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Another “Dark Souls clone”, or is it?
Dark Souls did many things right at the same time and, thus, was responsible for spawning an entire generation of games that followed in its footsteps. Some of the most famous ones include Nioh and Lords of the Fallen.
Code Vein is one of the most recent attempts to emulate that Soulslike feel. Some may call it an anime Dark Souls, but it’s also quite different in its main premise.
At its core, Dark Souls’ main attraction is its approach to combat and its often-heralded “difficulty”. However, the storytelling aspect of Dark Souls is almost as remarked as the combat, and this is where Code Vein departs from FromSoftware’s winning formula.
Bandai Namco Studios (not the same exact company as Dark Souls’ publisher, though it’s from the same group) decided to focus this time around on delivering a very detailed narrative, complete with bells and whistles. They’re not exactly leaving much to your imagination as From would do with their flagship franchise and its enigmatic item descriptions.
The drive of the main plot has a similar vampiric element. This time, you don’t feast on souls but on blood properly speaking (similar to Bloodborne). This vampiric theme is portrayed with an anime tone, which might initially disappoint some folks.
Fortunately, even those who dislike anime may find this game enjoyable, as the over-the-top acting is toned down, making the characters appear believable in their behavior and overall persona. You’ll still get to see some “waifus” though, so be prepared.
Notwithstanding, the story suffers from poor pacing, owing also to the bloated lore and the way Namco tries to cram it all into one single game. In this regard, Code Vein doesn’t differ from other anime offerings, known for these types of excesses.
Ironically, even though you’re not spared from the plot at any moment, you may feel a bit lost until halfway through the game, but, as you begin to understand the story, it speeds up exponentially and you’ll get thrown into smaller and smaller zones each successive time.
Some of the areas suffer from repetitiveness and, at some point, your interest in keep playing this game will start waning. However, if you stop playing, you’ll miss out on some of its best moments, so you’ll have to break through these obnoxious boring levels to get to the meat, which admittedly it’s not ideal.
Notwithstanding, this game is not the only one in the genre that presents this issue. Dark Souls itself had these lousy levels too, though they were reached toward the second half of the game.
On a more positive note, I liked the companion system this game carries. You can bring along several characters as companions who are incredibly helpful and don’t get in the way due to badly-coded AI. Companion systems are frequently botched even in AAA games, so it’s nice to see one that performs decently.
The soundtrack is also very well-achieved, blending the epic bombastic Dark Souls style with a decidedly Japanese Role-Playing Game (JRPG) flavor. I’d say it’s one of the game’s strongest points, along with the graphics, which easily surpass those of the most recent Souls games and, if you push me too far, even Elden Ring (Demon Souls Remake is still in a league of its own, though).
Code Vein is an action role-playing game played from a third-person perspective and set in a not-so-distant dystopian future filled with vampiric “revenants”, as in, human beings who consume blood to remain sane and not become feral monsters.
You play as a “revenant” but one who’s able to adopt any “Blood Code” (code name for “class”). You can choose your “Blood Code” - amidst a whooping 42 different choices - in the character creation screen, as well as your gender and physical appearance. You can select from over 32 presets and further customize them in the advanced settings.
After you have created your character, you awaken in the ruins of Vein, a city sealed with a red mist. The land encircled by the mist is called the “Gaol of the Mist”, and it is said that anyone who has ever attempted to pass through this mist experienced indescribable pain.
The first location you have to traverse is the Ruined City Underground, which is a multilevel garage that developed into a cavern after the “Great Collapse”. After you kill the boss at the end of this dungeon (Oliver Collins), you have access to the Home Base, which is the main hub where you’ll have the chance to interact with NPCs and merchants.
Stamina plays an integral role in gameplay and its management can make or break your playthrough, especially against bosses. Just like in Dark Souls, Code Vein punishes you for wrong inputs at the wrong times, and any hit you take reduces your “mistake allowance” meter (HP bar).
HP (Hit Points) can be recovered by using the regeneration ability or by resting at a Mistle which will also restore your regen uses. For the record, mistles are the different checkpoints found scattered across the dungeons, just like the bonfires in Dark Souls or “sites of grace” in Elden Ring.
In this game, you may avoid almost all attacks but it gets increasingly difficult to do so as you progress. Nevertheless, it could be said that this game is hard but not unfair, meaning that if you die or get hit, in most cases it is your own fault and not the game’s.
You can summon other players online to tackle some of the game’s most difficult challenges. You’ll likewise have the chance to obtain the handy aid of an AI partner, chosen out of the cast of protagonists you encounter in this game.
Just like in Dark Souls, you can perform strong and weak attacks but, aside from those, you also have special, charged, and launch attacks. Moreover, you have the ability to perform combos, backstabs, and parries.
Parries are some of the most difficult moves to pull off successfully, as you have to time them perfectly not only for counterattacks but also for drain attacks, which are used to refill your “ichor” - the blood that flows through revenants’ veins to perform special abilities.
In a nutshell, Code Vein poses as a very nice alternative to Dark Souls. At times, it can seem too derivative but it also comes with a great number of distinguishing features that make it its own thing in terms of lore, visuals, and gameplay perks. I’d definitely recommend Dark Souls lovers to try this one out!
You can also let me know what you think about this review in the commentary box below!
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- Professional Critic -
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