Back in 2017, the first Code Vein teaser dropped and it is no surprise to say that everyone here at Gamespace was hyped. The brutal mix of souls like a challenge and a cool anime aesthetic caught our attention. When publisher Bandai Namco invited us to preview this upcoming adventure we jumped at the chance to quench our thirst.
Coming from the same publisher as the original Dark Souls trilogy, it is no surprise to find out that Code Vein follows In the footsteps of this progenitor title. Throwing players forward into a post-apocalyptic future, it mixes the brutal challenge and unforgiving combat of the souls franchise with the epic character arcs we’ve come to expect from games like God Eater. After a devastating event that brings the world to its knees, Code Vein finds the remnants of humanity scattered and reimagined as something quite unnatural. Human corpses revived using an engineered parasite, they survive on the fringes of an inhospitable world using blood beads, the only crop able to satiate a Revenant’s hunger.
While Revenants aren’t going to end up flying off into the hinterlands or skulking through the night, they are a little more than human. These living corpses each contain their own Blood Code, a distinct power unique to every Revenant. As the game’s central protagonist you awake with no memory and no predetermined Blood Code and as I descended into my first hands-on with Code Vein it quickly became clear what that made my own Revenant special.
Bringing A Revenant To Life
Thanks to Bandai Namco, we were privy to the opening stages of Code Vein, including the character creator. If you are more interested in watching my Revenant come to life you can check out the character creator ion our video below.
Bringing a Revenant to life in Code Vein seems almost as complex as implanting a BOR parasite. I am almost used to a threadbare number of options from certain anime-inspired MMORPG, that undercut personal preference to keep a clean narrative arc. With over 24 preset options alone, the number of options available in the opening character screen is a little overwhelming. Advanced settings allow players to tweak with no end of options, including physique, eyes, hair, face, scars, clothing, and voice attributes. Each of these dive into a plethora of sizes and sliders, with over 160 skin tones to pick from. The ability to mix and match hairstyles across genders, recolor individual eyes, and pick from a range of fashion patterns really exemplifies the finesse involved in putting together your own Revenant.
The look and feel of each Revenant is clearly important to the team behind Code Vein. Between hunting down lost Bandai Namco Europe’s Producer for Code Vein told us that
“We wanted to add the ability to add something different to your character in Code Vein, giving the players the option to be unique. That’s not something we’ve had before. In God Eater 3 you don’t have the same ability to stand out in quite the same way. With this and the introduction of co-op, it adds a really important element to the way your character looks and feels. You can play through Code Vein with another Revenant and you can show off your own Revenant and stand out from the rest of the crowd”
While I’m sure that this will absolutely be the case in co-op mode, I only had the opportunity to get hands-on in the solo play this time around. It was, again, far from what you might expect. It is easy to associate dank murky brown dungeons with souls style games but the cool anime aesthetic that prevails here almost lulls you into a false sense of security. The bright colors, some gorgeous particle effects, and what I hope will be some serious ray tracing on the right rigs makes for a game that looks as good as Bandai’s Jump Force without being anywhere near as comical as DragonBall FighterZ. The accompanying audio is as bombastic and over the top as you might imagine from a soundtrack heavily influenced by Go Shiina, properly kicking up into gear when combat gets intense. While the hollow ambiance of the surrounding caverns never let up, the music didn’t quite yet have the finesse of something like Ape Out. Yet, the mood never lulls into offbeat jazz so comparisons might be a bit unwarranted here.
Despite the gorgeous visuals, descending into the underworld is utterly an assault that can be utterly unforgiving. This early labyrinth funnels players through the sort of dungeon that might actually feel familiar to JRPG aficionados. The enemies that await, however, are a little less forgiving than the quirky plant monsters or bright blue dragons of Shining Resonance. In keeping with the established theme, this turns out to be a dark mildly claustrophobic set of caverns, filled with undead monsters and blind alleyways. While these abominations can be easily picked off, combat is punishing enough to make you pay attention.
You can check out 30 minutes of dungeon gameplay below, where you’ll get a glimpse of the various enemies that I encountered. From simply melee minions to large hulking beasts, there’s obvious variety involved here which extends beyond the mobs you’ll need to take down. As a particularly special Revenant, the game’s protagonist has the ability to learn a variety of Blood Codes. Each Blood Code distinctly changes the way a Revenant plays, changing a number of their baseline stats and opening a range of gifts for them to learn. Each Blood Code synergizes with a particular play-style and imbues a Revenant with a series of buffs. Stat changes also mean that Warriors are better attuned to melee combat, wielding heavy weapons and gifts that provide destructive power. Rangers are more likely to be found wielding lighter weapons, with a different set of stats and better mobility. Mages are, as always, a bit more glass cannon.
On wielding my first weapon and slicing through my first Lost, Code Vein set the skill bar just about right. The UI and game systems are adequately introduced in a tutorial, which we’ve skipped for brevity in the video above. Blood Pacts and Gifts make sense if you’ve ever had to choose a class and skills in any other RPG, while character stats all seem appropriate.
While enemies that patrol the opening dungeons are never overly aggressive, they still feel more than adequate to take you down. Characters are equipped with Gifts, a couple of basic attacks, a block and a dodge function. Even at an early stage, Revenants are not able to simply cut down everything in front of them. Gifts, Blood Pacts, and weapon swapping provide tons of diversity and even replay value to a quite linear narrative, but never allow players to smash one key to win. Let even the lowliest Lost land a strike and you will take appreciable damage. Let a boss mob near you and there will be little left to work with afterward, as you can see from my first boss encounter below.
Firing The Boss
This is the first of many boss encounters that fill this massively interconnected dungeon experience. Like any boss encounter taking down this transformed Revenant is a delicate dance. Feeling instantly familiar to anybody who has taken on a souls style encounter, attacking blindly is a pointless endeavor and reaction timing is key. The massive damage available to this individual meant anybody going in for the kill had to make frequent use of their mobility and avoid making contact and coming within inches of death. An adequate range second phase and transformation kept this early encounter from getting too pedestrian and I imagine that Code Vein only has bigger, nastier surprises in store.
Coming out of Bandai Namco there was no doubt that Code Vein was going to impress. During my time taking out the Lost I crawled through some visually impressive dungeons and took on enemies that were as unique as you’d expect. We’ve not seen much in the way of online co-op yet and this is a very early glimpse. However, Code Vein feels like an interesting new take on the souls genre. This is not going to be for everyone. Dark Souls purists might feel the heavy narrative dilutes the game and the inclusion of online co-op and NPC characters ease in less experienced players. However, this is not Dark Souls and, similarly, it is not God Eater 3. There are obvious comparisons to be made. Blood Codes and Blood Arts have an obvious parallel and characters handle similarly. Still, Code Vein is something distinct. It manages to combine elements of several genres and come out with a game that I will be preparing to get my teeth into at launch. With that said, I might need to work on my aim or prepare to die a few more times. Code Vein is due out in 2019, for PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4. You can keep a watch here on Gameapsce or check out the official Code Vein website for more information.