Starting on May 30th, Bandai Namco Entertainment opened up the network test for their upcoming game Code Vein. While the test only lasted until June 3rd, it showed off some elements of what to expect when the full game releases later this year.
For those unaware of what Code Vein is, it is a third person action RPG set in a post-apocalyptic world. You play as a character waking up with no memories of who they are or how they got there, and are quickly roped into the world by survivors around you. The world is full of creatures who were once human but now seek out any and all blood they can find…including yours! It plays similarly to the Dark Souls/Bloodborne games with a larger emphasis on story and less emphasis on tight gameplay.
Starting off, you are given the opportunity to jump into their character customization. I spent some time playing around with this as it’s pretty thorough though not on the levels of an Elder Scrolls or anything. It was a little jarring that something like pupils would include so many options but only have a handful of outfits to choose from initially. It’s possible you gain more customization elements as you play through the game, but from what I’ve seen, that doesn’t seem to be the case.
Either way, the character creation is really great. It’s expansive enough to give your characters unique looks (the color selection alone is like walking through the paint section of a Home Depot or Lowes) while not breaking the cutscenes during the game to make your character out of place. You are not locked into that look either as once you find your home base, you have the option to update it throughout the game too. They even give you a chance to play around and save different appearances you come up with and then you can load them up for a different playthrough or switch out looks later in the game. Nice inclusion with this creator in general.
The anime design choice looks as great as expected both in-game and during cutscenes. The colors pop and provide that beautiful, if not safe, stylistic choice. My main complaint I would offer would be the clipping being done throughout every scene. Doesn’t matter if it’s hair or a metal sword; no substance folds around another and instead phases through it which is kind of a bummer. Not a huge problem, but a pretty noticeable one.
Speaking of design, my biggest gripe would be the enemy design and variety. One of my favorite things about the From Software games are how the creatures look. So far, nothing has come remotely close to be that stand out. For example, bosses in the Souls games are an event and rare to see similar designs like that throughout the game. Not here. In fact, the first major boss in the story section has the exact same look as some enemies in the higher level depth section including another boss battle except with two of them. Overall I find the creature design dull and lacking. For someone like me who gets pulled through games like this partially based on the designs, it didn’t win me over to see more in the main game.
Not much story was introduced in the network test of Code Vein, however it does seem like it will be reliant on an actual plot. Only a few characters were introduced, but their voice actors fit the personalities given to them. They do come off a little tropey, and both their personalities and some of the designs are what some people would consider problematic. However, if those things don’t tend to bother you, I have no reason to believe the full game will either.
The last thing I want to discuss before leaping into combat is the world design. It was very fleeting and the starting area, but it didn’t leave a good impression. Much of the area were long corridors with very little wiggle room to maneuver causing difficulty when it came to falling from ledges or flanking enemies for more damage. This area during the network test also didn’t give a good feel of where you may visit in the future. One cool thing about a game like Bloodborne was seeing a landmark in the distance you could eventually visit. It’s possible Code Vein will have something similar, but the locations playable in the network test certainly didn’t give off that vibe. In fact, immediately after leaving the first boss fight, it appears the next section is also possibly underground (subway maybe?) meaning even less chance of location foresight.
After all that foreplay, it’s time to get to the most important part of these games – the combat. On the surface, Code Vein looks like it can provide many robust avenues to approach battles. For starters, characters are given the option to select certain classes with more unlockable as the story progresses. Called “Blood Codes,” this class system mixes up attack types (distance vs melee, heavy magic, buff-centric, evenly balanced, etc) while each having special skills that can be leveled up as well. These also influence your base stats and weapon choices but the skills may focus on certain aspects of your stats as well. The Fighter Blood Code for instance can boost dexterity and strength. So these Blood Codes are integral to how one approaches combat in Code Vein.
From there, the next thing to look into is the armor and weapons. As one would expect, each weapon is different and can be utilized depending on playstyle. Some may allow for quicker attacks at a weaker force while some are slower with heavier impact and some can be used at range. It’s also important to note that things such as weight come into play as too much weight can cause slowdown with blocking or dodges as well.
Another aspect though is leveling up these weapons or armor to improve stats or add debuffs or elements to them as well. These are done by using the haze currency and crafting items either found through the vendors at home base or discovered in the world. As one would expect, haze is gathered from defeating enemies (or consuming certain items) throughout the world. Dying results in you dropping the haze with the chance to retrieve it once you respawn at the last visited mistle.
In the world, you will spawn at Mistles which also give you the option to select new loadouts, level up and even select your AI partner. Upon spawning at these, you gain three rejuvenation skills that can be used to heal yourself at any time. If you run out, these Mistles will replenish your health but also these rejuvenation skills. Side note though – it also respawns enemies.
The enemies would typically lurk about slowly and in a distinct pattern until they discover your whereabouts. Running up to them alerts them even if their back is to you (giving up the element of surprise), and in certain cases I couldn’t quite figure out, a special attack would commence in cases where you successfully sneak up on them. Be careful though as some may not be pacing but instead playing dead in a corner. Using the lock-on however would give away which ones were alive or dead though.
The AI companion I found to be helpful and useless in cases. Annoying too when it came to pointless talk as you travel around. The enemies would certainly ignore them at times even if they were closer (almost needing to be provoked with an attack from them) leading to irritating encounters with shielded foes where your companion refuses to attack them from behind as they drew near to your character. Two hands are better then one though, and it’s hard to deny that they do in fact help. It’s possible they will resurrect you as well if you fall in battle though it’s not a guarantee. Having a way to direct them could be an interesting way to add some tactics to it, but for the most part, every little bit helps anyways.
It is possible to request or join another player in the world though. I didn’t personally try this as my level was too low in the depths and I felt guilty trying to help or request help when I hadn’t even hit the recommended level of 40. Assuming it all works well, I imagine having an actual player would be more beneficial than an AI character.
All of those aspects make what is a typical and somewhat standard battle system stand out. Like other games, you will be privy to light and heavy attacks, parrying, rolling to avoid hits and everything else that is standard in these type of games. Yet…it doesn’t feel as good. Maybe it’s the speed of which these are performed or lack of feedback or something else I can’t put my finger on, but it feels off. If it wasn’t for the various skills and classes, the combat would feel even worse than it already does.
So to wrap everything up in a bow: Code Vein appears to have problems. The combat doesn’t feel rewarding although elements of it allows for experimentation. The world seems boring in design and the same could be said about the enemies based on this beginning section. There are performance problems such as bad framerate, texture pop-in and more but the aesthetic still makes the world look beautiful based on art style and colors. In a world where games like Bloodborne and Nioh exist, Code Vein won’t provide the same quality based on what I’ve played. The best parts of this game are some of the least important (character creation for example) and if Bandai Namco are really shooting to release this year, it may be too late for any major improvements.