A Code Vein Review by Someone Who Hates Dark Souls
Posted On October 5, 2019
Based on the name of this website, and the genre of video games I’ve been adoringly reviewing as of late, it’s easy to see what types of games I like: cliche anime JRPGs.
There’s just something about traveling with a cast of characters, growing to care for them, and saving the world with them, that makes my nerdy extroverted soul vibrate with joy.
And Dark Souls, Bloodbourne, etc, were never on the menu, because games like these give me absolutely none of that.
No camaraderie, no Power of Friendship, no campy songs, no plots worth paying attention to, no Waifus, no Husbandos, no humor.
Souls-like games won’t ever be on the menu in the future, either. Never ever, ever, ever, ever, ever—
Hi Louis, sweet heart! Y’all get ya’ blood beads to hand out to starving vamps like goddamn Vampire Jesus? Fab, let’s make sure you don’t yeet yourself off a fucking cliff ’cause you gave me a heart attack last ti—Oops.
Well, except for this recent title I want to review for you today: Code Vein, which takes the Souls formula and injects it with something I can actually sink my fangs into.
Despite what almost every Souls Fanboy Reviewer’s hot-take on the interwebs seems to be right now, which is Code Vein is Bad Animu Souls, I’m here to tell you that Souls is Soulless, and Code Vein Is Best Girl.
Let the fuckening of haters descend. But you’re going to want to read this to understand just what I’m on about.
Maybe by the end of it, you’ll pick up a copy of Code Vein instead of a pitchfork. One can only hope.
First of all, here’s why Souls games are generally off the menu:
If people like me don’t have a reason to slog through difficult enemies, we won’t. We need a reason.
Difficult games being difficult for the sake of the challenge just isn’t interesting for some gamers. That’s also what Souls and Souls-like titles basically are to people who aren’t fans. And telling that to the average Souls fanboy is like shitting in their coffee.
This is coming from someone whose partner really likes Souls games. He’s told me on multiple occasions about an optional boss that took him 12 hours to give a dirt nap to.
Beaming with pride at the fact he overcame it; and I was, and am, proud of him and happy for him. But that sense of accomplishment could never be mine.
Not because I’m not excellent at video games.
But because I would’ve had no reason to do it, no one to fight for, no goal to hit except to defeat something, which isn’t fun for me.
There are a lot of gamers out there like me, and that’s the barrier Dark Souls and Souls-like games give us.
There’s no reason to care enough to do the crazy 12 hour battle.
Code Vein gives you a reason to take on the challenge, and to be the hero.
Dark Souls is basically Solo, and lonely.
Fighting with AI frands, who actually have your back, feels personal and communal.
Not 15 minutes into Code Vein, you’re staggered and stumbling. A beautiful woman (Io) is walking you towards a dried-up Mistle (think: om nom blood shrub that doubles as a save thingy), and tells you to go slow if you need to.
You end up collapsing, and she lets you rest your head on her lap.
The interaction struck me as Character talking to Me, and not Character talking to Protagonist Someone Else Wrote.
It felt personal—maybe it was the dialog, the delivery, or the fact that I was incredibly vulnerable and well aware of how brutal the world of Code Vein truly is.
Whatever the reason, Io set the tone for the entire game:
We can do this, together. Go slow if you need to.
That’s really nice, isn’t it? That’s a lot of good vibes for a game about a weird parasitic vampy apocalypse.
It helps that Code Vein boasts an insane character creation tool, so it’s pretty hard to feel like you aren’t a part of the story in a meaningful way.
There are plenty more moments where you feel like you’re actually a part of the world, which makes you feel like you have a responsibility to save it.
Even characters explaining all the crap about Lost Revenants, Mistle, The Queen, how Vestiges work, Blood Codes, and all that other bull you forgot when you got clocked out and lost your memories, doesn’t feel like a tutorial-slog.
It feels like a group of peeps are filling in a newbie and making sure they don’t die. That’s refreshing; your party members care about you not biting the dust.
Even simple moments where Good Boy Louis tells you to be careful and not fall off a cliff feel meaningful.
Companions even remark on points of interest, so you don’t feel like you’re going it alone.
