From The Surge to Nioh; there are a lot of action RPGs inspired by Dark Souls so let's see if Code Vein is a worthy Souls-like experience.
Code Vein is set in a post-apocalyptic world where monsters are running amok so soldiers known as Revenants emerge to battle them. These Revenants are basically vampire zombies as they're reanimated corpses that require human blood for energy. You play as one of these soldiers and you can create your character as you wish. Along your journey, you'll meet plenty of other Revenants and other characters who may join you on your outings to explore the devastated world. I enjoyed interacting with the handful of characters at the home base area and watching the cutscenes is pretty fun, too, especially when you see the next boss emerge as you can't help but think, "Wow; here we go again!" Overall, it's a cohesive and detailed world in both its narrative and visuals and I appreciate that.
When it comes to Dark Souls style games, the most important factor to me is exploration. I absolutely love traversing distinct and grueling environments as I carefully tread and cut through hordes of enemy monsters and in this regard, Code Vein definitely does not disappoint. I absolutely loved the locations and even the dark and desolate ones such as the underground oil refinery make for memorable journeys. In this sense, Code Vein's game world is similar to Darksiders' because both games do an excellent job of making their post-apocalyptic worlds feel authentic and tangible. In other words, you can visualise each location from before the apocalypse occurred.
Code Vein's gameplay isn't far removed from similar games although the controller is mapped a bit differently. For example, I kept pressing RB to attack within the first couple of hours although the default controls use the face buttons to do so. That being said, the controls are tight and responsive and the combat is quite fast-paced. However, it ends up feeling a bit more like a hack and slash game as opposed to a strategic skill-based action RPG as often, you can mindlessly mash the attack buttons to stumble and eventually dispatch foes without taking any damage. I mean, you can guard, parry, dash, and dodge but you really only have to use evasive moves while facing the bosses as some of them can be rather tricky to defeat. As a result, combat is usually rather unsatisfying.
One thing that Code Vein accomplishes very well is provide a plethora of character customization options. The main dynamic is setting up your Gifts and alternating between Blood Codes. The former are essentially skills that you can unleash to inflict damage or gain stat boosts while the latter is your character's class. These allow you to change to different fighting styles such as ranged or melee combat as well as supportive roles. Thankfully, there are a lot of Blood Codes to experiment with and choosing the ones that best fit your play style is a fun endeavour. You'll also have to swap out your equipment which only consists of 2 weapons and a piece of armour (or Blood Veil). Anyway, earning souls (or Haze) and spending it in various shops as well as using it to level up and unlock and enhance Gifts is rewarding stuff indeed and once you acquire a vast assortment of gear and Gifts, you'll definitely see a huge difference in your capabilities.
With all of that being said, I can't help but feel like a lot of components are tacked on in order to give the illusion of choice. What I mean by this is that often, I would drastically change my character and not notice that much changed in how it played. Of course, upgrading things makes a difference but considering there are so many factors, one would assume that changing everything would make the gameplay feel fresh and exciting but alas; it's merely the same yet you might end up relying on a different skill or weapon.
Finally, I noticed a few odd graphical issues in my playthrough. Namely, enemies would look like cardboard cut-outs often with strange stiff animations. When you approach them, they become more detailed but it just looks weird. I also saw enemies flash through walls at a couple points which actually scared me for a split second. Needless to say, those are some odd sights to behold.
Although I enjoyed my time with Code Vein, it could definitely use some work to live up to its genre contemporaries. With that said, if you're a fan of action RPGs then you'll find a lot to sink your vampiric teeth into here.
- + Familiar action RPG gameplay yet with plenty of enjoyable twists
- + Spot-on dystopian environments
- + Rewarding character customization
- - Combat isn't nearly as satisfying as it is in similar action RPGs
- - Many components feel tacked on
- - Odd graphical hiccups