From the moment of great popularity of Dark Souls onwards, there have been many works that have tried to exploit the same trail of success, often with mixed results and never really able to oust the king from his throne. Over the years, a handful of titles have attempted to propose something new within this subgenre, such as the cyberpunk declination desired by the series The Surge ; with Code Vein , instead, the particular mix is above all aesthetic, rather than structural, although a couple of game elements are undoubtedly quite successful.
Developed by Shift, a studio that has already dealt with God Eater , Code Vein is one of the first soulslike to graphically propose a strong closeness to the style of the anime, both for the design of the characters, both for the way in which the story is told and for the tenor that keeps from start to finish. As we shall see, Code Vein borrows only some of the typical elements of the so-called soulslike , since it actually reveals a work much closer to Japanese-style action RPGs heavily based on the presence ofincreasingly elaborate and labyrinthine dungeons.
The story of Code Vein is set in a not too distant future in which we live, where a mysterious disaster has reduced the world to collapse, transforming lush and prosperous lands into barren and almost desolate lands, guarded only by the so-called Lost, creatures who have succumbed to the thirst for blood, thus losing all semblance of humanity. The only hope is represented by a small handful of beings who have lost their memory and who can still discover the truth about the past, through a series of events that take place for about forty hours. The narration is never cryptic, as often happens in the genre to which it belongs, and the dialogues are always clear and with a good rhythm, following the styles of manga and Japanese anime. You will therefore find moments of tribulation, family dramas and adolescent despair, with the typical tones of Japanese dark fantasy.
In Code Vein there is a sort of base where from time to time you can chat with the co-protagonists of the adventure, some dedicated to selling items, weapons and accessories useful for battles, and others always ready to offer a new look on the events that have shaken the game world. From this main HUB, where you prepare for the briefing, you equip yourself and choose a mission in the mission which will be the most suitable companion for the area to be explored, you will then depart to the devastated areas. Each of them is subdivided into macro areas which are actually mazes in their own right; they are ideally united with each other by connecting areas, ie the arenas in which the boss fight are disputed.
The impression is that there is no organicity between one dungeon and another, and that everything has been developed with watertight compartments in mind. So forget the sprawling level design of the From Software maps, or the overflowing shortcuts of The Surge 2 : Code Vein it is a set of certainly well-made mazes, with shortcuts and more floors along which to venture, but the strong authorial imprint that works of this kind should always have is clearly lacking. In short, it is all very scholastic and all in all predictable, at least conceptually, while getting lost is sometimes quite easy. To your aid will come the so-called Dark Vischi, that is tree spurs that are often well hidden but that, once discovered, will radiate the map and show it clearly, freeing you from the vain space as you follow your footsteps in fading on the mini map.
The most important game mechanics of Code Vein is represented by the Blood Codes, which are essentially classes that can be changed at any time. You will never have a constraint and your initial choice will not be at all definitive: on the contrary, the Blood Codes must be chosen carefully according to the situation in which you find yourself. You will start with that of the Fighter , the Ranger and the Occultist , but you will collect a quantity so high that you have available builds that are always different and useful for your purposes.
For example, you could completely miss the approach to a boss fight and stay there to die more than expected, if you choose to have a tank trim against monsters with lightning attacks; or again, you might think you have good equipment but in reality you have not well considered that the one supplied has a poor resistance to some altered states. And these, mind you, are just some of the most obvious and easily interpretable scenarios.
Code Vein and Blood Codes
Each blood code is associated with gifts , which are skills to be unlocked and inserted in a specific grid: there are passive and active ones and both combine to define the class to which they belong. To use them, you need Icore points , which is the mana fee, which can be restored by running backstab or drying up; to unlock them instead the Foschia is needed , which is the equivalent of souls in Dark Souls . However, the Mist also serves to level up, so you will always have to decide wisely how to allocate the fruit of your efforts. Speaking of backstab, a flaw marks that Code Vein it carries with it since the demo, it is precisely the ease with which they are performed, that is by circumventing enemies that do not oppose the slightest resistance or have routines to avoid them.
By the way, instead of character growth, a big lack is the impossibility to decide which statistics to increase or not. Essentially, In Code Vein you can only exchange the Mist with the level upgrade, while the game will automatically decide for you which statistics will improve. It’s a not-so-little flaw for an action role-playing game, and it’s likely that the developers opted for this choice in order to avoid balancing problems. Balancing that is optimal despite a difficulty that is anything but accentuated, ruined as it is by the slowness of the enemies, by an artificial intelligence that is not quite so reactive and by the exploit represented by the facilitated backstabs. Moreover, choosing the most leathery and powerful companion will almost always give you an advantage not just during the advancement, and with an online friend who knows how to move, the situation improves further.
It is therefore easier than in Code Vein to die for an ambush or when the enemies are in excess, because the management of one or a couple of enemies is rather elementary and will improve after just a few hours of play. For the avoidance of doubt it must be said that Code Vein has peaks of difficulty represented by some areas inside the dungeons a little more difficult than usual, and sometimes starting from the nearest Mistletoe (which works exactly like bonfires) is not enough to recover the Mist lost. If you do not want to throw away the accumulated progress altogether, you can decide to call you half of the Mist by taking a bath in the natural spas that are in the base, which always remains a good compromise when the progression is less rapid than usual.
Although Code Vein makes various stylistic choices and has good taste for the way in which it proposes most of the characters, technically it does not shine particularly and appears definitely a step below the most important productions. Textures are often in low resolution, polygonal modeling is quite basic and many areas appear unadorned and anonymous. Moreover, there is clearly a strong sense of recycling in different dungeons, which change size and shape while leaving their nature unaltered. Good localization, without smudging and without adaptation errors.
The soulslike in anime style conceived by Shift fails to convince as it should, plagued as it is by some clumsy AI design errors and by a too marked tendency to the design of labyrinth maps completely unrelated to each other. Code Vein equally has its strengths and weaknesses, but the latter weigh a little too much in the economy of the genre to which one belongs, which cannot be deprived of some of its fundamental characteristics.