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June 2019

Code Vein

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


PS4/XOne/PC Multiplayer Preview - 'Code Vein'

by Cody Medellin on June 3, 2019 @ 1:00 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.

It's a little puzzling to see Bandai Namco Games — the publisher of From Software's hit series — try its own hand at making a Dark Souls-like title. Not only is it doing this, but it's also employing the team behind the God Eater series for this venture. Initially, this sounds like a good idea, since the merging of the gameplay mechanics for both titles sounds like it'll add some pizzazz to the standard formula.

Although this is a multiplayer-oriented test, Code Vein forces you to go through a prologue level, so we got a good glimpse at some aspects of the single-player experience. The story starts off with an interesting premise, as an apocalyptic event occurred a long time ago, leaving the world in ruins while making vampires the more prolific species on the planet. With so few humans left, everyone is reliant on blood growing from special trees to survive, and those who can't find blood turn into mutated vampires known as the Lost, who attack people for blood. You play as a nameless vampire who has magical blood coursing through their body, and along with your unknown companion and others you find along the way, you must find your true purpose in the world.

After spending some time with a character creation system, you learn about the various classes that you can switch at any time, giving you the ability to use a ton of different weapons, like bayonets and lead pipes, as well as unleash some abilities, such as defensive buffs or stronger attack moves. From here, the game is essentially Dark Souls as far as the basics go. Your attacks and defensive maneuvers are governed by a stamina system, so unless you calculate when each move should be performed, wild flailing leaves you wide open to attacks. The weapon you use also determines the stamina needed to operate it. Campfires may take on a different look, but they still serve the same purpose of replenishing your health and letting you save your progress while also resetting the enemies in the area.

What makes this feel different is how much influence God Eater has on the design. Getting items for crafting is a big thing, so finding new weapons isn't as vital as crafting to make your existing weapons stronger. Leveling for new abilities is also important, and that's made easy since you can do that at any of the bonfires you encounter — although you have to be fine with sacrificing cash to level up. The biggest and most welcome change is co-op play with another person or an AI. Roaming around each area with a partner provides extra striking power and someone to provide minor healing in case you want to save your bigger healing items for more important fights. Your partner's body can sometimes obscure the action, but their presence makes things different, as the only other game to adopt this sort of dynamic is Ashen.

The heart of the game is in the combat, and there are some areas for improvement here. For one thing, none of your attacks seem to stun anyone. Another issue is that the enemy tells are too subtle, so it takes a lot of trial and error to know when an attack is coming. Perhaps the more frustrating aspect is the extensive death animations. They start with a forward movement, which looks like an attack, and it takes quite a bit of time before the dying occurs, complete with a shower of embers from the body. This creates plenty of moments when you'll waste strikes against corpses, and that's frustrating for a game that limits stamina.

With all of the talk about the game's single-player portion, the real purpose of the closed test is to gauge and tweak network performance. The good news is that there's nothing to really worry about concerning online performance. Even though the Xbox One's population for the beta was much smaller than that of the PS4, we never saw any lag or other issues, whether we were hosting the session or when we joined one.

The game's presentation is nice overall. If you don't mind the typical modern ruins, then the environments look rather nice, with some good lighting effects and use of color to match the anime-like aesthetic. The sound is also nice, but you'll sometimes feel that the pipe organ music doesn't necessarily fit all situations, despite the gothic theme.

For Code Vein, the idea of bringing co-op play and item gathering to a more measured combat system feels fresh, since only a few games do this sort of thing. However, the combat itself doesn't feel as meaningful, with some of your hits being ineffective and the tells being so obscure that you waste your stamina. There's still time for things to improve, so let's hope Bandai Namco uses this network test to smooth out the experience.

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