There are nearly 500 eyebrow options in Code Vein’s character creator.
There is a lot of every option in the robust character creation toolset of Bandai Namco’s post-apocalyptic vampire adventure. Players begin by choosing a gender, one of the creator’s simplest options. From there, they can choose between 32 different premade characters. These serve as a starting point for a much larger series of decisions. Each preset character is stunning in their own way.
Once a preset is selected, the best option is to skip down to entering a name and advancing directly to gameplay. Otherwise, moving on to “Advanced Settings” opens up a staggering amount of customization that kept me occupied for several hours when I was supposed to be playing the actual game.
There are 58 different hairstyles in Code Vein’s character creator. Each hairstyle has multiple color options, base color, and highlights. Once you’ve chosen and colored the perfect hairstyle you’ll discover the accessories menu. Along with glasses, hats, gloves, jewelry, and other random bits, the accessories menu has an entire section filled with hair extensions.
There are only a handful of outfits in Code Vein’s character creator, which is good, because each one can be customized with dozens of different colors and patterns. Flat colors. Glowing colors. Plaids. Animal patterns. Metallic sheens. Vertical stripes, horizontal stripes, and checkerboard.
Sweet Christ, there are 66 different options for eye highlights in Code Vein’s character creator. EYE HIGHLIGHTS.
This is why I spent an hour and a half creating my first character in Code Vein. Then I played through the opening section and realized I didn’t like the character I created. I made a new character and started the game over. Eventually, I found the in-game headquarters, where characters can be edited on the fly. I felt stupid for not checking this out sooner, but also pretty.
In the video up top I spend ten minutes showing off Code Vein’s character creator while gushing. It’s deep and complicated, as a character creator should be. It’s the game’s best feature.
Bandai Namco’s anime vampire apocalypse adventure Code Vein is clearly meant to be a Dark Souls-style joint. It’s got that signature slower, methodical combat and massive, challenging bosses. Hell, it’s even got a Souls-like currency that can be lost when a player meets their untimely end. But Code Vein also has hot anime AI partners, a homey headquarters with a fully stocked bar and working jukebox, and a relaxing hot springs to help drain what little tension the game manages to muster.
For a game about vampiric revenants battling over dwindling blood supplies at the end of the world, Code Vein is surprisingly laid back. During the game’s early moments, following my apocalpytic bloodsucker’s awakening from an incredibly robust character creator, things look pretty grim. My character, with no memory of her life, finds herself enslaved by a group of revenants who plan on using her to harvest blood bulbs from blood trees. Fortunately, however, her first mission ends with her encountering Louis, a friendly vampire determined to find a away for humans and revenants to live in peace and harmony.
Louis is researching the strange blood bulb-producing plants that have been popping up, hoping that by discovering their source he can tap into an endless, cruelty-free food supply. How fortunate! In a world filled with scavengers desperate to survive and infested with The Lost, twisted, feral creatures who were once human before surrendering to their endless thirst, we run into the one guy trying to make things right. We’re the luckiest revenants ever.
Louis and his cadre of like-minded vampire pals are a big part of why Code Vein feels so safe to me. Almost immediately, the game lets me know that I don’t have to go it alone. Whenever I’m out exploring the deep caves or ruined cityscapes, Louis or one of his friends tags along. They fight by my side. Hell, sometimes they fight for me.
Take one of the game’s earlier bosses, the Butterfly of Delirium. She’s a scantily clad anime woman in the front, a weird lizard thing in the back, and she was giving me a hell of a time. I’d fight her, die, and respawn a few enemies away at the “Mistle,” Code Vein’s version of a campfire. Then I’d hop into the game’s menu, fiddling with my character’s weapon and skill loadout. Maybe change the “Blood Code” or character job I was using. I’d head back to Madame Butterfly, run out of healing items in mid-battle, miss a dodge and get poisoned and die.
I repeated this process several times. Sometimes I’d farm “Haze” (read: Souls) to upgrade my weapons or unlock new abilities. Mistle comes in incredibly handy, as every time the player rests all the nearby monsters respawn. There’s a Mistle located in an abandoned parking garage just down the ramp from a large enemy that drops valuable items. I like to pop over there and do some farming. It also helps that I can teleport back to home base at any point, sell some gear, buy some power-ups, and maybe listen to a little music before charging back into the fray.
After several painful deaths at the wings and poison clouds of the Butterfly of Delirium, here’s the strategy that finally worked: I dodged. I spent the entire battle dodging her attacks, resisting the urge to charge in and get a few whacks with my broadsword or perform a special ichor-draining attack to reload my ichor-powered rifle. Instead, I just let my AI-controlled companion kill the damn boss. Louis wasn’t quite cutting it, so I switched to Yakumo, Louis’s hotter, red-headed friend. His massive sword did all the work. I didn’t even both casting any shared buffs. Didn’t want to make the boss mad.
