Code Vein combines some of the most beloved story-telling elements we’ve seen from Bandai Namco since God Eater 3. With an anime-like touch to a game that blends the uniqueness of Soulsborne and God Eater into a single-handed approach: The question is, how well does it work? Find out in our review for Code Vein.
+Blood Codes are unique, each one playing quite different from the other
+Each character has a lot of depth and each helps drive the narrative forward
+The audiovisual designs are superb and do not disappoint
+Combat is well-paced always changing as you swap out Blood Codes for select areas of the game
-Performance issues do exist even after several patches
-The Depths don’t feel as rewarding as they should be for what challenges await
For nearly a year, I’ve been like an eager child waiting for my new special toy to hit the shelves after hearing my toy had been delayed a year. In this case, I’d been waiting for over a year for Bandai Namco’s latest and quite possibly, greatest title they could release in the Soulsborne genre, one I’d been concerned would die off without the help of companies such as FromSoftware or Deck13 to helm the genre.
The two companies, the former having created the genre altogether, have done a great job, leaving room for others to follow suit. After all, I was curious if Code Vein would establish its very own identity within the genre or if it would follow the genre as a whole, doing what others before it had done, but with anime vampires in a post-apocalyptic world.
Since the Network Tests, Open Beta, and now the full release, I’ve spent a lot of time, and I mean, a lot of time with Code Vein each and every day. Somehow, however, I’ve yet to actually fully bash and bruise my way through every crook and cranny of each and every map within the past couple of weeks, having only had x-amount of time to get my review pushed out the door.
Code Vein is quite unique and manages to find its own identity in a Soulsborne-filled world
Now, one question I often get asked, and if I would touch upon in this review is: Does Code Vein build its own identity or is it just a copy and paste of previously released titles? It does, however, some of them remain evident such as timing your parries just right to unleash devastating attacks, managing your stamina for light and heavy attacks, but also managing your ichor in order to take out an enemy before you.
Aside from gameplay mechanics, some will also be familiar with hidden dungeons, multiple pathways to explore, unlocking new abilities through eliminating foes and finding pieces of each Blood Code on the ground or by defeating a specified foe. It’s all eerily familiar, but somehow, wildly different from the games that came before it, games that could have, or perhaps, did inspire Code Vein as a whole.
The ebb and flow of the game works – it’s a smooth and tranquil ride, one that doesn’t require ravaging your foes and splitting them in half to get the point across. Instead, it uses its storytelling methods, the warped world around you, and those enemies before you that are more warped – for the worst – than the world itself.
Code Vein’s world and story settings are cohesive and work as intended, but with minor drawbacks
For those who have yet to experience it, we are going to touch minor spoilers here in just a few seconds, but we aren’t going to break a massive story-spoiler-related element by any means necessary. If you aren’t for spoilers, please, feel free to continue reading below this section and you’ll be safe!
Code Vein, as stated, takes place in a world where an apocalyptic cataclysm has ravaged the world. Those who died during the cataclysm have been brought back as a vampire-like creature called Revenants. These Revenants, just as vampires, have an insatiable hunger for blood, one that can’t be easily quenched, and in the world having been ravaged the way it has been – leaves them starving or even turning into a creature called the Lost once their humanity has left them.
However, they do have a source that substitutes for the loss of humanity, which is still around, but in very limited numbers: Blood Beads. Unfortunately, the Blood Beads are becoming extremely rare, and the cause of their rarity has yet to been known. Your journey will take you on this very endeavor, seeking out the cause behind them vanishing, and hopefully – finding a steady supply of them to help your fellow Revenants along the way.
One issue with the story isn’t its consistency by any means necessary: It’s the Depths themselves. They don’t feel enticing nor do they feel required to explore. While there are some decent goodies to obtain within them, they aren’t necessary, and they do feel almost forced in some sense or another.
While they do help give one of the NPCs a reason for being there, he doesn’t feel necessary, neither do his offerings at the end of the day, but regardless, they’re fun and they do offer up some extremely challenging fights you’ll be familiar with by the end of the day.
Code Vein’s story plays a decent role in how combat plays out
One of the things that will come as a surprise is the fact that combat doesn’t feel forced as one would like to think. Rather, combat comes naturally, fluid, and works rather well. Each Blood Code you earn is delivered as either a find or related to a boss mechanic. You will find codes from some of your introductory Revenants such as Louis, Oliver, or Io from the very start.
Each Blood Code comes with their own abilities, their own unique approach to combat, and even their own stats that determine what abilities you use, weapons you can utilize, and what Blood Veil’s you will want to use throughout the game. Combat is fluid, quick, and can unfold within a moment’s notice. Some regions may be more suitable to use an Ogre-style Blood Code while others will pay more favor to a range-based Code.
