Code Vein Review — An Anime Vampire Adventure
Code Vein features anime vampires and fast combat, but it's too reliant on the exact Soulslike formula to stand out on its own.
Bandai Namco Studios
Bandai Namco Entertainment
PC, Xbox One
Review copy provided by the publisher
Ever since the release of Demon’s Souls in 2009, developers have continued to release games in this same vein. These titles don’t hold your hand and typically offer a sizable challenge. Following its initial reveal in 2017, Code Vein is finally here and it seeks to be among the greats like Dark Souls and Bloodborne. However, Code Vein fails to shake that Soulslike formula up and offer something fresh for fans of this genre.
For those that don’t know, Code Vein is an action RPG that takes place in a post-apocalyptic world. You play as a revenant, an immortal vampire that is part of a secret society called the Vein. Throughout the game, you meet several characters that can be your companions and help you to defeat difficult enemies and bosses.
“Code Vein fails to shake that Soulslike formula up and offer something fresh for fans of this genre.”
While the game’s premise is cool, the story doesn’t break any new ground and provide anything memorable. The characters you meet can be two dimensional and their backstories can be uninteresting at times. Some parts of Code Vein are as melodramatic as an anime, which isn’t necessarily all bad if you’re into those kinds of stories. All of this is presented in an anime art style that’s looks nice and provides some personality to such a bleak world. Additionally, the game features some awesome songs that make intense battles even more enjoyable.
As mentioned, Code Vein plays similarly to FromSoftware’s Dark Souls and Bloodborne titles. Like those games, Code Vein has you exploring worlds without having a mark on the map telling you where to go. You’ll also fight waves of difficult enemies along the way. Combat works similarly as well and you can equip two weapons at a time while also having items you can quickly use. Doing battle against enemies mainly feels fast and fluid.
Checkpoints called Mistle are also scattered throughout each map and it is here where you can restore your health, level up, and teleport to another Mistle. Like many other Soulslikes, it’s also key to take your time with each enemy encounter and watch their movements before landing attacks. For players wanting a fresh take on the Souls combat, Code Vein may not leave you satisfied due to how similar it is to other games.
That being said, one enjoyable feature is Blood Codes, which each have certain enhancements that can help you in combat. For example, one of the first Blood Codes you unlock is the Queenslayer which is well-balanced for exploration and melee combat. Other Codes include Hunter, which emphasizes long-range combat, and Berserker, which gives players high strength and endurance.
You unlock plenty of these Blood Codes throughout the game and they’re each fun to play around with. Additionally, each Blood Code affects your stats, what armor type you can wear, and what weapons you can equip. I can see people playing through the game with one Blood Code equipped and doing another playthrough with another Blood Code and experimenting with each one. You can also equip Gifts which are stat boosters that you earn throughout the game. Some increase your attack power while others take your HP away and give it to your companion if they’re running low on health.
Code Vein also has an online component which includes being able to send and receive Gifts and Blood Codes. Additionally, you can send a distress signal, have another player join your game, and fight enemies together. If you want to communicate with your online companion, you can send a variety of gestures and emotions. Personally, because I played the game in a pre-release state, I was never able to play in this manner but it seems relatively straightforward.
“If you love Soulslikes and want an experience that will be very similar to past games, then maybe Code Vein is right for you.”
In terms of technical problems, I encountered several frame rate drops, slow down, and screen tearing throughout the game. None of it is game-breaking but it’s noticeable nonetheless. Additionally, the game’s camera can be finicky, especially when dealing with a swarm of enemies. There were several times where I’d be fighting multiple enemies at once, lose track of my character, and end up dying and going back to the last Mistle I rested at.
Overall, Code Vein offers an experience that’s a bit too similar to the FromSoftware games that established the genre. Its combat doesn’t stray far from other Soulslike games but with features such as the Blood Code system, it does offer some variety that could lead to wanting to complete multiple playthroughs. The anime art style and story can be both absurd but also entertaining to watch at the same time. If you love Soulslikes and want an experience that will be very similar to past games, then maybe Code Vein is right for you. However, if you’re looking for a new take on the subgenre, you may have to wait a bit longer.