When the early footage of Code Vein came out, I was initially sceptical about everyone calling it “anime Dark Souls“. Now, having gotten hands on with a demo of the game myself, I can confirm that is indeed the best way to describe the game. Code Vein is anime Dark Souls. But with a touch of Bloodborne thrown into the mix too.
It’s a Souls-like to the max. Rather than simply taking some elements from the genre, it’s got all the bells and whistles, very much in the same way that the likes of Lords of the Fallen feels cut from the same mould. But thankfully, adds more of its own thing than that game did.
Slow, heavy feeling strikes where you have to commit to each swing. Big enemies that will happily slice the bulk of your health bar away. Blocks, parries, dodge rolls. Even the UI, enemy health bars, targeting system, item pick ups, and chests feel perfectly natural to someone coming straight from a Souls-like. Though it does have the unique and cool setting of a post-apocalyptic modern day.
Even with the modern day Earth touches, visually speaking the dark world of Code Vein has more in common with Bloodborne than Dark Souls. And the big, bizarre range of weapons has more in common with that game’s arsenal too. It’s almost Dark Souls by way of Bloodborne than the other way around, which is interesting through-line.
Like Bloodborne, Code Vein allows for some pretty offensive play styles. Even early in the demo, the game was pushing us into encounters where acting quickly seemed more optimum than a slow, baiting advance (it doesn’t help, of course, that we were playing a timed demo).
Weapon combos feel built around that idea, with the chance to stagger smaller enemies at the right moments. If you’re using lighter weapons anyway, as there are some big boys on offer that see very slow wind up for massive damage. We found ourselves favouring a long lance we found a chest, and it gives the impression there will be a lot of different types of weapons. You can switch between two primary weapons without having to duck into a menu.
One unique aspect of Code Vein are the “gift” abilities. As you play a vampire, you stack up blood from enemies to fill a special bar that allows you to unleash “gift” abilities that can change the way you approach encounters — from a projectile, to simply increasing your damage output at the cost of defence.
On top of that, Code Vein seems to favour pairing your character with an AI partner more often than not. This also helps increase the speed and flow of the combat encounters. Not just by having an extra pair of hands in the fray, but also in how you can share blood to give each other health if one of you is taking more damage than the other, which can really help in a pinch.
That slightly faster pace makes Code Vein a little bit more like anime Bloodborne, but with some of the defensive options from Dark Souls reworked in. On a surface level, Code Vein is quite simply an anime Souls-like. On a deeper level, it’s still very much an anime Souls-like.
It doesn’t mix up that formula quite as much as, say, something like Nioh, but it does inject its own tone and mechanics in a way that does seem to make it stand out from the crowd from what we played.
Code Vein is releasing in 2018 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.