Code Vein is one of those games that piqued my interest, but I was reluctant to pick up. I can safely say, that I can glad I took the plunge to try it. Set in a post-apocalyptic world, you play the role of a Revenant. A vampire-Esque creature who has awakened in a world of ruin with the enigmatic Lo at your side. Neither of you has any memory of who you are or where you came from. Though Io does possess a strong conviction to stand by your side. Initially, your primary objective is to find blood beads, a jewel-like fruit that grows on strange white trees and contains a liquid that can stave off the bloodthirst revenants have. But soon, the plot unfurls into a mystery that pokes at the heart of the world the Revenants inhabit. Code Vein is a story steeped in tragedy and desperation. The Revenants are unique as characters due to their mass amnesia. All having lost key memories from the past which you can uncover. Often the memories of one character and the events they portray can only be fully appreciated once you uncover the memories of another and see the full picture.
Code Vein’s pace is relentless, drawing the player further into a world that literally is in the grasp of several catastrophe’s. There is something innately human about the plight of the revenants and the attention to detail is excellent. We are told early on about the plight of the lost and from the get-go are slaying the monsters that prowl the dark ruins we are thrust into. But it is not until we reach the first boss is it clear what the lost really are. Before the monsters were a far cry from the Revenants we have seen and interacted with and while there is an incursion a short way into our journey, it is at the first boss that we truly understand where the lost come from. Our first companion Oliver succumbs to his thirst and goes on a rampage. Mid-fight he becomes a hulking hideous beast and in the aftermath, we are shown his memories and the path that led him there. In a later zone, there are lost that are almost entirely revenant. The only difference is the strange appendages that are growing on them and the madness of their red eyes. If you look closely, you can uncover the form they will eventually take. As a plot-driven player, I found code vein to be an emotive journey depicting the aftermath of civilisations fall where suffering is simply how life is. This, however, is merely the beginning. There is more to be uncovered as the journey goes ever on. The one light in this almost perpetual slog of depression is Louis and the NPC cast that journey with you. Though they suffer, though they all have their own reasons for joining on the journey, their passion and exposition is the only thing that provides any sort of respite from the damming situation. This is however potentially a double-edged sword. Make the wrong choice and you can damn them all. The thought is sobering enough to make me reluctant to purposely do just that. If you do pick up Code Vein, pray you do not get the “heirs” ending.
Code Vein’s Combat is fast-paced thrilling and extremely customisable. Each blood code or class offers a variety of active and passive skills which once mastered, can be used across all classes. In this way, it is possible to create ever more powerful builds that suit the individual playstyle. That said, Code Vein’s combat isn’t one of rushing in and slaughtering foes. Strategy and patience are key to defeat the majority of the foes you encounter. Studying the move set and behaviours of your enemies allow for a much better time in progressing, even so, few levels can be said to be easy for the novice player. Those players who have played Dark Souls seem to grasp the game mechanics easier, but as I have never played Dark Souls, I cannot comment much on that.
Code Viens bosses are unique challenges that seem to be either too easy or ridiculously frustrating. This is where being patient and studying the move set really shines. Choice of blood code and skills are paramount to having a challenging but not frustrating time. That said, there are some bosses that for me, served as choke points throughout the game. The hardest of which was a duel enemy boss. The speed of attacks is often the biggest issue with Bosses, but once you understand the core move set, they become manageable, while still retaining a challenge.
Throughout Code Vein, you have the option of taking NPC companions with you, while initially, the options are Yakumo or Louis, you can unlock more as the story progresses. Each brings an array of supplementary abilities to complement your style of play. I often switched between Yakumo, Louis and the later companions depending on the challenge I was facing. Versatility is the bread and butter of Code Vein and understanding how to use NPC’s can make bosses a walk in the park or a gruelling affair.
Code Vein is one of those games that is visceral and fun as long you give it the time to uncover. It has the potential for a lot of frustration depending on one’s playstyle, but if you can find even one aspect to draw you on, then you will uncover a game that is engaging, diverse and fun. Initially, for me that line was its story, but recently I have discovered a way of playing that is right up my street. Either way, it is one I know I will revisit time and time again, even if only for the humourous NPC commentary.