Code Vein mixes a lot of interesting concepts and ideas in a single dose. Tough combat, anime-ish graphics, a serious story, and interesting character development all come together to create a soothing dose to scratch your action-roleplaying itch. Some minor unpolished blemishes deter the experience, but never to the point where the game feels anything short of great. Code Vein experiments with ideas, some of which have not been seen in the genre. My time spent with Code Vein was well spent, to be completely honest, I am already planning my next character’s look and build.
There’s no denying the seriousness of Code Vein‘s story. Your character awakens in a world where revenants seek blood to survive, be they tree-grown blood beads or humans. Meeting up with a gang of likable characters, they soon discover you have a special ability, and only you can save their world from certain doom. It’s a story-heavy game, complete with lengthy cutscenes, a lot of dialogue, and memories (of other characters) you get to experience in an interesting way. Fortunately, these memories are not only drip-feeders for the story, but they are also tied closely to character customization (more on this in a bit). The early hours of the game might seem weariful, but sticking to the story reveals a fascinating world, and a cast of characters you can easily grow to care for. This becomes even more apparent once you take a dive into the lore.
It’s a story-heavy game, complete with lengthy cutscenes, a lot of dialogue, and memories (of other characters) you get to experience in an interesting way.
Creating your custom character can either be a quick affair, or it can evolve into a marathon game-session. The amount of options Bandai Namco has given players in the character creator portion of the game alone is staggering. It only takes a quick Google search to witness the hundreds of thousands of designs from creatives across the globe. Anime, games, pop-culture, anyone, and everyone can be created here. It’s a blessing to see such a diverse selection bleed through to your character’s actual build. Blood Codes, essentially the classes in Code Vein, are many and varied. They all typically boil down to caster, ranged, and melee classes, but the Gifts is where this system truly shines.
Each Blood Code, aside from its base stat improvements, consists of Gifts. These differ between passives, combos, abilities, etc. Take for instance the Mercury Blood Code, which belongs to our resident merchant, Coco. Here your revenant can learn a bunch of utility abilities, including a handy lightning weapon buff. Atlas, the Blood Code of Yakumo, focuses on heavy-hitting abilities, including a handy “second chance” passive ability. Selecting Gifts and equipping their respective Blood Code will see you master the equipped abilities. Once mastered, though, they can be slotted into any Blood Code you choose. Herein lies the great diversity of character customization. It can feel overwhelming at first, but by sticking with it and experimenting, you’ll be treated to a system that allows as much freedom as the character creator.
The inclusion of an AI partner can either alleviate the difficulty of the game or ramp it up considerably.
As a last note on combat. The inclusion of an AI partner can either alleviate the difficulty of the game or ramp it up considerably. It might be my dulling reflexes, waning patience, or Lynley’s grumpiness rubbing off on me, but I played the entire game with a trusty AI partner, and the challenge never reached that of frustration. If the difficulty leaves you wanting, you can simply instruct your partner to stay behind. By making this decision, the difficulty in Code Vein increases, leaving you to fend for yourself, by yourself. If the campaign still doesn’t satiate your masochistic needs, the Depths will provide in spades.
Collecting specific maps will allow revenants to explore the Depths. These dungeons usually consist of a couple of corridors, a few keys to collect, enemies, a mini-boss or two, and a final boss. The first couple of floors can be compared to a stroll through a botanical garden; the deeper you dive though, the more the botanical garden stroll turns into a survival game through the circles of purgatory. Needless to say, the Depths can become a hellish difficulty place, more so when not playing with a partner. On the flip side, after slogging through the Depths, your revenant can exchange their blood-caked gear for a bathing suit and relax in the hot springs. Even the newly parasite-controlled resurrected needs a soothing soak in hot springs every now and again.
…playing on a launch PlayStation 4 saw the frame rate take more than a couple of hits.
Aside from the great ideas in Code Vein, the game is not without issues. As I mentioned in my demo impressions, the character snapping has not been fixed. Seeing your character essentially teleporting to a chest, door or ladder is still jarring, to say the least. This can be lessened by lining your character up with the interactable object, so as to “skip” the snap animation, but honestly, I feel like this is something the developers should have corrected during the development cycle. Aside from this, playing on a launch PlayStation 4 saw the frame rate take more than a couple of hits. Seeing as we’ve seen our fair share of graphically amazing games in 2019 with smooth frame rates, I personally feel a game should not suffer from this, especially with the technology at the disposal of developers.
Code Vein, accused of being an “Anime Dark Souls“, is so much more. Bandai Namco has injected its game with enough additions and features, creating a game that should be judged on its own merits. Though not a perfect game by design, Code Vein is a tough, enjoyable action-RPG, set in an interesting world filled with interesting concepts.
Code Vein wears its inspirations on its sleeve, but don’t let that distract you from the truly exceptional action-RPG experience that it offers.