I love Hidetaka Miyazaki and his hardcore Souls games. Dark souls, Bloodborne and especially Sekiro are all incredible. While the series has had its ups and downs, they have paved the way for a new genre in gaming. Last month saw the launch of Code Vein, Bandai Namco’s anime inspired Souls like.
Now on the surface, Code Vein has a lot going for it. A great developer that also published Dark Souls in europe. Anime art style with swords bigger than your body, and the hardcore combat that Souls fans love. If you scratch a little further under the surface though Code Vein has a lot more hidden away.
The player finds themselves awoke new as a vampire. Not the Twilight shiny kind, the Blade lets slash shit up kind. Your combat at first is very much like Souls combat. Swing a big sword and try not to get hit. Boy oh boy it bloody hurts when you get hit. Your typical dodge, roll and try to get behind works well. You manage to get behind the lumbering idiot and use a sneak attack and WHAT THE HELL IS THIS?!?! A face mask cover half your beautiful anime style face and then tentacles come from nowhere and just pearce the guy. My god that was awesome! You see Code Vein is all about being a vampire but not in the typical way. You use special abilities that cost you Ichor. As you lose Ichor you can regain it from these over the top back stabs, or slowly though just normal combat.
So already we have a new take on the Souls combat, huge tentacles. You can also use these tentacles mid combo for some more Ichor and damage. It’s pretty awesome doing a 2 hit combo with a mace that has a bungalow sized brick attached to the end, to then using your tentacles for some more Ichor.
Now I’ve mentioned Ichor a few times and how vital it is to combat, but what does it do? Ichor enables you to use some incredibly powerful spells and abilities. Every spell and ability in Code Vein requires x amount of Ichor. Your attack buff spell will require 5 Ichor. A massive fireball spell may require 6 Ichor. Ichor usage can make or break your build. If you want to go swingin for the fences and just smash everything into next month then you will need a minimum of 10 Ichor for the defense and offence boost spells. If you’d rather use spells and just laugh at their feeble attempts to kill you while you burn their ass to a crisp, then you will need plenty more.
This is where your Blood Code come in. Each Blood Code will give you the base for a specific play style. From Warrior, Mage to ranger, they are all here. And the best bit is, you can swap them on the fly. You are no longer tied into a specific build and swap when the need arises. I absolutely love this idea, and it works really well too. If I found my magic wasn’t up to par with a specific set of enemies I would simply change over to my two hand sword and just swing for the hills.
Each Blood Code also affect stats, equipment, starting Ichor count and abilities. Much like the Souls series, weapons and magic require a specific rating to equip. A two hand sword for example could require B in strength to wield. So with a magic style Blood Code equipped you may have to leave it in the backpack for a lighter one handed sword. Again I love this because it makes combat always feel fresh and exciting. If you are getting your arse kicked then it may be best to swap for a more defensive build with more armour and harder hitting weapons.
Earlier I touched upon abilities and let’s delve further into them. Each Blood Code has its own set of passive or active abilities. You may have 4 passive and 8 active equipped at a time. As you equip and use abilities that are specific to a Blood Code you will eventually master them. When this happens you are free to equip them on any Blood Code, as long as you meet the required stat. This is another feature that I admire. You can take any Blood Code and with its mix of abilities make it your own. It’s pretty damn sweet.
So now we have touched on the basics of the game, let’s move on to the core of the gameplay, combat. Combat is your typical Souls combat. See a new enemy, cry as they charge towards you. Manage to kill them and feel like a boss and then repeat until you find a bonfire, or in Code Vein a Blood Mistles, you know because Vampires. Fear not though reader, Code Vein can be fully played with an AI partner or in Co-Op online. Your AI partner can really help you out in a sticky situation, but other times it also makes the game a bit of a cake walk. If you die, your AI teammates can revive you several times. It does have a cool down so you can’t just die repeatedly in short succession, but in boss fights or ambushes it really saves your ass. This is perfect for the casual player who wants to experience Code Vein but isn’t a psychopath like the most of us Souls fans.
However I must say that it does make some combat rather easy. When you are trying to regain some Ichor and your AI just slaughters everything near them as if they were bugs, it gets a little annoying. Also in Boss fights they will charge the boss and use abilities and basically just tank it all. You can sit back and use a few spells here and there and then claim the blood of the fallen boss like you did it all. Again I really like this feature, but I feel the game is balanced around an AI partner. If you turn them off the game becomes hell like. The sheer amount of enemies and ambushes make it 10x as hard without AI to accompany you.
Some of you may be asking what anbout story? Well Code Vein does have one and a pretty solid one at that. But that’s not why we plays Souls games. We play Souls games to prove how god like we are to other gamers.
So code vein is a Souls like game without too many similarities to just be a straight up rip off. Bandai Namco have really pushed the envelope with Code Vein. It may not have sold gangbusters and some media types didn’t enjoy it that much, but for me it’s a must buy if you like Souls games. It’s use of Blood Codes and abilities separate it from the rest and make each encounter fun and enjoyable. Apart from those f*****g invasions. Seriously they can do one.
Reviewed on PS4. No code suplied.