While this sounds detrimental to the game, it works in your favor, allowing for every situation to play quite different from the previous. It’ll even help you determine what companion you want with you. Some Blood Codes may favor one NPC over the other, making the experience to each and every experience. Unlike your character, they are tied to a single Blood Code, your character can use each and every code they are presented with due to how unique they are.
Each Blood Code features unique stats and weapons they can use along with their abilities
One of the unique things about Code Vein is that you can change your class at any given time, something that works rather well, but can get confusing as you begin to scratch away at the surface. You will find that Code Vein does use a typical RPG class template such as Warrior, Hunter, and Caster classes.
Oddly enough, each of them is almost named exactly that starting out, but it does change later. You will find some classes are variations of two of the three or even taking portions of the three to build a single class. Each class does come with its own unique abilities called Gifts. Each Gift will work differently. Some will favor ranged, some will buff what elements your weapons use, and some may even increase your Dark or Light gifts – depending on what you choose.
Some abilities can even cross-class once you master them, allowing you to boost your attack power while lashing out at enemies with powerful Dark Gifts before laying into them with a sword, spear, or rifle. Others will favor the bold, allowing your melee weapons to become elementally enhanced, dishing out more elemental damage than you had been before, but also allowing you to bolster your defenses in exchange for a lower Ichor pool.
Due to how deep the Blood Code system goes, you’ll have to find a playstyle that works best for you, which was a problem I ran into when I began to favor caster classes such as Isis and Harmonia, each of them favoring high Dark Gift damage with lower resistances and health pools than the rest. My trade-off was running into enemies that could resist either build depending on which one I used or what zone I was in.
You will want to save your Haze to level up, purchase items, and even upgrade your gear
To counter this, you will want to save your Haze, level up your character, purchase armor and weapon upgrades, or even purchasing a variety of curatives that will help you throughout your adventures with Code Vein as a whole. Haze is not just a currency, but also your experience, which makes it more important than it seems.
Just like any game of the genre, the cost of Haze to level will go up with progression, making some enemies a suitable source of farming such as bosses are tougher enemies in higher-end zones. However, Haze is easy to come by, making it easy to level up, and makes it so accumulating it isn’t nearly as hard as Souls or Blood Echoes were in Dark Souls and Bloodborne.
Leveling up is also simple, you just level up, there’s no need to manage stats. All of that is done based on what Blood Code you have equipped and what your level is. Stat balancing is handled by the game itself, so there is no need to really min-max your stats to match your abilities, just you balancing your abilities and your Passive Gifts.
Code Vein does suffer from a few minor drawbacks
As a Soulsborne fan, I can’t help but mention a small unknown fact: Code Vein while online, doesn’t work like Dark Souls or Bloodborne where you put down a mark or chime a bell. Instead, you simply use a menu, opt to find other Revenant players and off you go. It’s simple as clicking your heels together before taking off on your very next hunt – if you will.
However, one of these drawbacks doesn’t come in the form of accessing multiplayer. Rather, performance, which can see some minor delays regardless of your platform. It’s not uncommon to see some framerate dips, some performance jumps or even a minor bit of input lag depending on the zone you are in.
While performance has been worked on in previous updates, there are still some minor issues regarding it, which will probably be touched upon in future updates, but at the time of writing, those problems still exist.
One last Blood Bead and then we can set off – Conclusion
Code Vein isn’t a genre-defining game by any means. What it is, however, is a blast to play. The story itself is deep, each character gets a well-rounded backstory, making their importance rather-well known compared to previous entries. It’s hard not to appreciate that sense of depth, visiting memories, flashback scenes, and exploring the labyrinthine zones you will have to visit throughout your endeavors.
With a character made by you, your ability to pick your own playstyle and play with your friends, it’s hard not to see why Code Vein has a lot to offer and there’s no surprise that future DLC will be on its way. Unfortunately, performance issues do exist and they do make some of the most impressive fights challenging encounters to enjoy when your framerate dips as it does.
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One
Version Reviewed: PC
Developer: BANDAI NAMCO Studios, Shift
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Release Date: Available Now
Cost: $59.99 (base game) |$79.99 (game with season pass)
Regardless, the game is beautiful, it plays exceptionally well, and it’s a wonderful experience for fans wanting a game with tons of narrative, a strong backstory, and characters that don’t feel one-dimensional at any given point in time.
Our review is based upon a retail version that was provided to us by the publisher of the game for review. For information about our ethics policy please click here.
About the Writer(s):
Dustin is our native console gamer, PlayStation and Nintendo reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the borders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPG’s, Anime, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable. His elitist attitude gives him direction, want, and a need for the hardest difficulties in games, which is fun to watch, and hilarity at its finest. You can find him over on Twitter or Facebook.