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  1. #1

    [PC, PS4, XBO] Code Vein

    I was unsure about getting this, but I took the plunge and even got it on PC. And I did forget how quirky PC gaming can be: I thought the game would run in 4K, but the resolution on my system is locked at 2560x1440; maybe lowering detail and/or changing FSAA mode will unlock other resolutions, but the game runs at a locked 60fps at max settings, so I don't complain.
    What I complain is that the DS4 (through DS4Windows) isn't correctly recognized, the d-pad registers double taps with all buttons, walking with the analog stick results in jerky movements, and the target locking doesn't work. Game's perfect with a X360 controller though.

    Technical woes aside, Code Vein is a Souls-like, and if you to pursue the comparison, I'll say is closer to Bloodborne or even Nioh than any Souls, but the basic structure is the same: levels are sprinkled with mistle (bonfires), there are ladders to kick and doors to open for shortcuts, when you die you leave behind all the haze (souls) collected that you can recover.
    You have a weak and strong attack, plus a set of skills that range from ranged attacks to boosts, and those consume blood. You can regain blood by backstabbing enemies or hitting them with a very slow special attack. Some weapons also give access to a basic ranged attack when used by the correct class, and you can switch classes via the equipment menu. Not quite on the fly, some classes can't use certain weapons, and those aren't automatically swapped with the class change.
    But this does give a degree of flexibility when facing enemies: in addition to staple classes you also have more unique options like a class that can teleport right next to an enemy from afar.

    You can equip up to two weapons and one piece of armour, but the focus of the combat is being aggressive, parrying and dodging enemy attacks. You can use the weapon on hand to block, but I honestly never used it, favouring maneuverability over cowering behind a weapon. The defense bonuses armours give are minor, so I've only donned armour I like visually. Different armour types change the backstab and parrying animations, and I'm not quite sure if the parrying timing changes with the armour; the backstab surely doesn't, and it's actually interesting to swap armours to see the various sequences.

    Code Vein plays OK. Attacks deliver a good feedback, offensive actions are easily read, weapons and classes have a good variety. You can also bring an ally along with you, and they are pretty competent. I won't say they can even take down bosses without your help, but during the first proper boss battle of the game, my ally was able to deliver I'd say about 50% of the boss' lifebar, and can even resurrect you. Their health isn't infinite, they can suffer from status changes (like poison), and so you can heal/support them).

    The setting is a post-apocalyptic world where you play as a revenant (vampire) and the ultimate goal is to kill the Queen, the creature who caused all this mess. Environments aren't particularly foreboding (at least from what I've seen) but I do prefer this modern look than a standard fantasy, and some vistas are quite spectacular. It's not quite God Eater but very similar, down to huge weapons wielded onehanded and crazy outfits.
    The character creation tool is quite complex though not as much as, let's say Fallout 4, but definitely better than the Souls games. Plus, armour doesn't completely cover your character, and you can change pretty much everything (except sex and name) of your character whenever you like.

    Code Vein looks like a solid game. Maybe not the most original, but solid nonetheless.

  2. #2
    Played some more of it, getting a good hang of the combat mechanics.

    First, I must say Code Vein isn't a particularly hard game. If you hit a boss or an invasion (which act as enemy fountains and are an unskippable event, even offline; think NPC dark spirits invasions in Dark Souls, only with waves of standard enemies) you can't seem to defeat you can bring one of the allied NPCs with you that not only will help with the fight, but also give you boosts and revive you once.
    This is not to say that bosses don't require some attention to defeat them, but NPC effectivness in Code Vein goes very well past that of Soulsborne games.

    And, given there is no music, and not many surfaces have audible footsteps, their spoken lines are a welcome way to break the monotony. Music in Code Vein starts when you fight normal enemies and bosses and stops while you aren't, and I think it could use some sort of BGM: up till now no location has been foreboding or so beautiful that the visuals only are more than enough to bring you in, and there aren't that many encounters...or probably locations are a bit too large for their own good.
    Constantly comparing Code Vein to Dark Souls isn't something I want to rely on, but think of Anor Londo, only with enemies you can easily lure away and die in two-to-four hits, and you've got the first four locations here.

    Combat is heavily reliant on gifts: these are buffs, special attacks, and spells that use ichor, which you can replenish by simply hitting enemies. If you backstab enemies you can temporarily increase the max amount of ichor you have, and give the combat has a relatively fast pace, it's easy to build up ichor to keep gifts coming.
    You learn gifts by acquiring blood codes and unlocking their gifts. At first only the blood code that gave you the gift can equip it, but after you master it (use a bunch of times), all blood codes can use them.
    For example, I primarly use the Prometheus blood code, but the Mercury blood code has a lighting buff; if I want to use this buff, I need to use the Mercury code until I master the buff, after which the Prometheus and all other codes I have can use it.

