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Evil Avatar 11-12-2019 09:06 AM

The Evil Avatar Code Vein Review
Title: Code Vein
Platform: PS4,Xbox One, PC
Platform Reviewed: PS4
Developer: Bandai Namco
Publisher: Bandai Namco
MSRP: $59.99
Writer: Aaron Birch

Code Vein Review

Anime Souls

Unlike some of the other recent Souls clones, which have taken the core gameplay of FromSoftware's series and given it a unique twist to help differentiate it from the source material, Bandai Namco's anime-themed Souls outing, Code Vein, doesn't really do this. Here we have a Souls clone through-and-through with nary a feature that doesn't feel ripped directly from its inspiration. Does this make Code Vein a bad game, though? Let's find out.

Set in the near future, Code Vein takes place in a world dominated by Revenants, or vampires if you want to boil it down. Following a strange cataclysm, humankind is few and far between, and the Revenants, whom still need blood to survive are constantly on a quest to find new sources of blood to sustain them, all whilst fighting to survive in a post-apocalyptic world plagued with feral revanents called The Lost, who have devolved into little more than beasts.


You enter into this world as, surprise, surprise, a amnesiac protagonist who has no memory of their past. You quickly encounter a mysterious girl who clearly has some form of great power, and you end up as part of a group of revenants who are working to help save the world by finding a sustainable source of blood. This sets the scene for a true Souls-clone, and by clone, I'm not kidding around. Practically every single beat of this game matches Souls thrust for thrust, and doge roll for dodge roll.

The first thing you'll notice about the game is, obviously, its heavy anime style. This is no Gothic, or high fantasy story, but is rooted deeply in the anime craziness, and it has more hair colours, pointy hair styles, and androgynous character designs that you can shake a stake at. Before you get to the game itself, though, you must first create your character, and I'd advise you prepare to spend quite some time doing this.


Unlike FromSoftware who, bless them, don't seem to be able to make a character creator to save their lives, leaving us with some of the ugliest character creations known to man, the Code Vein devs have crafted one of the most impressive, and in-depth character creation tools around. This is truly brilliant stuff, and the amount of options you have at your disposal to create your own unique vampire warrior, or recreation of any number of famous characters, is immense. You can choose hair styles, colours, body types, eye types, clothing, multiple accessories, and much, much more. Most items can be resized and placed anywhere on your character's body, and you can even customise each item, for example, removing cuffs or collars from some clothes, rotating and repositioning hats, and adding all sorts of accessory mixtures. All of this helps you create anything from a simple, more down-to-earth protagonist, of the kind of wacky, and downright weird characters we've come to expect from some of the more off-the-wall animes.

Once you have your lovingly-crafted character, it's into the game you go, and after a confusing first few minutes, partly as your character has amnesia, and partly due to bad writing/poor translation, you eventually get into the action, and soon meet your allies. It's during this introduction that you'll realise just how much of a Souls-clone Code Vein is. The combat, the defence, the dodging, it's all lifted straight from its inspiration with little to no attempt to differentiate. This is fine, though, as the combat and exploration is solid, and whilst it may lack some of the polish of the Souls games, it's still perfectly serviceable. You can attack, block, parry if you time it correctly, dodge role, circle around foes with the lock on, and hit critical back stabs and perfect ripostes. Yep, all very Souls-y.


What is different is the challenge thanks to one of the major changes, and that's your constant AI companion. You're not limited to brief summons here, but instead you can have an AI ally follow you at all times, and what's more, they're actually pretty damn good at fighting. In fact, it could be argued they're too good, as they often make the normal, in level enemies fairly easy. There are some enemies that can cause problems, not to mention the games excessive use of pitfall traps, but other than bosses, which AI partners can easily die to, you'll find your partners make things far easier than any Souls game. I'd even say this could be “My first Souls game,” and a gateway title for those who still have to try FromSoftware's titles. Souls training wheels if you like.

As for enemies, the AI is a mixture of brain-dead to passable. In combat, and outside of bosses, foes aren't exactly intelligent, and there's not a great deal of AI tactics in play. Much of the time they'll just fight you head on, and although enemies can look varied, and use different weapons, there's little variation in attacks. Most combat is simple, lock-on, block, attack and circle for the back stab. Bosses switch things up a bit, with some decent encounters, but for the most part, the subtle nuances and clever enemy variation of FromSoftware's titles isn't here.


It is still fun, though, and although I found the reliance of pitfalls and corner ambushes to be more than a little tiresome after a while, the core mechanics here are solid, and coupled with the striking visual presentation, the action is pretty good.

Sadly, the world you travel through isn't as much fun. It has its moments, sure. The ruined city is decent enough, and there are some outstanding areas to be seen, but for the most part it's dull, and dank underground corridors and unimaginative fare. This is perhaps best demonstrated in the optional underworld dungeons you can take on. Feeling more than a little like Bloodborne's Chalice Dungeons, only without the random nature and fun factor, these dungeons are more like a copied and pasted tangle of corridors and uninspired design. With a game in the style of anime, and all the possibilities that come with it, it's a missed opportunity, for sure.


Character progression is one area that's different from core Souls play, and although there's still the expected currency collection with the threat of losing it all on death if you don't get back to pick it up, your actual advancement is simplified in terms of stats, and bolstered by the use of 'Blood Codes.'

Levelling up your character isn't a matter of allocating points into individual stats. Instead, you simply go up whole levels and all stats advance in a predetermined manner. Where you do have more control is with your blood codes. These are acquired from characters and bosses as you progress and each has a selection of special abilities, which you can master and upgrade. Master these abilities enough, and you can equip them, regardless of the blood code you have equipped.


This feature is highly flawed in my opinion, as having various blood codes is pointless. Instead of having to pick specific blood codes for certain play styles or situations, which would have added an element of tactical play, you can simply master the skills you want to use, and then assign them at any time, regardless of the code you use. It robs the code system of any real function, and instead, getting new codes is simply a matter of finding abilities you want to learn to use, regardless of code. Instead, I feel the option to transfer abilities from code to code should have been left out, and instead the system be tailored to add a more challenging and situation-specific skill system.

I did enjoy Code Vein, despite its flaws, and it is a solid enough Souls-clone, I just feel that Bandai Namco played it far too safe with its overall design. The highlight of a wonderful character creation tool, and some striking visuals thanks to the anime-style can't carry what is basically a straight riff on Dark Souls, and the lack of challenge, and minimal RPG levelling complexity means it's a far more straightforward brawler that doesn't have the staying power many of its rivals boast.

Score: 3 out of 5


The Good
  • Excellent character creation
  • Striking anime style
  • Solid Souls-like combat
The Bad
  • Blood Code system is pointless
  • minimal character progression options
The Ugly
  • Pitfalls, pitfalls, pitfalls

wunshot 11-13-2019 12:15 PM

I'm one of the biggest Souls fans imaginable (played all of them multiple times...), so I was really excited about this. You nail it about the code system being pointless. I settled on Atlas, and don't have any desire to go back to try the 20 others. The setting was too linear and devoid of details. It got me fired up to play Bloodborne again, and that game just has details packed into every square foot of the game. Code Vein was the opposite....It felt like when you used to play Quake 2 on "picmip_5" to strip out all of the textures for multiplayer.

Story was ok...i'll at least give them credit for having a narrative which is the one thing the Souls games lack.

wunshot 11-13-2019 12:17 PM

Oh and I'd give them a bonus point in your 5 point scoring system for titties. The game developers love big boobs as much as I do....

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