Code Vein disappeared for a while, having been originally slated for release back in September. Well, the game might not have a solid release date yet, but it’s certainly back on our radar, after a promising showing at a recent playtest.

Lovingly dubbed “Anime Souls” by the community almost instantly after its announcement, Code Vein certainly has that exaggerated anime style that isn’t for everyone. You’ve got the classic eccentric outfits with extravagance galore, but nothing feels out of place. This style isn’t usually my cup of tea, but everything feels like it belongs, which is something other titles encapsulating a similar style artistically have failed to achieve.

This also isn’t some faceless title where you slowly uncover the lore through pieces of parchment you stumble across along the way. There’s a deeply running narrative through this title, which is set up nicely by the introduction of the game, which I’ll get into shortly.

The first nod has to go to the title’s character creator. It’s beautifully laid out and offers a wealth of options that could easily see you losing a considerable chunk of time creating your perfect character. There are all the options you expect from a character creator, from outlandish hairstyles to the smaller details in the face, it’s all there and presented beautifully, which is a theme that runs throughout the title as a whole.

Code Vein Gameplay Screenshot

Whichever creation you come up with will be thrust into a tutorial level, that’s one of the most thorough tutorials I’ve played through in a while. The tutorial introduces your character as a Revenant, a vampiric character whose energy and power comes from blood, unsurprisingly.

This is where you’re introduced to what is without argument the most important element when it comes to the success of this title. The combat. I am pleased to report that, for the most part, things are very very promising. As a Revenant, you have access to several classes, known as “Blood Codes.” These generally include your generic RPG occupations, the classic Warrior, Mage, and Ranger. In true fashion, they’re not called that at all and instead have names more befitting the world, even if it means a little more attention is required in order to choose the right class.

Each Blood Code has its own abilities, known as “Gifts.” These Gifts can be customized extensively, to tailor each Blood Code to your liking. You start off with some restrictions, but as your affinity rises, you’ll be able to customize more and more to tailor your Code. The lack of general blueprinting is really rather refreshing, and while each Blood Code does have its limitations, most notably in the equipable weapons column, the encouragement and ease of experimentation is sure to intrigue the hardcore fans of the genre.

As for the combat, base attacks feel fantastic. There’s a clear definition between the quick and power attacks, as well as the weapons themselves. From quick and nimble swords to devastatingly large hammers that look as though they’ve been ripped straight from a shipyard. The ranged weapons seem to be a little less useful and lack the feedback of the weapons that bring you up close and personal, which is a shame. The same can sadly be said for a lot of the Gifts, as they tend to leave you exposed, which would be fine of their impact rewarded the risk, but that’s simply not the case.

Code Vein Gameplay Screenshot

The Gifts that deal damage directly via an animation have such a setup and delay that the very nature of the combat in Code Vein, which tends to focus more on small group engagements than one on one combat, leave you getting stabbed in the back long before the move connects. It’s an infuriating mix that might well have more payoff as the Gifts increase in affinity, but they certainly seem to have little in the way of benefit in the early stages of the game.

It’s just a shame that something that is so essential to what makes Code Vein stand out feel so helpless. It’s deemed as a way to bridge the gap between core attacks and ranged spellcasting, both of which in isolation can become a little stale, but it sadly doesn’t work as well. It’s something that can be easily fixed, and I’m hoping that it will be. Thankfully, the rest of the Gifts have a little more impact.

The remaining Gifts will offer you buffs, usually in exchange for a little of your health. These are quite substantial, and can really throw up some interesting dynamics. Say you’re against a boss and have no healing left, perhaps your Gift could give you that last burst of DPS you need to bring down your foe? It’s a nice balance of risk/reward that’s missed by other Gifts and opens up some interesting gameplay dynamics.

Now, let’s bring it back to that storyline to finish. You start by waking up in the lap of a delicate, white-haired lady who you very quickly discover is a Revenant like yourself. Before you can find out more, you’re thrust into captivity, and forced to work to find Bloody Beads, precious items that become ever more important. You’ll again temporary companions, which introduces the companion system to the player, which isn’t far removed from systems in other titles. After this level, you’ll be introduced to the hub world, where you have vendors and characters aplenty, all of whom you’ll need to utilize as you progress through the story.

Niggles with the Gifts aside, Code Vein is a very promising base for what is shaping up to be a fantastic title, when it eventually releases at some point this year. We hope.

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