Platform: Xbox One
Code Vein Preview - E3 2019
We have a second look at the upcoming RPG
Last time we had a chance to see Code Vein at E3 2018, the action RPG from Bandai Namco and developer Shift was set to be released later that year. The year came and went, and the game needed more time in the oven. Now scheduled for September 2019, the title was once again showcased at E3. Although based on the demo, not much has changed in the year since we've seen the game last, at least not in the brief snippet of gameplay we got to experience.
The demo didn't really introduce players to the story or lore – that information will likely be present in the full version. For the sake of the demo, we only got a few hints and the rest had to be researched on the Internet. It is said players will assume the role of a Revenant. "After stumbling into Vein, players are tasked to embark into the world with a companion picked from the various residents of Vein to uncover lost memories and an exit out of this new demented reality." Make of that what you will. To me, the best Code Vein description would be "strongly inspired by Dark Souls".
Of course, Code Vein is far from the first, or indeed the last, that will attempt to replicate the success of Namco's own other franchise. But few other games come as close as Code Vein does to imitation. You're a customizable character, with a myriad of RPG stats (strength, stamina, dexterity, and so on). Sure, there are unique character stats like "blood", and unique attacks related to 8 "gifts", but everything looks very obviously Souls-like. The demo didn't put much effort into explaining its complex mechanics, and hopefully the full game does it better. You're able to wield a variety of weapons that are often the size of your entire body, and they all swing and feel different. You've got a heavy and light attack, dodge, and it takes a moment to consume a healing item. At some point, it just starts to feel way too similar.
Even in the demo level we played, could have been ripped straight out of Bloodborne. It was a grey wasteland, with narrow paths overlooking the abyss, and a few different directions to head in. Some paths became accessible only from certain directions, and some contain dead ends with treasure chests. Enemies hid just around corners, seemingly specifically to surprise players with a thrust attack, bringing back memories of the Souls franchise once more. Enemies deal massive amounts of damage, so dodging and parrying was critical. If you perish, or need to level up, you can rest at a Mistle, which is basically a bonfire. You'll also have to return to your death location to recover shards.
One aspect that made things a little easier is the fact that you do have a companion. Our demo let us choose from a few, and we stuck with Io, who seemed to be a magic-focused user. She held her own and dealt plenty of damage, which helped clear the huge monsters that walked the pathways. If we got lucky, we managed to bump them off the ledge. The game also threw items like tonics at us, though they had little use in the demo – they offered effects like protection from fire, freezing, and so on.
Imagine trying to play a random level in Dark Souls or Bloodborne, having no previous knowledge of the world or its mechanics – that's sort of how it felt to play Code Vein at E3. Sure, the immediate gameplay was familiar, with its hulking and deadly foes, but beyond that – the gifts, blood abilities, and blood code – it was all rather indecipherable standing at a booth of an E3 demo. The post-apocalyptic, dystopian setting seems interesting, with its vampire themes (given the blood stats), but it didn't seem like much of it mattered during our time with the demo. These aspects will likely play a huge role in the main game though – when they will hopefully be explained. Code Vein is now set to launch in September 2019, for PC, Xbox One, and PS4.