I don’t play video games to waste 12 hours on a boss. I play video games to escape, enjoy a story, and feel like I’m a part of something greater.
Code Vein feels personal and meaningful to people like me, and that’s why I gave it a chance, despite it being Souls-like.
It has exceeded my every expectation.
In Code Vein, Skills Are Tied to Memories.
Which is an interesting way to weave a game mechanic in with the greater overarching narrative.
In Code Vein, you have something called a Blood Code. Supposedly everybody only gets one, but you’re the protagonist and therefore special, so you get to acquire all of them.
You can also mix and match skills after unlocking them and becoming proficient, making it pretty simple to craft the exact type of build you want.
If you want to become a tank, for example, that’s easy. Just tack on Yakumo’s Atlas Blood Code, which you get after he lets you bite him (UwU), throw gifts at him enough times to snag his sword, and start learning stuff to make you a Beefy Boi.
More importantly, there’s also a neat feature that in order to get access to some skills, you need to acquire Vestiges, which require you to then view a bunch of memories that people have lost along the way.
This lets you get to know the cast on a more human level, without getting in the way of the action. It feels very “Persona“, and in a good way.
However, you don’t just get access to the memories of the AI you fight alongside, but also of Revenants long since dead, bad guys who were once good, and more.
BANDAI NAMCO makes it pretty apparent with mechanics like this that Code Vein, while Souls-like, is really not a Souls game.
It’s an action JRPG with Souls mechanics, and focuses on plot, context, and cooperation more than anything else.
Gamers like meeat this shit up.
We like to feel like we’re in an expansive world, interacting with meaningful things, and meaningful doesn’t just mean difficult.
Which Code Vein is, it’s difficult, but in a fair way that makes it clear that you have to pay attention to your surroundings, and memorize the movements of enemies.
Code Vein Isn’t Easy, Sometimes it’s Fucking Brutal.
But it’s not “12 hours to kill an optional boss” brutal, which makes it more accessible than its peers.
Code Vein doesn’t feel like an unjust game that punishes you needlessly. It feels like a difficult, challenging world where your AI companion is truly trying to help you survive.
That doesn’t mean that those of you who love a grueling challenge won’t find what you’re looking for with Code Vein: you will, I promise you that.
The Invading Executioner, boss of the Howling Pit, did me dirty, for example. Fuck that boss.
This Greater Lost stuck her dumb glaive into the ground and beat my ass down, stripper style, so many times that at one point I threw my playing style to the wind.
I straight-up reconfigured my entire character to be the Tank of Tanks—I like fast-boi one-handed-sword stuff, to be plain—and went in there like a paladin on meth to shield Best Boy Louis while he dealt with her gyroscope-y bullshit.
There are also ‘Raid’ areas where you get swamped by hungry Lost who are out for blood. You get massive rewards when you beat down the baddies here, but it’s also brutal, especially in the Cathedral.
Which is a gorgeous maze that seemingly, honestly, never ends.
It is a challenging game, no doubt, but at its heart Code Vein really wants you to improve. It wants to give you as many opportunities to farm haze, get rewards, and score sick weapons as possible.
Code Vein wants the challenge to matter, and the rewards to match its difficulty.
I can’t really say that Dark Souls does that, but my partner says the joy comes from doing what seems to be the impossible, which is just not enough for me.
Not PvPing people, which we all need to admit that not everyone likes.
The fact that I can invite my nerdy friends from all over the world to play this game with me and take on baddies is really, really exciting. I’ve already gotten one buddy from Germany all signed-on, set-up, and ready to go around smashing The Lost.
I can’t describe how fucking excited I am about this.
As an extrovert who desperately misses when MMORPGs were about parties and friends, and not about PvPing and item shops, this has me freaking out.
I have been looking for an MMORPG for the past 8 years that could fill the void of oldskool stuff like Ragnarok Online, and have not even found a one.
Mostly because the entire landscape of players have morphed into people who never actually talk to each other, solo everything, and try to Be The Best, versus just having fun.
Code Vein might just be the panacea for my extrovert-nerd-problems.
It lets you invite people to your ‘maps’ more or less, just like Dark Souls, except there isn’t any PvP.
