Revealed earlier this year, Code Vein is an action-RPG that most critics have been comparing to Dark Souls due to its slow and weighty combat. While the combat certainly shares some resemblance to the Souls series, that’s about all the games have in common. As you can see, Bandai Namco are going for an anime aesthetic, forcusing on action-heavy combat as opposed to the calculated fights you get in Dark Souls.

Dark Souls fans will immediately be able to pick up and play Code Vein due to the very similar combat mechanics. While the controls might be mapped to different buttons, the way you would usually play is pretty much the same. You’ve got light and heavy attacks, backstabs, rolls, parries and of course your all-important guard move. Everything you know from the Souls series is at the heart of Code Vein, but the developers have added their own twist to the usual formula. Your character is equipped with the Blood Veil, a claw shaped weapon which allows you to drain blood from enemies.

Code Vein

As you continue to fight, your focus gauge builds up allowing you to perform special combos. The only combo we had a chance to see was an uppercut move followed up with the Blood Veil. Pulling off these combos builds up your Ichor (better known as mana in most games) and that allows you to execute some unique abilities.

If you take a closer look at the bottom right hand of the screen you’ll notice eight different icons. These are essentially your spells in Code Vein, though they are referred to as ‘gifts’ in-game as they are powered by the blood of your enemies. We didn’t get to experience much of the story in our preview of the game, but it sounds like the vampire theme is important. The gifts can be used to temporarily buff your character’s weapon, increase your armour and throw basic projectiles.

Code Vein

One of the defining mechanics in Code Vein is the companion you choose to fight alongside you. We’ve been told each companion in the game has their own combat style and background story, however we only had the chance to see Mia. In a lot of games, having a companion is typically seen as a burden. Mia is nothing like a burden, in fact, she was the one keeping us alive when we first started learning how to play the game. As we mentioned earlier, our character has a number of gifts they can use at any time, one of these gifts allows you to sacrifice half of your health to give to your companion. In addition to fighting off enemies on her own, Mia also managed to save us multiple times just as we’d thought we had died.

Unfortunately, our capture card decided to break on us during the preview. This was extremely disappointing as we managed to beat the boss which many other journalists had failed to do. So yeah, you’re just going to have to take our word for it. Fighting against the boss showed us just how important Mia really is, as she ended up reviving us several times throughout the battle. It was a tough fight that highlighted a number of problems with the game in its current state. Fighting an agile character like the boss in a small, closed off area ended up breaking the camera at times.

Code Vein

The frame rate drops also ruined the experience for us, though it’s important to the remember the game isn’t ready yet and we were playing on a normal PlayStation 4. By the time the game does launch, we hope support for the Xbox One X and PS4 Pro would’ve been patched in to improve the frame rate. Code Vein is also getting a PC release, hopefully we shouldn’t see any performance issues on that version.

Right now, Code Vein is only a single player game. This seems like a bit of a wasted opportunity as it sounds like you have to play with a companion throughout the course of the game. It would’ve been nice if a human player was able to drop in and take control of the companion, though there have been rumours that this could be a possibility down the line.

Neither of us had even heard of Code Vein before our preview this week, but it’s not a game we are likely to forget any time soon. Remember, as of 2017 the Souls series has officially been shelved by From Software. Let’s be honest, you don’t really want to play The Surge or Lords of the Fallen, do you? This is the first Dark Souls alternative we’ve played that actually looks promising.

Check out our video preview for Code Vein on YouTube.