Kotaku’s Heather Alexandra participated in Code Vein’s network test earlier this year and complained that calling additional players into battle trivializes boss battle. I’m playing pre-release—the game launches for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One tomorrow—so I’ve not been able to find other real people to play with, but so far the AI companions are doing a fine job of trivializing combat without human help. Outside of the Butterfly battle, the only real challenge I’ve faced are Trials of Blood, special in-game events where hordes of The Lost swarm the player and their partner, attempting to overwhelm them with sheer numbers.
Code Vein isn’t a very challenging game, and I don’t mind at all. It’s all about unlocking that next Mistle and regularly spending Haze on leveling up your character and unlocking skills. Initially I was worried it would be another dark and dreary Souls-like game, dulling its anime vampire edge with plodding, brutish combat. Instead, it’s this weird sort of Souls-like playground, where players are free to experiment with new weapon combinations and Blood Code builds without worrying too much about losing progress or getting overly frustrated or being challenged in any meaningful way.
Hell, I spent an hour grinding to gather enough Haze to unlock and master some abilities from the Hunter and Ranger Blood Codes to help me find items and make enemies show up on radar. I had no plan. They just sounded like cool skills, and this is the sort of game where I can spend hours acquiring cool skills and then more hours creating loadouts of said skills and figuring out which combination of blades, guns, and magic spells are best at making an easy job even easier.
It’s those sorts of game mechanics that will keep me coming back once Code Vein goes live. I’m not particularly interested in the game’s story, as I’ve already gotten my fill of “hot anime people at the end of the world” from Astral Chain on the Nintendo Switch. The post-apocalyptic world is pretty in many places but plain in many others.
Nah, I’m here for teams of players gathering online and completely fucking this shit up. My NPC friends and I can do an awful lot of damage to the dark denizens of Code Vein’s crumbling society. I can’t wait to see the sort of carnage real players can summon. I am here for that.
This weekend, the anime-nonsense action role-playing game Code Vein held a closed network test. The results were both everything I expected and more fun than I imagined. Beat-for-beat Dark Souls gameplay and edgy anime designs might seem groan-worthy, but teaming up with other players to defeat difficult bosses was incredibly badass, if a little simplistic at times. Code Vein is, as they say, a land of contrasts.
Code Vein is a first-party game by Bandai Namco that many players on the internet have been calling “anime-souls” ever since it was announced in 2017. That jokey assessment is pretty close to fact. Code Vein is set in some type of postapocalypse teeming with “Lost,” blood-crazed creatures threatening human survivors. The whole affair is hyper-stylized with cel-shaded graphics and designs that look like modern-day animation, and the gameplay is 200 percent modeled on Dark Souls. There’s a progression system where you level up by spending currency acquired by killing enemies. In this case it’s “haze,” a vaguely defined magical energy. And like the currencies in Dark Souls or Bloodborne, you lose it when you die. Code Vein doesn’t shake up this format much at all. There are caverns and ruined cityscapes full of monsters and bosses; go out there and beat them up. The result isn’t as engaging as the games that inspired it, but it can be fun if you embrace the trashy absurdity of it all.
There’s a split here between the eye-rolling anime plot and the actual experience of playing. On the one hand, there’s a vague story where your character is an amnesiac, blood-absorbing chosen one with a scantily clad magical companion. For the record, her boobs are big, and the slightest breeze sways them like a pile of coconuts in a hammock. It was more than a little distracting. If you can’t get over the cheese and sleaze, I wouldn’t blame you. If you can climb over that, there’s plenty of quality dungeon crawling and boss slaying to be had.
Boss designs are dope as all gosh, but multiplayer can make them a bit too easy.
What makes Code Vein’s particular brand of action work is how much you’re able to really define your character. There’s a host of weapons ranging from huge greatswords and axes to rifles and bayonets. They incorporate the sort of future-punk grime you see in games like Let It Die. These weapons pair with a variety of “blood codes,” character-build templates that you can switch out whenever you want. Each grants different passive traits and special abilities. One blood code might grant you the ability to teleport and toss freezing icicles. Another might offer a variety of shield abilities and attack buffs that you can toss on yourself and other players. There’s a lot of potential to customize your character. Wanna use a huge sword and have spells that sacrifice defense for massive attack gains? Go for it. Wanna sit back with a rifle and toss magical fire at demons? Have a blast. Literally.
Code Vein breaks down somewhat in multiplayer. Calling for help is a simple menu option away, but having multiple players (plus AI companions) severely trivialized boss encounters. This was a network test, so I figured I might as well play with other people. It was good for making progress in one of the trickier dungeons, but it also meant boss fights sometimes devolved into slash fests. The battles were still dire, but I definitely get the sense that Code Vein is a game best played alone if players want to really feel challenged. Teaming up with other players really sucks the magic out of cool boss fights.
Still, there was quality exploration and combat. Movement is fast, and the range of abilities made it fun to play around with new character builds. Code Vein’s biggest problems heading into the future will be ensuring that players remained challenged if they team up, and maybe toning down some of the thirsty character designs. Code Vein will presumably release sometime in 2019, and it could provide a good waste of time until Nioh 2 arrives. Just try not to cut yourselves on all of this edge, okay?