Code Vein E3 Impression
By all rights, Bandai Namco’s Code Vein should have been a game that appealed to me a lot more playing it on the E3 show floor than it did. After all, despite the fact that the staff actively steered away from the comparison, it bears an obvious resemblance to the Souls franchise, with what might look like a more upbeat anime character art style, but a surprisingly dour-looking end result.
Gameplay-wise, any Souls player will be immediately familiar with how to take out the opposition in Code Vein. Light attack, heavy attack, dodge roll, even parry-and-riposte are all part of the moveset. Even the mechanic of collecting souls, which are lost on death unless they are recovered during the next run, is present.
In the game’s post-apocalyptic, futuristic setting, which, at least in the gameplay demo, translates to boring and drab brown caverns leading onto brown ledges, all set against a dull sky. The leather-clad protagonists, for the game supplies players with an AI-controlled partner, didn’t make matters any more visually interesting, though their anime aesthetics do stand apart from the otherwise realistic environments.
With the surroundings failing to immediately pull me in, it was up to the combat to make up for this. Without stretching the truth and calling it outright “fun,” I will say that it was at least passable. My character swung his sword when I asked him to, dodge-rolled when I needed him to. But something was off. The combat certainly doesn’t feel weighty in the least, though with its anime presentation the team may be going for a faster, more fluid pace. Harder to define is the sense that I was just pressing buttons and hoping for a winning outcome, a lack of finely-tuned precision in the sword-swinging combat. Were it not for my AI partner dishing out some heavy damage (as well as providing me with a few last-minute heals), combat would have gotten frustrating much sooner than it eventually did.
This brought me to the point when I put the controller aside, not caring to go on and try any longer. After dying about half a dozen times attempting to surmount the first dozen or so enemies, I finally used the E3-demo-only ability of warping from the Mistle (bonfire, basically) straight to the area’s boss, because, you know, the team knew nobody would get there without help. The boss, a towering femme fatale named the Invading Executioner, who occasionally planted her bladed staff in the ground and used it as a pole to spin around on and perform other, ahem, wily tricks, wasn’t any kinder to me. The difference was that, now, the amount of damage either I or my partner were doing were quite laughable as I was repeatedly sent to my final rest.
I realize that I may be making one or two unfair assumptions here. I know the game’s combat system has more nuance to it than I was able to figure out on my own, certainly after the few minutes I was given, with little to no guidance. For example, I never got around to using Blood Veils — powerful, high-damage combat moves — equipping gear, or upgrading any stats, all of which most definitely sound like indispensable keys to success in games like this, but that isn’t a shortcoming I can take credit for. Instead, I think my less-than-glowing first impression is the result of Code Vein being a game that can’t be picked up as easily as it first appeared, at least not without some serious hands-on guidance.