If you talk to any of the denizens of home base, be prepared to stare at an unmoving mouth and wonder what resources were really saved by opting not to animate this…
While Dark Souls is known for having deep, engrossing stories (told through the vaguest storytelling possible), that is not the case here, as Code Vein offers up a fully fleshed-out story — which I’m enjoying a bit more than I should have. It is nothing unique but tells the story of the desperate state of the world very good. Between the cutscenes to further the story, and your foray into the memories of other characters, a solid tale is woven here, one that kept me wanting to press on to see what would happen next. I really felt invested in some of the characters, and thoroughly enjoyed learning more about the world of Code Vein and how it came to be in the state it was in.
One aspect of Code Vein that needs to be seen to be believed is the character creator. Offering a full suite of tools to help make a perfect character for you to get behind and place into the world of Vein. Maybe that was a big part of the connection I felt to the characters and story? I was able to create a character that I thought was perfect and was able to really connect with. There are so many options, and sliders, and tools that there is no way you can’t recreate your favorite anime character or make something you can connect with. Code Vein has maybe the best creator suite I’ve seen in a game in some time.
With its roots firmly in Dark Souls, Code Vein may be a clone, but it is a very solid clone. It brings enough new to the formula to feel new, while sticking closely to Dark Souls enough to also feel familiar. The result to me is an outstanding action RPG, that even Souls newbies should not sleep on. Maybe, just maybe it is the game that gets your feet wet on an amazing genre of games. I find myself now, sitting here waiting for the DLC to see where they go with the story next. Bandai Namco has another amazing series on its hands, and there’s no question that the future is bright for the dark world of Vein. 4.5/5 Bibles.