First Impressions: Code Vein – A Dark Souls Clone That Isn’t In Vain

Initial screenshots of Code Vein, from Bandai Namco, had the telling tales of plagiarism – never a good thing. Of course, emulating and being influenced by a property is a massive compliment, and most artists from any medium would be lying if they said they never ‘stole’ elements from other artists.

There were a few screenshots in circulation a while back which showed Anor Londo but with an anime feel to it – clearly a fan-made piece. However, it wasn’t. It was Code Vein, and it looked like an anime carbon copy of Dark Souls. For a title so beloved as Dark Souls, why would Bandai Namco put it out there, only to be ripped apart by fanboys and girls? The answer: because it’s excellent.

Other than the dragged out tutorial and excessive text – the polar of Dark Souls, Code Vein holds its own in terms of visuals and controls. Far from a chill-out game, it’s significantly less rigid as Dark Souls. Before going any further, I hold Dark Souls on a pedestal as a fantastic series, but it had its flaws regardless of how great it is. Code Vein feels much more fluid, and I suppose from intuitive as a title.

Code Vein - Flashback
Memory Vein. Source: PR

Playing out very much like an anime you could expect to see on Netflix, Code Vein is a little relaxed on explaining the story and lore of the world you occupy. In summary, you’re a nameless character thrown into a dystopia where vampires dominate the world, only they are called Revenants, but seek out blood sources to stay alive that aren’t always from humans. I’ll save all the other stuff for when I eventually get the game.

The first thing worthy of mention is the combat system. Each build can take multiple paths by using Blood Codes. Blood Codes are essentially classes, and you can swap them out on the fly. Fancy hitting someone with a sledgehammer than swapping over to a musket? Go ahead. Code Vein doesn’t lock the player into one style, and while this gives a lot of freedom, it also creates indecisiveness – the same applies to customisation.

At the start of the demo, you create a character. It might have well been The Sims 4 as the options were insane: facial adjustments, weird S&M type costumes, voice ranges, additional hair (yep) and makeup – this is an anime fan’s wet dream. The choice is impressive, and I’d admit I spent a good 15-30 minutes experimenting with the options. It’s just a shame that with all the variables, the result still comes off as a weedy looking character when I was going for a Batou look (Ghost in the Shell).

Code Vein - Revenant
The life of a revenant – always looking for the next feed. Source: PR

As a demo, you can’t expect to see everything on offer, but aside from the seemingly exhaustive list of options on top of the Blood Code called gifts (they’re buffs that can you can equip at any given time), combat and gameplay were a lot of fun. By the end of the demo, I had seen enough to say that this is one on my list. The story and melodramatic acting were a little off-putting, but at least the dialogue is all acted out – even if it is a little too cliche at times.

While heavily influenced by Dark Souls, despite the dystopia, Code Vein feels pretty upbeat and doesn’t leave as many unanswered questions like the title as mentioned above leaves. Since playing the demo, I’ve looked at a few playthroughs, and it appears to be more of a glorified dungeon crawler – which isn’t a bad thing. The aspect I think of most is will the full game offer more variations on character customisation? For me, that’s a winner in itself.

Code Vein is currently available on the PS4, and perhaps it isn’t entirely out of the question to see this on the Nintendo Switch soon?