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Code Vein

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: RPG/Action
Publisher: Bandai Namco Games
Release Date: Sept. 27, 2019


PS4/XOne/PC Preview - 'Code Vein'

by Adam Pavlacka on May 17, 2019 @ 1:30 a.m. PDT

Feast on the blood of enemies through a journey across a massive interconnected world to unlock its mysterious sanguine past in this grueling action-RPG.

Pre-order Code Vein

Stylish anime characters? Check. Otherworldly dungeons? Check. Custom Character creator? Check. Challenging enemies? Double check. These are the highlights of Code Vein, Bandai Namco's upcoming action RPG. It has the look of God Eater and the feel of Dark Souls, which makes for an intriguing take on a sci-fi apocalypse.

The story is vague, with a "near future" that features a destroyed world. Something has brought ruin to the world, and humanity has been nearly wiped out. Signs of past civilization abound; there are cars, buildings, streets, etc., but it is all dead. The only civilization that exists has been forced underground, and they battle the monsters of the world for survival.

The Revenants are human bodies that have been reanimated — at the cost of memories and a hunger for blood. Yes, you're basically a vampire zombie with skills. Napoleon Dynamite would be proud. Thankfully, you don't need to kill other people for blood. In this devastated future world, there are mistle trees that grow blood as fruit. This blood fruit is highly prized, and for some reason, a drop of your blood can revitalize a desiccated tree. From what little was revealed in the preview build, this seems to be a rare ability and is likely to be a key component of the plot.

Since the preview build was light on plot and heavy on fighting, I'll focus on the combat experience. After you create a character with a fairly robust character designer (you could spend quite a bit of time here getting your character "just right"), Code Vein dumps you into a tutorial that exists in a sort of purgatory. It's here that you learn the basics of combat and the power of the Blood Codes.

Blood Codes are best described as character jobs. This is similar to other RPGs, but the twist is that changing up your style is pretty easy because the Blood Codes all come with a set of gifts. You can access gifts by enabling a Blood Code, or you can permanently unlock gifts with experience. Once unlocked, gifts can be mixed and matched as a way to further customize your playing style. Want to have a cross between a caster and a fighter? You can do that.

Blood Codes and weapons also modify your base stats. Dexterity, Fortitude, Mind, Strength, Vitality and Willpower are the six core character stats. Balancing stats is important because if you don't have enough strength, you won't be able to effectively use some weapons. Thankfully, swapping Blood Codes isn't difficult. As for the combat, that's a different story.

Although Code Vein may share an anime aesthetic with the God Eater series, the combat is nothing like that franchise. The fighting that we saw in the Code Vein preview build is careful and deliberate. You cannot simply spam attacks, or you're going to quickly find yourself quite dead. Code Vein requires you to play it smart because the enemies do a decent job of defending themselves. Attack animations don't seem to have a cancel option, so you commit to an attack when you launch it, even if it leaves you open to counter-attack. This forced vulnerability window means you have to read your opponent and only attack when you have a clear shot.

Along with your weapons, you also have access to magic abilities that are enabled by the activated gifts. These abilities consume Ichor, which is Code Vein's version of magic. You can restore Ichor by executing a drain attack and drinking your opponent's blood (remember, zombie vampire!). You can also restore health and Ichor by resting at a mistle plant. The catch is that it is possible to raise your maximum Ichor through fighting; resting reduces your maximum Ichor to its default state.

In some ways, the fighting style and Ichor limitations force you to be strategic. Defense and parrying aren't optional here; they're skills that you must learn if you want to have a chance of progressing in the game. While these are covered in the tutorial, you don't grasp the scope of their importance until you're wandering through the first dungeon.

One way in which Code Vein balances out the challenge is by providing you with an AI partner. Having someone by your side is helpful when fighting larger groups or stronger monsters. Your AI partner is not an instant win, but they also aren't a wallflower. Expect to do some heavy lifting, but you will get some assistance. What we couldn't try out was the multiplayer aspect, where you play with other human players. That will be demoed for the first time when the Code Vein network test goes live later this month.

Visually, Code Vein looks sharp, with plenty of stylized detail. I mentioned a character designer earlier, and I called it a designer rather than a creator for a reason. The options are robust, and your customization options are only limited by the memory required to manage the character. Each element that you add (or remove) to your character has a certain cost or weight. The more detailed the character, the more quickly you'll hit the limit. As long as you stay under the limit, you can go to town. The attributes you can edit in the character designer are accessories, clothing, eyes, eyebrows, face, face paint, gender, hair, makeup, physique, purifier mask, purifier mask frame, scars/other, skin, and voice.

Set for release later this year, Code Vein is shooting for a brighter, more colorful version of the challenge presented by the Dark Souls series. It's an interesting take, but if Bandai Namco can pull it off, Code Vein could be a refreshing spin on the genre.

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