There’s just something to be said for the recent glut of super punishing games. You know the ones that I mean; The Surge, Ni-Oh, Dark Souls, Bloodborne…just to name a few of the more noteworthy ones.

Gamers take pride in finishing them, as they take patience, persistence, skill and a bit of luck to overcome the tremendous difficulty.

At first glance, Code Vein seems to fall squarely into that category…until it opens up and shows that it’s a different beast (pardon the pun) altogether.

What is Code Vein?

Code Vein is a third person Action RPG, developed by Shift and Bandai Namco. It’s available on the PC, PS4 and Xbox One.

At first pass, it looks like an anime-fied version of Dark Souls. There’s a stamina meter that drains with every attack, enemies can be evaded (by rolls) or parried…you can even perform devastating backstab (the trigger seems inconsistent though…sometimes you pull them off without a hitch, other times it won’t register) attacks if you hit most baddies from behind.

All very Dark Souls-esque, no?

But keep at it and you’ll find that the game is actually its own thing.

In fact, I’d say the game has more in common (aesthetically at least) with Bandai Namco’s monster hunting series God Eater, with its post apocalyptic modern world setting.

Instead of Aragami, there are The Lost in Code Vein, with the Revenants standing in for the God Eaters. Even the weapons in Code Vein look a bit like the God Arcs.

That’s not to say the plots are similar; Code Vein’s world is one ravaged by war and disease, as most of the population have been turned into vampire-like creatures called Revenants.

Revenants have a parasite that’s bonded with their hearts, giving them immortality…at a cost. They retain their intelligence and humanity but lose most of their memories.

However, if they go too long without blood (or a blood substitute known as Blood Beads), they turn feral and go into a frenzy (as a result of the parasite taking over), and are called the Lost. Once a Revenant’s turned Lost, there’s no going back.

With both blood and Blood Beads becoming rarer, some of the surviving Revenants have turned on each other, enslaving the weaker ones and using them as disposable scouts to find more Blood Beads.

Then there are the vestiges, pieces of memories (and other bits) that fill in the missing bits of Revenants.

I like that Code Vein hides a bit of story behind each vestige.

Once you find them, you’re treated to a neat little flashback to give insight into the memory contained in it. Almost always, it’s related to the characters or the overall plot.

Vestiges are special items that are imbued with the memories of their owners, but they also serve to unlock new classes and skills (called Gifts) for your character.

Gifts are initially only available to a Blood Code (class) that they are paired with. You’ll need to equip the Blood Code and use it for a while to master the Gift, at which point it can then be reequipped with different Blood Codes.

In this way, Code Vein is MUCH more flexible than Dark Souls or any of its ilk. Changing your play style can be done on the fly, without the need to reassign stats.

Mixing and matching the different Gifts and Blood Codes (while initially limiting) opens up a whole world of customization possibilities.

Magic users with heavy weapon skills, healers with tank-like defense…or even agile long ranged snipers. All you need to do is find the Gifts that fit your build and equip an appropriate Blood Code.

The biggest addition to Code Vein that sets it apart from other games in the genre has got to be the AI partners you can bring into battle. There are a handful (though you can only bring one with you) and each of them are distinct enough that you’ll want to try them all.

Some partners are great at support, others can tank and a select few can even do multi-roles. Partners make the game a bit too easy though, as the AI can sometimes get confused on who to target.

Also, partners can bring you back from death by sacrificing their health (you can also do the same for your partner if they die in battle), so dying doesn’t necessarily mean a restart. It’s a great boon, but it does make the game a bit on the easy side.

I also wished that Code Vein aped Dark Souls fabulous branching maps.

The ones in Code Vein are pretty linear, with very little doubling back on previously trod upon territory. I honestly love that the Dark Souls games would pepper the maps with shortcuts, as you explore, making the levels interconnected. That’s part of the reason The Surge 2 (with its stages that expand with shortcuts as you play) is so awesome.

To be fair, there is some of that in play here in Code Vein, but they’re nowhere near as complex or clever as the ones in FROM’s seminal series.

The bottom line.

If you prefer a leaner, somewhat less hardcore gaming experience (at least when compared to the Souls games), then Code Vein is right up your alley.

It’s a great introduction to the genre, without the punishing difficulty (most of the time anyways).

Code Vein’s great blend of customization, apocalyptic flair and fun combat makes it a pretty good alternative to similar fare like The Surge 2. Still, if you don’t care for the anime trappings, Code Vein doesn’t have the same magic as the FROM games.

I honestly hope that Bandai Namco finds a way to integrate Code Vein somehow with God Eater. The two series share a very similar aesthetic that it’s a disservice to both that they’re not one intertwined series.

TLDR:

Dark Souls-lite. Awesome customization, decent gameplay.

The Good.
– Customizing your character.
– Fun combat.
– Great art direction.

The Bad.
– Boring maps.
– A bit too easy at times.

Sal's been in the industry since the early 2000s. He's written for a ton of gaming and tech publications including Playworks, Hardwarezone, HWM and GameAxis. A geek and hardcore gamer, Sal will play everything, on any platform.

Sal's been in the industry since the early 2000s. He's written for a ton of gaming and tech publications including Playworks, Hardwarezone, HWM and GameAxis. A geek and hardcore gamer, Sal will play everything, on any platform.