    Blood codes not only have access to various abilities, but also change base stats and weapons you can use. In addition to that, certain gifts can be used only with certain weapons. For example, the Prometheus blood code has the Phantom Assault skill that cannot be used with heavy axes.
    Speaking of the Phantom Assault skill, I've found this to be the "FU I killz U" button. This skills teleports above the locked enemy (within a certain range) and automatically strikes it once, and after that you can immediately string a combo that in 99% of cases results in a dead enemy, and if it doesn't the enemy is staggered. The skill has a startup, but while jumping you are invincible. So many enemies and even bosses have fall to the abuse of this technique.

    Exploration is on par with a lot of Japanese action RPGs, you've got a minimap which tracks where you have been, but the map doesn't show the areas you've been until you hit the local mistle (bonfire), after which only the surroundings will. This strikes a good balance between knowing where to go and aimless exploration, but I must say that only the new location I've reached today (

    the Cathedral Of Sacred Blood

    ) can be considered complex, with multiple forks in the roads, levels, and shortcuts.

  3. #3
    And the adventures of the cool-looking vampires armed with oversized weapons continue.
    I'm close to the end of the game, I'd say two-three dungeons and the final boss to go. Code Vein is not a particularly long game mostly because all stages aren't particularly complex, and the middle portion of the game is disappointingly easy.

    Code Vein starts strong, with decently elaborate stages, challenging enemies, and imposing bosses. After the first areas, all set in an urban environment, you then approach more unique locations, and the game is not afraid to introduce nasty ambushes and enemy combinations. Slightly before halfway through the game you reach the first truly complex location, which is also a very strong departure, at least in visual style, from previous stages. Enemies there are alos more resilient and with a more dangerous moveset, although they still are as dumb as bricks...it's very easy to quietly follow them around their patrol routes and backstab them, even when they stop and very conspicously look around for possible intruders. Unless you are running straight up to them or enter their very narrow vision range, you are pretty much invisible; if you take your time you can easily sneak on enemies from their sides.
    Past this point stages also appear to be almost devoid of enemies, you can stroll around without encountering any opposition for what feels like an eternity, and when you meet enemies, they are dead in a flash, especially if you bring an AI companion with ranged skills. Ambushes become incredibly obvious and enemies lose some of their aggressivness, you are able to step into a room full of idling enemies, pick one of them off with a ranged attack, and calmly deal with the rest.

    And then there are the bosses. To defeat the first handful of bosses you need to learn their patterns and to make the best out of your limited resources (items and skills), but then they become pushovers. Before a very obvious boss room, Code Vein warns that there's "an ominous power beyond these doors" and asks me if I want to continue. Well, the save point is two meters behind me, why not? And the "ominous power" goes down at the first try with only one heal used. Oh wow. Then next three bosses are pushovers, and the game describes them as being of immense power who all kinds of control and inhibitions. I think one didn't last even two minutes.

    After this hugely disappointing lull, Code Vein regains its footing and throws two challenging bosses in your face, although the first of these encounters screams "ORNSTEIN AND SMOUGH!!!!" so loud I was disappointed that the fight didn't have a second phase.
    The boss after this fight is actually easier, despite a higher damage output and a more devious skillset. Let's see what comes next, I hope the game continues to be at least challenging and not reverting back to pushover bosses.

    It's almost as if developers weren't able, or didn't want, to fully realize the various ideas they came up with for stages and bosses. During the "lull", which is right in the middle of the game, stages are visually unique and have some interesting gimmicks (

    ice-covered crevices that give way if you run on them, sandy areas that drain your ichor

    ), but you can fully explore them within an hour, boss included. Stages are visually impressive, but their premise in never followed through, as if developers weren't willing to put players through too much trouble to complete them.

    I hope the game will have a more noteorthy final part than what came before, but I already know I won't be starting a NG+ anytime soon, Code Vein is not bad but not as interesting as the opening hours suggest.

  4. #4
    I'll write something better in the following days, but I've just completed the game...and wow the final boss was disappointing.
    After a stage deserving to be the last (complex design, good number of tough enemies), the final confrontation is a major letdown, beat it on my second go.
    After the final boss is defeated you are thrown back at the last checkpoint and you can face it again and explore the world to clear any sidequests. Or, of course, you can begin NG+, which allows you to choose between keeping the difficulty as it is or ramp it up Dark Souls style.

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