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Hands on with Dark Souls-inspired Code Vein

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We go dungeon-fighting with a vampire

Code Vein is an action role-playing game from the director of many of the God Eater games. It’s drawn comparisons with the Dark Souls series, which publisher Bandai Namco handles outside Japan. Most particularly, these comparisons come about because Code Vein focuses on exploration in dank locations, one-on-one combat and frightful bosses.

We spent some time with the game earlier this week, and brought back gameplay footage in the video above. It offers a sense of the game’s pacing and of its aesthetic, which will also draw comparisons with Bloodborne.

The anime style of the game underpins a dark story about vampires. The protagonist searches for life-giving blood, taking what they can from enemies encountered along the way. The blood also offers pathways to RPG-style upgrades that make a big difference in combat, most especially against the larger monsters.

Alongside the main character, there’s a choice of AI assistants who come with their own skills and buffs. These can be interchanged at a home base, bringing in a tactical element to partnerships. They must also be helped in situations where their survival is key to progress.

There’s also a significant variety of weapons and tools that are used to extract blood from enemies, though there are limits on how many can be carried at once. It’s a good idea to sneak up on them when using these devices.

Once alert, the monsters move fast and sometimes in concert with one another. And this is when the game’s capacity for fast movement, dodging and jumping are most useful.

During my time with the game, I couldn’t get a sense for each and every weapon, but I did enjoy buttering up targets with long-range projectiles before steaming in with massive blades, taking the time to retreat when my health looked in peril.

As a vampire, I have access to various spells (or “gifts”), which are selected from a cluster of icons in the bottom right corner of the screen. These include special weapons as well as useful buffs. All this is supplemented with a focus gauge, which increases the power of attacks. It looks like focus increases with smartly timed combat moves, both offensive and defensive.

I got the feeling that this is not going to be an easy game. The boss encountered at the end of this demo is no slouch. That’s another area where those Dark Souls comparisons are useful.

Code Vein is being directed by Hiroshi Yoshimura, who led the work on various God Eater games, which are most often compared to the Monster Hunter series. The melding of all these influences makes this more than a generic hack-and-slash journey, with some deeper tactical considerations in play at all times.

Bandai Namco’s Code Vein is due out on PlayStation 4, Windows PC and Xbox One some time in 2018.