In this review we’ll be taking a look at Bandai Namco’s new in-house Action RPG: Code Vein. If you’ve been following the site at all, you know that this is a game we’ve had on our radar for several years now. It was first announced back in 2017, and we’ve seen or played some iteration of it at just about every gameshow we’ve attended since then. So, what do we think of the game? Read on to find out!
Code Vein Review: More Than A Souls-Like
Developed by: Bandai Namco Entertainment
Published by: Bandai Namco Entertainment
Release date: September 26, 2019
Platforms: PC (Reviewed), PS4, Xbox One
Price at time of review: $59.99
Story and Setting
Code Vein sets the player in the middle of an on going war between humanity and a mysterious figure known as “The Queen“, one that has resulted in the near destruction of the world. You are a Revenant. Once human, you were brought back to life by a parasite placed into your body for the purpose of stopping her. The catch is that you must consume blood regularly, or you will be come one of the Lost. The ever growing army of the damned that is controlled by The Queen.
The concept of the story is entertaining and is explained in an anime fashion of sorts, which is something I very much enjoyed. The anime aspects have been toned down, particularly for a story with this much action, which is something I expect was done to appeal to a broader range of audience. If you don’t enjoy or like anime, you can still enjoy Code Vein’s art style and story, without too much of the “over the top” theatrics. The story is very very good in my opinion, and there are twists and turns that really take things up a notch. This might be one of the strongest aspects of Code Vein.
The setting of the game would not be my go to choice, and I’m generally not a fan of post apocalyptic worlds (except you Fallout). It doesn’t feel compelling in the slightest, and I struggle to think of any area that was overly memorable except one. And that was because it reminded me of another game which I’ll compare Code Vein a lot to in this review…
The gameplay of Code Vein is going to be hit or miss with some of the Souls audience, but if you like it, you’ll love it. The overall amount of customization for your character is outstanding, and it definitely gives the game a hardcore RPG feeling, one that I can’t wait to explore more in depth in future Build Guides. There is simply so many things you can do with your character, you’ll spend a lot of time tweaking and trying new setups.
Blood Codes, which are essentially your “Classes” loosely, can be changed on the fly, allowing you to try out different styles of play instantly. You’ll lose hours, and sleep just wondering how certain combinations of Blood Codes, Blood Veils and Weapons might work together to make you OP. It’s a bit insane really, and that’s without mentioning the character creator, which gives 1000s of options. It may take you an hour or two just on this one aspect!
The heart of Code Vein’s gameplay has flashy anime-esque combat, but the soul of the game is very much Dark Souls. There are parries, backstabs, and all the things you’d expect from a Souls game, just with their own flare and nuances. You come to enjoy it in it’s own way, and the flashy anime moves make you feel like an absolute badass.
You can play the game just like you would Dark Souls if you so choose, opting not to use the things that separate Code Vein. However, you’d be really missing out. Skills and Gifts really add something that Dark Souls does not, by giving you many more solutions to taking down enemies. It almost feels more like a traditional RPG or JRPG in many ways, and really defines the game.
The pacing of the game will feel very familiar for most Souls players. Teleport to large area, explore and kill enemies, find areas to rest, fight more enemies, eventually fight Boss, watch cutscene and repeat. There are some variations of course, but that’s the basic gist of it, and it works just fine. The didn’t need to fix what wasn’t broken, and they didn’t.
Code Vein does feature some Dungeons that are separate from the main game though, and these are randomly generated to a degree. It’s my understanding that they are meant to be the game’s “end game” content, much like Chalice Dungeons were in Bloodborne, but I have not unlocked them all yet so I can’t say for certain. Regardless, they do add a means to fight Bosses you’ve already faced before again, which gives you practice if you desire, as well as new loot. This is something you don’t generally expect from story driven games, and was a pleasant addition.
Code Vein features online cooperative multiplayer, which is music to everyone’s ears. While many players prefer to play their first playthrough of Souls-Like games solo, to really get that hardcore experience, everyone loves to play online at some point. Jolly cooperation are what these sorts of games are all about, and frankly it’s just fun to play with friends, especially when they look so…lovely…
Players can use a password to sync up with their friends, or they can play with random strangers on the internet. Who doesn’t love that? While I didn’t get a chance to test this out with my review copy, we did get a chance to play the Beta recently and the connectivity worked just fine. I expect very few issues here, except perhaps on launch day, since it’s tradition…
Audio & Visual
The world of Code Vein is not much to look at visually. The level designs and maps look pretty bland and washed out, and much of it feels very “cookie cutter”. You begin to recognize pieces you’ve seen over and over, and the world feels very static and lifeless. An utter lack of “motion” in the game world is something you don’t expect from a larger studio like Bandai Namco, and is more akin to something in an Indie game.
Character animations on the other hand are nice to look at, particularly if you are of the male persuasion. They have a very anime feel to them, and are well done, fan service aside. They all have a unique appeal and they all seem original, which is something you cannot say about too many RPGs these days…
The voice acting of the game is exceptional, particularly if you are a fan of anime and put on Japanese voice over. The English is honestly not bad either, though not as good, and I played most of the game with it on. This was because it’s hard to read what your companion is saying when in combat or running around, and it’s just easier to listen. I plan to play in Japanese the second go around.
Sound effects and music were not particularly memorable, except for the damn ringing in my ears from the Mistles as you load into an area. Seriously, this needs to be changed before we all suffer hearing loss or just break things. All in all, it was pretty average quality and I don’t really have much bad or good to say about it.
Code Vein is a game we’ve been following a long time, and in the years that we’ve seen it, I don’t think I came away impressed a single time…that is until now. Code Vein not only shattered all my expectations, but I’m genuinely addicted to it. I can’t stop playing, and when I’m not playing, I’m thinking about playing.
Things like an excellent story, interesting characters, fun and rewarding combat, deep customization, and online Multiplayer propel Code Vein into elite company. Out of all the games I have played that you could categorize as “Souls-Like”, Code Vein is the only one that surpasses that title, and adds something so unique that it feels more than some iteration of Dark Souls or Bloodborne. I’m utterly blown away.
If you’re diving into the world of the Revenants be to check out our Code Vein wiki for all your vampiric needs. You also check out more our reviews in The Surge 2 Review: A Nano Advancement and GreedFall Review – An RPG With Plenty Of Choices.