Thanks to Bandai-Namco, I was able to take part in the Code Vein Network test. I do appreciate the opportunity to test out this title as it had my interest upon initial announcement.
With that being said, this is probably where I dont get an invite to its beta, because while the concept of Code Vein itself is rather interesting, there is a narrative you can actually follow, the gameplay is pretty underwhelming. Yes, it is comparable to the Soulsborne games as resting and death reset the environment and you can only level at designated areas. But the big difference is that the combat is uninteresting because enemies are pretty predictable and depending on your weapon, you might kill them before they can react.
It also doesn’t help that enemies have wide gaps in their attacks, making it easy to parry and deliver massive damage. One of the larger enemies in the network test took forever to swing and once I parried, I was treated to a really cool animation and then the threatening looking creature was quickly dispatched. While I appreciate that the game animated this sequence beautifully, plus the hit boxes are appropriate, the lack of challenge for a game that looks to operate in the same genre as Dark Souls and Sekiro is concerning.
AI controlled partners aren’t an original concept in gaming, but the partners you find in Code Vein make what should be difficult encounters, simple. They are as aggressive and sometimes more formidable in combat than you are and if you’re in a bind will work to heal you even if you run out consumables. I intentionally played passive during a boss encounter and my partner easily picked up all of my slack. In fact, I was surprised by how much damage they were doing that they practically defeated the boss for me. I did test a few abilities during the fight, but I honestly didn’t do my share of the work.
You can almost never be swarmed because your partner will work diligently to clear enemies in your path. They attack when you attack, so if you’re working to steathfully dispatch enemies, they won’t let you down by doing something inane. I’ve used AI companions before in the Soulsborne games as a distraction, but having one at your disposal constantly may make the game the least challenging title in the genre, shich, depending on how you look at it, could be either positive or negative.
Those expecting a new Souls-like title to scratch that itch may end up really disappointed, but those on the fence could find themselves really enjoying Code Vein as it does feel more accessible. Gripes with the combat aside, this title has a number of positive aspects that should be highlighted. Progression as it related to the various classes is well handled as these will unlock after major boss battles with each having their own active and passive abilities. Classes affect the type of weapons you can use in battle and it was fun mixing and matching to see what suited my style best.
I’ll admit that I wasn’t investedy in the narrative at first as I fully expected it to be confusing, hamfistered, and cluttered, but upon completion of the first boss fight, my interest began to pique. Defeating bosses will net you Blood Codes, which act as Souls or Memories and while on the surface this seems rather standard for the genre, once you acquire a Blood Code, you’re able to view key memories of the boss you just defeated. It’s a nice touch and does add narrative weight to each confrontation.
If Code Vein does release in 2019, it may end up being a fairly divisive title. On one spectrum, the combat can be pretty dull and enemy patterns are easily exploited. Having a partner readily available is an interesting choice as they can both support and do some of the heavy lifting. Unfortunately, this may unintentionally make the game easier. On the other end, the world looks interesting, the visuals are strong, and the character customization is one of its best features. It will be interesting to see what changes Bandai Namco makes before the full release, but as it stands right now, this looks like a title that I’ll pass on until it is on sale.