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The next big RPG is not what you think

Out of all the RPG games coming out in the near and far-flung future, which one is the biggest? It's a question that'll likely spark debate among fans of the genre. Some will unabashedly fly a flag for a particular series, while some will approach the subject a bit more objectively. Regardless of how someone comes at the answer, you can count on seeing a few big names in the list.

There's Kingdom Hearts 3, which has reached peak hype as it nears release. There's a yet untitled Pokemon RPG that tons of fans are looking forward to. Final Fantasy 7 is getting a massive remake, though there's no word on how far along that is. And depending on how specific one is about the RPG designation, some could point to Anthem, a game with RPG elements, or The Division 2, which also infuses some role-playing game systems into its third-person-shooter shell.

But those are all the usual suspects. We think that the next big RPG is one you're not even considering. That game is Code Vein.

Code Vein is currently being worked on by Bandai Namco Studios. And for a number of reasons that we'll get into below, it looks awesome. It doesn't have the same name recognition as all the other games mentioned above. But we think that, by the time we reach the end of 2019, the video game world will view Code Vein as one of the best RPG releases of the year.

Here's why.

There aren't enough vampire games

Take a look at the past and present library for PC or any game console. Just about every genre is represented in a big way, and just about every big theme is covered. War shooters? Check. Zombie survival games? Check. There are multiple farming simulators, for crying out loud. There are games for driving 18-wheeler trucks!

So why the heck are vampire games so hard to come by?

That's not to say they don't exist. You can point to the recently released Vampyr as one. Maybe you could count Castlevania as another, but you don't exactly play as a vampire in those games — you hunt them. To find another game where you play as the vampire protagonist, you might have to go all the way back to Darkwatch, which we named as an Xbox hidden gem.

Code Vein is giving us another game with a dark, Gothic setting. It's bringing back the vampire as a main character. And that alone should get the game some attention.

It features Souls-inspired combat

It goes without saying that the Dark Souls games are pretty fantastic. They're dark. They're gritty. They're brutal. They're the kind of games you'd want to draw inspiration from if you were developing a game featuring vampires, huge monsters, and tough combat.

Fortunately, it looks as though Code Vein is doing just that.

Code Vein's world runs on blood. The blood you extract from your enemies can be used to progress in your character's upgrade tree. And upgrading your character will give you bigger, better attacks to use against the monsters you encounter throughout the game. You'll need the power, and you'll also need to find the weapons that best fit your play style. Because the enemies in Code Vein aren't anything to sneeze at. They won't go down without a fight.

That's perhaps the biggest line you can draw from Dark Souls to Code Vein: the tough combat. But the setting itself seems reminiscent of a Dark Souls game, or even Bloodborne. It's grim. There's a bit of environmental storytelling going on in Code Vein. You can tell this isn't a fun place to be.

It's clear Code Vein is taking a lot of cues from the Souls games. We just hope it's as good as one.

The Gift system looks cool

Battle systems in RPGs, especially action-RPG-type games like Code Vein can really help set them apart. In NieR: Automata, for instance, the game mixes melee action and fast movement with ranged bots that can deploy forcefields and fire missles. The combat in NieR really feels unique and unlike other games on the market

Code Vein has a system that looks just as unique. It's called the Gift system.

Gifts, for those who've been following Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, looks to share a lot in common with that game's Spirits. In Code Vein, Gifts can be equipped by the player character to offer additional perks, increase damage, or bulk up on defense. Up to eight Gifts can be applied at any time, and there are weapons and other types of equipment in the game that automatically apply Gifts themselves.

Players will undoubtedly engage in a lot of testing and tweaking when it comes to the Gifts they go into battle with. And that'll add a whole additional sub-layer to the game, which is great for those who obsess over min-maxing their characters to perfection.

Companions help you in battle

A whole lot of games feel incredibly lonely to play. It doesn't matter if you're stalking through demon-infested corridors in Doom or trudging toward Hela's gate in Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice. It doesn't even matter if you're playing a turn-based RPG with a party, where you're forced to attack using one character at a time. It just feels like you're doing it all alone. It's you against the world, and no one has your back.

