Code Vein is something that has been on my radar since 2017’s first announcement trailer for the game; billed as one of the many games that has come over recent years as “Dark Souls but…”, however it caught my eye above all else by simply being “Dark Souls but Anime”.
A bold promise that will forever catch the eye of weeb trash like myself… But the real question is… Is it any good?
To dive into this we must first take a look at whether or not the gameplay of Code Vein is any good; as we all know this is the key factor of the Dark Souls series, and there is something I want to get out of the way early in my review:
Code Vein does not play like a Dark Souls game.
This does not make the game any less difficult (more on what does later) or any less satisfying to take down the game’s slew of monstrous enemies and boss encounters, however, Code Vein just isn’t really an action RPG. I would put it more akin to a general action game with RPG elements, sure, but not an Action RPG.
Yes, the game has a levelling system and you can upgrade the weapons and armour, but unlike most other Action RPG’s you’re only really tasked with going up a level each time, and you do not build your character in the traditional sense of plowing points into certain stats to create the build you want; instead, this is done with various armour and weapon pieces which are designed to compliment each other to form a “build”.
But I digress, I know what you all want to know here: is the combat any good? In a word, Yes. I am really enjoying the combat of Code Vein and this is where I think the game borrows most heavily from the Souls series, as you essentially have to explore desolate wastelands by parrying and backstabbing your way through the world, killing everything in your path.
It heavily features the satisfying ‘chip away and move on’ combat of Dark Souls that makes you feel like you have actually achieved something – Rather than have your hand held the entire time.
HOWEVER, for those of you who want a challenge and don’t want an easier experience, then DO NOT equip an AI partner. Whilst the game doesn’t necessarily have an “easy mode” in the traditional sense, the AI partners feel almost unstoppable, and have the ability to revive you when you’re down. This is a fantastic little feature that makes Code Vein more accessible to people who are turned off by the crushing difficulty of the genre, and want an easier experience.
Even the most diehard of Souls fans cannot get angry about this addition to Code Vein as you can simply turn this feature off by choosing not to have someone accompany you into the game’s dungeons – I tried the AI for myself on one of my saves and even I, who is not as good at Souls as I tell everyone else, was able to beat 4 bosses in a row on my first attempt.
The audio in Code Vein sounds like it was ripped straight from a Shin Megami Tensei game, heavily featuring music that sounds like I’m about to combine two of my Personas or Demons together, and this works perfectly in stark contrast to when I am in combat throughout Code Vein and I hear the guitars kicks in and the meaty sound of my sword carving through flesh, or my giant Axe come crashing down on an enemies’ skull. It’s this contrast in sound that makes the game even more bearable as the soothing piano and beautifully voiced soundtrack in my downtime allowed me to calm down after a particularly difficult area.
Also borrowing heavily from the Shin Megami Tensei style are the visuals, and this is where the game gets everything right. The anime visuals are absolutely stunning, and the addition of bloody as hell animations when you get a successful parry or back stab just looks incredible. There’s not much else I can say here that the trailers haven’t already told you really.
I haven’t paid much attention to the story if I am totally honest with myself here; I know we are vampires or “revenants”, and that some dude named Louis (who is absolute thirst-bait for anime fans) wants to heal the Revenants, and believes humans have as many rights as we do. I’m not playing Code Vein for the story, but I will sit here and say that anime fans will LOVE it as it just genuinely couldn’t be more anime if it tried, at times reminding me heavily of “Seraph of the End”, which is always a bonus.
I am having a ton of fun with Code Vein, and whilst the game isn’t as deep or rewarding as the Souls games before it, I do feel the comparison between the two isn’t fair on the game.
After all, you cannot improve on perfection.
With this in mind, I give Code Vein an 8.5/10. There’s a lot to love here, but improving some of the RPG elements and deepening the combat wouldn’t go amiss.