What’s in a Souls-like?
I played the anime Dark Souls. I’m currently in the swamp/pit and burnt out from playing it because it turns out I really like the gameplay loop of these kinds of games. Of course, saying Code Vein is anime dark souls is reductive. The character creator is actually good, for one. Most people would say it’s more specifically anime Bloodbourne, cus vampires! But this is no better, because really, Code Vein is anime Dark Souls 2.
CV does indeed borrow the aesthetics and the mechanical conceits of Bloodbourne. There’s no shields, you’ll have to parry and role. Blood drained from enemies becomes a resource for your actions. The lore tries to minimize ludonarrative dissonance. There’s also guns. This is all put on top of an extensive spell system that’s implemented like ESO on console controllers.
But as I play the game, what appears most evident is the way it feels to move around the world that hallmark DS2. There’s an emphasis on developing different builds for the various environments and enemies. Most antagonists and enemies are/were revenants like you. The physical movement and distance from action that a spell system brings evokes the feel of a mech game. And, most importantly, the story of a systemic world is told among individuals.
This is also a story from Dark Souls (2). As undead/revnants die again and again, they lose memory and purpose, fading into hollows/ash. The most Fromsoftware did with this was make a really good cinematic intro for DS2. CV makes it the plot. In tiny cutscenes that you walk through (like the only good parts of Fallen Order), the cast of characters confront memories of past relationships. While some of these had been tragically lost during the cycle of undeath, others were best forgotten. The most striking I’ve seen so far is Louis’ relationship to Cruz, which sets up his ambitions and personality, but also uses the spatiality of this kind of storytelling to great affect. It brings emotion to the reality of a catastrophic world where death has become the focus of life.
And after each of these scenes, you unlock a new ability for your bayonet to kill the Lost with.