That's what makes the Partner Action capabilities of Code Vein so fascinating. Because you won't just be fighting battles by yourself. You'll have allies.

Whatever companions happen to be with you at the time in Code Vein don't just stand idly by while you're getting bashed around the playing space. They're able to pitch in and help, whether they're launching their own attacks, buffing up some of your attack or defense skills, or simply tossing you some hit points when you're running low.

Having a partner there to draw some fire and keep all the heat off your back is helpful, sure. But when that partner can actually proactively assist you, even as you're in the middle of fighting? That's immensely more useful.

There's an involved character creation system

There are certain instances where you want to play as a set character in a game. In The Last of Us, for instance, the narrative in the game just wouldn't have had the same impact if you could've replaced Joel or Ellie with your own custom-made character. The same goes for the Tomb Raider series. Lara Croft is iconic. She has a whole backstory that she brings into every game, and that wouldn't be served by letting players replace her with someone else.

In role-playing games, though? It can be fun to create your own player. You're role-playing, after all. And if you want to build your own vampire and forge your own path in Code Vein, you can do it.

Code Vein will feature a character creation system that, among other things, allows players to customize "gender, body, and hair styles" for their character. On top of that, players can even select a custom character voice, which they'll hear in dialogue throughout the game.

There'll be set characters throughout the game's campaign. But your character will be uniquely yours, and that's pretty cool.

It has multiplayer

Remember when we were talking about how lonely some video games can be? Having a smart companion can make up for a lot of that, as it helps you feel like you're journeying not just with party members you essentially put different masks on to control, but instead, a peer.

Multiplayer support can also make progressing through a game more fun. And fortunately for Code Vein, the team at Bandai Namco Studios worked hard to get multiplayer into the game.

The team hasn't talked much about what exactly the multiplayer support in the game includes. But according to a tweet from the studio early in 2018, players can "explore the world of VEIN with other players," which makes it sound like you can at least party up together and progress through campaign pieces or side quests. Bandai Namco also mentioned the ability to "send a request in an area that you need help in," too, which sounds an awful lot like the way players can summon help in the Dark Souls series.

The world of Code Vein looks interesting enough as it is. Being able to see it with a friend will make the experience a lot more fun.

It's set to have a fittingly dark soundtrack

The right soundtrack can really bring a video game to life. When the soundtrack is good, you know it. It affects the mood of the area you're in or the scene you're viewing. And it can fill you with a sense of hope or a sense of dread.

A vampire video game — especially one set in a dark, dreary, Gothic environment — had better have an equally dark soundtrack. And Code Vein will.

The folks at Bandai Namco studios were fortunate enough to secure the services of VAMPS, a hard rock duo from Japan. VAMPS put out an album in 2017 called Underworld, and if that doesn't scream "these are definitely the right people for a vampire soundtrack," then we don't know what does. VAMPS even recorded a special video to let everyone know how excited they are about contributing to the soundtrack for Code Vein (if anyone that goth can be considered "excited" about anything).

Some of VAMPS' Underworld album will appear in the game, too. So take a listen and get pumped. The Code Vein soundtrack is gonna be good.

It'll be far more polished thanks to delays

You may not realize it from reading message boards or Twitter feeds, but video games are incredibly hard to make. Heck, we devoted an entire slide to this game's soundtrack, which someone has to source, slice up, and make play at the right times. And that's not even counting all the work that goes into securing licensing for songs, and making sure the right people get paid.

The Bandai Namco developers making Code Vein are dealing with all that while making the meat and potatoes of the game, too — an action-RPG with computer-controlled companions, a seemingly complex Gift system, and multiplayer support. Those are a whole lot of needles to thread.

The good news is, Code Vein hasn't been rushed out. It was set to release sometime in 2018, but Bandai Namco made the decision to move it into 2019 instead. In a statement, the company said this: "Armed with the knowledge of how well the game has already been received, we made the decision to postpone the release of Code Vein to further refine its gameplay in an effort to exceed the expectations fans already have of the title."

The Code Vein that eventually releases in 2019 will be a far better game that would've come out in 2018.

"It was a difficult decision to make," Bandai Namco said, "but we feel it is the correct one."