This hits the idea home that Code Vein isn’t really about competing with each other; it’s about coming together to overcome incredible odds.
That’s special. That’s meaningful. That’s personal. That’s just what I need.
And it’s not something other Souls titles can give me, and people like me.
Code Vein Doesn’t Take Itself Too Seriously. Which is fantastic.
As someone tired of grimdark, dour bullshit, Code Vein’s idiosyncrasies are wholly refreshing.
An amazing Redditor by the name of Kopernikus_Kobalinus spun up this character in Code Vein’s character creation tool, and honestly? It’s the best thing I’ve ever seen in my entire life. Code Vein lets you be silly.
And in a world right now that is completely crayola crayons, we definitely need the option to fight a bunch of monsters as a smiley face monstrosity if we want to.
What’s not to love about a game that lets you take it as seriously—or not—as you want to?
Code Vein is aware of what it is. Io isn’t mostly naked and breasts boobily because BANDAI NAMCO got drunk and forgot what they were doing halfway through designing a goth character in a weeby vamp hellscape.
Io is the way Io is, because Code Vein is essentially Tokyo Ghoul weeb trash with edgy emo music and Dark Souls mechanics.
That’s what it is. Plus a whole lot of Soul.
Yakumo eats fucking donuts for God’s sake. He smashes rice balls for no reason other than he likes to remind himself of what it is to be human, despite being a Revenant who drinks blood and can’t digest them.
This is joy. This is amazing. If you can’t be entertained by the concept of a vampire eating human food and drinking sake because he just, simply, likes it, I honestly have to question if you are allergic to having a good time.
BANDAI NAMCO even had an event going on for you to get a free copy of the game, and a special kit, if you donated blood to American Red Cross.
The ability to make the most bonkers character possible, little goofy anime moments like these, and BANDAI NAMCO’s efforts to get gamers involved with an important cause make Code Vein a totally different breed than any Souls game, or Souls-like game on the market.
If you hate Souls games, give Code Vein a chance.
If you love Souls games, and think Code Vein looks dumb, or played it for 20 minutes and got a refund, shame on you, and give it a chance.
The problem with Code Vein is that everyone and their mom is saying it’s a shittier version of Dark Souls. The problem with everyone, and their moms, is that they can’t appreciate the similarities and respect the differences that make it unique.
What draws someone to Code Vein might inevitably have them venture into Dark Souls territory; and this is a good thing. They may enjoy the mechanics but desire something a bit more grimdark.
But it certainly seems like the flipside isn’t quite true.
With tone-deaf reviews like below, by people who instinctively dislike JRPGs (believe me, go flock to ‘expert’ reviews and almost all of them pen this aspect as a negative), it seems like ‘critical consensus’ won’t ever judge it fairly:
It’s a good thing smart people don’t just trust every review they read by supposed reputable sources and experts in the field. Which are inherently biased against weeby stuff, at large.
Or else we wouldn’t have the rave reviews we’re currently seeing by people who actually put in the time and effort to engage with games like Code Vein.
My point here is that you need to accept it for what it is, and enjoy it for what it is. Receive what is being sent to you by BANDAI NAMCO, notice what’s similar, but recognize where it diverges.
Or else you’re just going to dislike it for not meeting expectations that you shouldn’t have had in the first place, because it’s not Bad Anime Dark Souls:
It’s Code Vein. Nothing more, nothing less.
My Consensus is Code Vein is Absolutely Excellent.
Dark Souls Fan or Not, It’s A Good Game.
Code Vein has a lot of Heart, a lot to offer, it’s a lot of fun, and it has a huge helping of Souls-like challenge, minus the dour. It’s special, I really mean that, as someone who would never willingly pick up something due to a popular game mechanic built on difficulty level.
If you’re up for tough battles, an awesome character creation tool, companions who actually feel like they care about you, a plot that you can sink your teeth into, and you don’t mind the anime stuff, give it a spin.
The only way you’ll be disappointed is if you go into it thinking it’s something it isn’t.
Or if you hate anime, which begs the question:
Why are you reading articles on a website called Weeb Trash, anyways?