Thursday, 24 October 2019

Code Vein ★★★☆☆

‘Code Vein’ is the latest release that you could call a “soulslike”, a term that I'm getting pretty tired of now (and perhaps you are getting bored of seeing crop up in so many of my reviews) that is pitting games up against one of the best ARPG series of all time. The reason I’m finding it so tiring is that these newer entries to the genre never seem to live up to the gameplay, world-building, and pure addictiveness of the ‘Dark Souls’ series by Fromsoftware.

‘Code Vein’ is reminiscent of ‘Dark Souls’ but only in the way it initially plays – to be honest, I’d say ‘Code Vein’ is more of a dungeon crawler than anything else. The game is developed by the same team who made the cult classic ‘God Eater’ franchise (Bandai Namco Entertainment) and you can see how apparent this is when you start the game, moving from beautifully rendered cutscenes to a pleasingly in-depth character creator. The game oozes style and the anime-like graphics of the character models are really quite enticing. Unfortunately, the environmental art is quite similar to ‘God Eater’, meaning that it is a bit bland and simplistic.

Once you have got through the initial cutscene and tutorials you are thrust into your first dungeon where you will be picking up weapons and other equipment and levelling your character to gain new skills and powers to use on your foes. The combat is very similar to ‘Dark Souls’ or ‘The Surge’, but you also have some special abilities mapped to the different buttons on the controller that come in the form of heals/buffs or special moves. It adds a little bit more depth to the combat and lets you plan out elaborate moves before you initiate combat scenarios.

The enemy design is quite repetitive, like the locations, but because the actual gameplay is so fun it's forgivable. My main complaint lies with what else you do in the game. Unlike ‘Dark Souls’ the level design is not very interesting and generally boils down to one locked door after another (always only unlockable from the other side) which leads to the fairly repetitive task of getting to that other side in order to open it. (Putting it in writing makes it sound even duller than it actually is.)

This idea isn't dissimilar to what ‘Dark Souls’ and ‘Bloodborne’ did, but in those games, it felt fluid, with level design so good it made exploring and finding these shortcuts really rewarding.  For ‘Code Vein’ this just isn’t the case, making for a game that feels like it’s lacking something.

The story of the game, however, is pretty interesting and I would say is one of the main positives of the game. It is much more coherently laid out than some other soulslike games, with you playing in a destroyed world as a character who is pretty much a vampire feeding off the blood of enemies. It leads well into the interesting mechanics in the game, such as the available skills and how you can go about acquiring them.

I think ‘Code Vein’ has had the wrong type of marketing up to its release, leading people to believe that it’s a pure soulslike with a heavier emphasis on the story when in truth it is a very capable dungeon crawling game. It has excellent varied combat that is only let down by the cookie-cutter enemies you face in a bland environment, devoid of anything that would add some real visual interest.

If you come into the game looking for a good ‘Dark Souls’ style game to fill the void then you’re probably going to feel at least moderate disappointment. For dungeon crawler fans with an open mind, however, then there is definitely something to like here.

Hannah Read

Code Vein at CeX

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