CODE VEIN / DEVELOPER & PUBLISHER: BANDAI NAMCO / PLATFORM: PC, PS4, XBOX ONE (REVIEWED) / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Having published FromSoftware's massively successful Dark Souls trilogy, it was only natural that Bandai Namco would eventually look into taking a larger share of the financial rewards by developing their own in-house answer to the Souls games. Originally announced in early 2017, Code Vein borrows heavily from Dark Souls but adds a God Eater anime-inspired flavour that, in theory, should result in a rather special game indeed.
Your fully-customisable character is a Revenant – one of a band of people with supernatural abilities, initially created to battle the now-dead Lost Queen. They rely on human blood to maintain their powers but, with supplies running low, more and more Revenants are losing their abilities and turning into murderous Lost. Of course, it's your job to find out what's going on and to restore balance to the world.
To do this, you'll travel through the post-apocalyptic city of Vein, slay countless vicious monsters and amass a huge arsenal of powers along the way. Combat comes straight from Dark Souls' playbook – you're able to equip and swap between two weapons, you have a light and a heavy attack button, backstabs deal additional damage to enemies, and all of your movements are tied to a stamina bar. Your foes are slower than anything from the Souls series though, which removes the need for any real strategy or patience in combat – it's often easy enough to just hack away until enemies are dead, as long as you've got enough stamina to do so.
Code Vein attempts to differentiate itself from other Souls-like games through the use of Blood Codes. These function like character classes, and there are dozens of them to find throughout the game, all with unique stats and associated abilities known as Gifts. While you're only able to equip a single Code at any one time, they can be swapped during gameplay through the menu screen which, although slightly inconvenient to use, allows you to change things up with just a few button presses. On top of this, Gifts can be “mastered” through use which will then allow them to be assigned to any other Codes, resulting in a huge amount of toys that can be mixed up and played around with until you find your ideal combination.
Most of the game is played with a computer-controlled partner, which can be both a blessing and a curse at the same time. Characters are often incredibly powerful and very adept in combat, often steaming in and dispatching enemies before you've even had time to draw your sword. It seems strange to complain about an AI companion being too useful, and there'd certainly be some grumbling going on if they were totally useless, but at times it feels like your hand is being held a little bit too often. Their refusal to keep quiet also begins to grate quite quickly – wait for me, you can't go there, we shouldn't do that now... Pipe down and stop telling me what to do!!!
Your adventure is quite a linear one, where it's possible to leave the main path to find hidden areas and shortcuts but most of the time you'll be following a set route to your next destination. There's potential for occasional navigation problems to crop up though, as your objectives are laid out during cutscenes and you won't find any markers pointing the way in-game (unless you head back to your base – via a bonfire-like “mistle” – to consult the map), which is something that serial cutscene-skippers might want to keep in mind.
Overall, Code Vein is a decent stab at a Souls clone. While its combat isn't quite up to the standards of similar games and long-term players of Souls-likes are likely to feel they've been here before, Blood Codes and Gifts go a long way to keeping things feeling fresh and its anime-inspired visuals and narrative will please fans of the genre. A high 6 that we'll round up to a 7!