Code Vein is the upcoming brand-new IP from the same team in Bandai Namco that brought us the God Eater series. While the developer has created a certain formula with God Eater - a 4-player monster-hunting gameplay system on a large map with a quick pace - they are going in a totally different direction with Code Vein. At Tokyo Game Show 2017, I was able to try out the first ever playable demo of the new game, aptly titled First Blood Version, on the PlayStation 4. I can tell you this first and foremost: If you try to play this like a God Eater game, you are definitely going to get pummeled before you realize it.
The demo was available to play for only 20 minutes. When the demo starts, you wake up with your
waifu buddy Mia Karnstein in an underground cavern area. Nearby is a Mistletoe tree that acts as a checkpoint, similar to a bonfire in Dark Souls or a shrine in Nioh. By accessing the Mistletoe, you can level up your character by spending experience points called Haze that is collected from defeating the enemies (or "Losts"). As of this demo, you can only raise the character's level as opposed to the detailed stat distribution seen in this genre.
If you die, you will have to respawn at the last visited Mistletoe, and all unspent Haze will be dropped on the spot where you died. If you die again trying to retrieve it, it will be gone forever. The stamina gauge also depletes for every action you make, from simply attacking to even dashing. So far it sounds very much like a Dark Souls game, right? And just like in Nioh, you are able to equip two weapons which you can choose from by pressing Up on the D-pad.
There are some things that make Code Vein distinct from the rest. The first one is obviously the addition of a buddy NPC who will accompany you in your journey. In the demo, Mia may help divide enemy attention, shoot them with her rifle, and even revive you when you run out of HP, provided she isn't already preoccupied. Mia will also speak occasionally when you do activities like picking items, or even praise you when you manage to defeat an enemy.
There is also a Focus gauge that will fill up when you get hit or evade an attack at the right moment. When the gauge fills, Focus mode kicks in. This provides various benefits including a quicker attacking speed, replenished stamina meter, and even the ability to juggle enemies in the air. Note that the Focus gauge exists not only for the player but also the buddy character. Even enemies can use it, so watch out for their quicker attacks if they are in Focus.
We also have the Drain attack, which is very reminiscent of the Predator attack from God Eater. When a Drain attack connects, it will both replenish and raise the maximum limit of Ichor stock needed to activate Gifts. This will either provide benefits to the player or extend the number of attacks you can inflict on an enemy.
Although a Drain attack would normally have to be primed by holding the Circle button, just like with God Eater's Predator, it is also possible to launch a quicker, more effective, and flashier Special Drain attack after parrying an enemy's attack, stunning an enemy with a back attack, or juggling one when Focus mode is active.
While the Buddy AI is well-implemented since Mia can assist you or even attack others on her own, it is not made to be unrealistically omnipotent and she can still get overwhelmed if left on by herself for a long period of time. This is where you as the player need to cooperate with her as well by sharing your HP when she is in a pinch.
If I have to state a disappointment in this demo, it is the fact that guarding is totally useless in this game. You still receive some damage from blocking even normal attacks from enemy peons. The only way you are able to properly progress from an encounter is by evading their attacks with precision timing.
Finally, the First Blood Version has an option exclusively available in the demo that allowed me to jump straight to the end of the passage and fight against the boss of the stage, Queen's Knight. Even if your character has been souped up through grinding within the allotted time, they have a lot of dangerous attacks and deadly combos with their long lance. I even had a moment when both my character and Mia got killed at the same time by a single attack.
All in all, Code Vein looks to be a promising experience, and I can't wait to be able to explore the world together with a
waifu husbando buddy. Code Vein will be released for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC worldwide sometime in 2018.