Developed by: Bandai Namco Studios
Published by: Bandai Namco Entertainment
Platforms: PS4 / PC / Xbox One
Reviewed on: PS4 Pro
The world of Code Vein is set in a post-apocalyptic dystopian theme, and you the hero of the story and most characters around you are what is known as a Revenant. Revenants are dead people who’ve come back to life through a parasite infection that grants them abilities and power beyond normal human. Such power was necessary in order to prevent humanity from an extinction-level threat but it came with a great cost. Not only will Revenants lose part or all of their past memory, but they also need to feed on human blood to keep their mind sane. If starved for too long, a Revenant will become frenzy and turn into a ‘Lost’, which are most of the baddies you’d fight in the game.
Most of the game’s storyline revolves around the two things I mentioned. Finding lost memories, and sourcing blood. All lost memories are stored in crystals called Vestige, and they contain memories of the people you’d meet in Code Vein. Finding and reconstructing them offers a crucial glimpse into past events and unlocks a new skill or two. Though simple as they sound, the developer actually did a commendable job in my opinion in the story writing for this game. I was expecting a generic ‘happy-ending-always’ anime fairy tale kind of story and was genuinely shocked when I was served a deep and touching story on a level I never expected from this game. However, the way the game tells its story can get tiring after a while for 3 reasons;
First – When a memory is being reconstructed, the player would be forced to walk through a dream-like realm very slowly while the memory is being unveiled. While the content of the memory is interesting, the whole walking slowly through the realm nonsense is really annoying when there are so many memories to go through.
Second – A Vestige is a small crystal that emits a red bloody aura around it. Shouldn’t be hard for a normal person to notice it, but super bad news for those of us who are colour blind. There is no colour blind mode in Code Vein.
Third – The game’s main story plot is tied to the main story missions that you cannot miss. However, most of the game’s backstory and lore are hidden inside vestiges, and vestige collecting is optional, which means you can easily miss them if you don’t pay attention. The fewer memories you unlock, the lesser sense the game’s story would make. But then again, compared to the other games in the soulsborne genre, Code Vein is considered bountiful in storytelling compared to the almost mute Dark Souls and Bloodborne.
Speaking of these two games, those of you who are shying away from this game because “It looked like Dark Souls” well, it was a bluff. This game may look and feel like a souls game but it isn’t. If Dark Souls have a difficulty setting, Code Vein would probably be the ‘Story Mode’ level and I kid you not. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice was, in my opinion, easier than Dark Souls 3. You can die twice before you are gone for good in Sekiro. Big deal. In Code Vein, you can choose an NPC to be your companion into your mission and they can revive you for as many times as they are able to. Most of the time, they can kill the mobs faster, and better than you. If the situation is beyond what you can handle, just send a distress signal and pray that the online multiplayer system works and send you some help that is other players. This is a good entry-level soulsborne like game that anyone can play.
Some enemies in this game will require the player to employ more patience in their approach, but otherwise most of the time it’s just hacking and slashing away with your weapon of choice. The battle experience is not the most fluid and there are moments of awkward swing and parry. There are several weapon types in the game like the Bayonet, Hammer, Axe, Two-handed Sword, One-handed Sword, etc, each complimented by a set of passive and active skills called ‘Gifts’ that you could unlock and employ from reconstructing Vestiges. Other than their weapons, players are also armed with something called a ‘Blood Veil’, an outer jacket that allows the player to summon abilities to parry attacks, or devour your enemy God Eater style to replenish your ‘Ichor’, a required substance to perform Gifts.
There is no ‘Class’ system in this game, instead, there’s a ‘Core’ system in place. A Core is like a preset build that favours a certain approach like Melee Attacks, Ranged, Casting, etc. There are many Cores the player can choose from and they can be changed anytime from the menu. They look impressive at first, with the variety of builds they offer but it didn’t take long for me to totally disregard this section of the game and just stick to a single core throughout the game. There are just too many of them and the game’s difficulty level is so low that I’d just end up bulldozing my way through anyway, regardless of which build I’m using.
I relied more on the actual combat to steamroll my way through the game. Combat itself is not bad, but far from being the best, though it must be noted again at this point that Code Vein’s combat employs that of a quick Hack n Slash than the more carefully timed-and-executed souls styled technical fighting. With that being said, the combat experience of the game is very lenient and isn’t hidden behind a steep learning curve. AI mobs and bosses in this game are a joke. I’ve spent longer in the character customization screen making my character than the collective time it took me to beat the first few bosses in this game.
Visually, Code Vein has one of the best-looking graphics amongst Bandai’s other games. The level, character, boss, weapon, and layout design of the maps are all well done in my opinion. The game looks beautiful and though it’s anime in style, it did not make the game look childish. In fact, one of the elements I’d to have in this game is a photo mode. I’d even settle for an option to hide all UI in-game just so that I can walk around without them annoying, oversized UI blocking my views.
I’ve tried getting into some multiplayer sessions and even hosting some myself but it rarely worked out well. The game either take too long to matchmake, or nobody would join my game at all even if I stood there for 20 minutes. There’s no lobby and players create a session or joining one by sending out or answering distress signals. In the event that you get into a session, you’d be immediately kicked out after the boss of the map is slain. Not even a second is given to you to bid your farewell and thank you. Sometimes I wonder why the developer even bothers to include such a primitive and unrefined multiplayer system.
After 136 levels into the game and all that’s been said and done, here are what I really like about Code Vein and what I think should improve;
What I liked –
- Story – The game’s story is really amazing and I love that little surprise at the end of the game. I wasn’t prepared for a story with this depth, I was expecting something far more shallow. There were even times where I had tingling sensations in my eyes and had to punch a wall to feel manly again. Kudos.
- Combat – Though not at the level that we are used to in Dark Souls but this game’s combat has its own attraction. Its simplicity means players will actually get to spend more time playing and fighting than watching the ‘YOU DIED’ message popping out every 5 minutes like in soulsborne.
- Visuals – The game is quite the eye candy, better than that of God Eater 3. Each map has its own theme and with nicely designed layouts. Combat animations are fluid most of the time. Character customization and the result it produced are aces in my book!
What I wish was better –
- Slowmo Walks – The slow walking during memory revisits really annoyed the living crap out of me. The developer could have turned the whole experience into a mini cutscene/cinematic and that would have been so much better.
- Repetitive Enemies – Some enemies keep appearing throughout the whole game offering no real challenge to the player since the player already knows how to beat them.
- Weak Bosses – Bosses look amazing in design but dumb in battles. Most of the boss fights are forgettable.
- The Game is Too Easy – A game being approachable is okay, but to be this easy even after choosing to go down the ‘souls’ path just makes the game seem underpowered.
- Lack of Comfort Setting – Not being able to hide UI in 2019 is almost a crime. No colour blind mode.
Despite the game’s shortcoming and flaws, I still find myself enjoying it most of the time. The visual treat, storyline, and simplicity bonded well together and produced a reasonably good entry-level soulsborne-like game that is perfect for players visiting this genre as a tourist. If they ever make an anime series based on Code Vein, I’d watch it without hesitation, the story is that good. Be it Dark Souls, Bloodborne, Nioh, or Sekiro, games in the soulsborne genre are highly rated in general, and with some polishing here and there, Code Vein may even cement itself a place among them.