It’s insultingly easy to pass Code Vein off as Dark Souls for anime fans, something which many a website has done…but hot damn it genuinely is anime Dark Souls. All the ingredients are there for a Souls-like game, from overly familiar mechanics, weapon classes and overall brutality, albeit with an attempt to throw some unique flavour into the mix with a modern day mythology dealing with vampires, the post apocalypse and life being an absolute carnival of carnage in this awful new era.
It’s just a pity then at Code Vein’s overt inspiration lacks any of the polish that made the Dark Souls series so revered in the first place. It’s visually smooth but mechanically rough, haphazardly crossing off ideas on a list of pilfered influences. Which ends up with an experience that ultimately feels cheaper and lacking any real bite of its own.
That’s not to say that Code Vein doesn’t have some neat ideas of its own. As a Revenant who needs to consume blood in mankind’s darkest age, the blood code that all players begin with is an invaluable layer of flexible class-tinkering that allows for you to swap up your skills and lean more towards RPG staples such as a hardy warrior or a long distance mage whose blood powers turn him into a glass cannon.
It’s a neat twist on keeping your options varied against merciless odds, further complemented by the ability to mix and match skills from the 25 classes to create a character who is unique to your particular strengths and style of play. Taking things a step further, players can even have a companion by their side although this is a feature that sounds better on paper than it does in theory.
For offline players, you’re easily able to grab a gung-ho AI partner who’ll plunge headfirst into battle while constantly yapping away, building up a roster of sidekicks that are meant to complement your playstyle. It’s a fab system considering how Code Vein adheres to the Dark Souls school of thought and features a zoo of monsters who’ll shave your health bar down to dangerous levels with just a few strikes, but that AI is often suicidal in its approach and can often wind up being more of a hindrance than an assist depending on who you take with you into the dark depths of human misery.
With a robust character system and the love it or hate it AI, you’d expect Code Vein to at least deliver on the action department. Which it does, but only to a point that it quickly reveals how it feels like an absolute knock-off of better games after a few hours of play. Enemies loiter around the map waiting for you to run into lethal hug distance, while your AI pal throws itself into the fray and you rely on the usual strategy of sticking in a few quick hits and dodge-rolling out of harm’s way when the enemy reacts.
Even with a large variety of foes on offer, Code Vein’s menagerie of enemies never truly step up to the challenge or add any real substance to the action which feels like it’s going through the motions. What Code Vein does have going for it though, is a world that deserves better. The story may be a cryptic collection of narrative threads focused on humanity’s demise, the rise of Revenants and the hunt for the ever-elusive blood beads, but it’s a tale that is expanded upon beautifully with side-stories from the past and a lengthy collection of cutscenes across 30 hours of play.
Is Code Vein worth sinking your fangs into then? It definitely has a few terrific ideas up its sleeve and the bleak world you explore is a stunning collection of post-apocalyptic ruins, but it fails to draw the right blood from its source material as it blunders on some of its biggest ideas and trudges through on its combat promises.
If you were waiting for a Dark Souls inspired game to set your heart aflutter with vampiric themes and pulse-pounding combat…then you might want to wait a bit longer, as Code Vein definitely isn’t that game.
Last Updated: October 7, 2019