If you ever get a chance to pop into the Bandai Namco offices in London then I guarantee you’re in for a treat. I found myself sitting in a waiting room, eating a vegan pizza, with a Pac-man video machine to the right of me and a Tekken offering in front of me. And the best thing about them? Free to play! I was also surrounded by toys from all the Bandai game franchises you can think of, with enticing merchandise locked away in glass cabinets. It was like I walked into a dream world of what my first flat looked like. But why was I here, spilling vegan cheese down my shirt? Well, I was about to get some hands-on time with Code Vein, the hot new IP from Bandai Namco.
Code Vein has been one of those games that has seemed to be on our radar for quite a while now. It was meant to originally launch in September 2018, but that has been pushed back until this year, with a release date of… 2019. What we do know about it though is that in the not too distant future, a mysterious disaster has brought about collapse to the world as we know it. And at the centre of this destruction lies a hidden society of Revenants – the Vein. This final stronghold is where the remaining few fight to survive, blessed with gifts of power in exchange for their memories and a thirst for blood. It has to be said, this brief summary has had me both intrigued and slightly confused. But there was no time to worry as I had to put on some headphones, sit in a relaxing chair, and try to discover the truth within.
Firing up Code Vein will see you confronted by one of the deepest customisation menus for a character that I’ve ever witnessed. Want to change the size of a freckle on the left side of the cheekbone? No problem. Want a mixture of “getting up in the morning” hair and “just walked out of an expensive salon” hair? They’ve got you sorted. As I said it’s very deep and I think I spent too much time of the small window of game time I had trying to get the right eye colour for the situation that was about to unfold.
The story of this new IP Code Vein comes about with no connecting books, films or source materials. However, it all looks really rather interesting, from the small number of cutscenes I saw in the few hours of gameplay. It has a very strong anime feel to it in its presentation and storytelling techniques, and I guess this alone will get a lot of fans very interested indeed. The characters and the world the game shows is of a very high concept – and quality – and I won’t tell a lie, it hooked me completely.
Gameplay wise and I’m going to be lazy here by saying that this is very much influenced by the Dark Souls franchise; bonfire equivalents, similar controls, and fighting systems. Oh, and it’s really very tricky too. That’s not a bad thing though. There are also different classes – the Fighter, Caster and Ranger – whilst the combat options see Code Vein play out like a careful game of chess, seeing you analyzing your opponent’s attacks, before defending and responding appropriately.
Quite obviously, you will die a lot – well I did – but Code Vein is clever in that you’ll also learn very quickly and that ensures that it never managed to come across as annoying in the way playing through Dark Souls may. There is a nice little feature where you can collect blood – which fits in nicely with your future vampire vibe – and you can use this to acquire ‘gifts’. These run like perks, allowing the performing of different supernatural power. And nicely, it is up to you and your playing style to see what ‘gifts’ suit your gameplay style best.
My time with Code Vein centred around running through the first chapter, with an NPC who would fight alongside me. He was great – helpful even – although his huge sword would sometimes be found filling the majority of the screen so I couldn’t see what was going on. When Code Vein launches on Xbox One, PS4 and PC later this year, you will be able to play the whole game across co-op. No matter whether you think of cooperative play, this is something that is very appealing, particularly to me, letting you both run with different gameplay loadouts and strategies. It is a very exciting prospect and will certainly manage to give Bandai Namco’s Code Vein an extra dimension and edge.
Going hands-on with Code Vein surprised me in how much it hit my intrigue points. In general, I’m not a huge fan of the style, but the world that the developers have created, the visuals thrown in, and the huge narrative pushing it along means that Code Vein is one that I just can’t wait to get my hands on fully. Just be aware that chances are the gameplay will be rock hard and you will need both patience and a tactical mind when playing. Hopefully the added bonus of playing with a friend will make the experience of dying not such a lonely business.
Massive thanks go out to Bandai Namco for the invite to get hands-on with Code Vein, and I can’t wait to see how the story plays out when it releases on Xbox One, PS4 and PC in 2019.