Vambrace: Cold Soul draws plenty of inspiration from Darkest Dungeon in game play. Read our review for more.
But there are enough differences for Vambrace: Cold Soul to stand on its own. The game is a unique blend of turnbased tactical gameplay, mixed with the lore and story of a JRPG. There is a lot to love here, but some frustrations mar the experience.
- Genre: RPG, Roguelite strategy
- Price: $24.99 eShop, $49.99 physical
- Developer: Devespresso Games
- Publisher: HeadUp Games
We purchased our copy of Vambrace: Cold Soul from the eShop.
Players wake up underground in the city of Dalearch. The King of Shades has cursed the city of Icenaire with a permanent blight of frost. The cities’ former residents roam the streets seeking vengeance on the living. Evelia Lyric is the only human capable of leading expeditions above, thanks to the Aetherbracer left to her by her father.
At its core, Vambrace is a narrative-driven RPG with roguelite combat heavily inspired by Darkest Dungeon. Vambrace can never escape comparisons to Darkest Dungeon because of how much the combat borrows from it.
Despite those comparisons, Vambrace plays differently thanks to a lack of a punishing sanity system.
Vambrace: Cold Soul Review – Gameplay
The core gameplay loop involves delving into the frozen city to scavenge for supplies to help Lyric and her companions survive.
The game doesn’t intend these first few expeditions to be successful, which has caused a mixed reaction among gamers. Tactically retreating keeps supplies, but loses expedition progress. Therefore, the gameplay loop is divided into exploration runs and boss runs.
Exploration runs seek to find as much loot as possible before returning to town. Boss runs seek the shortest route through multiple districts to preserve health and vigor for the quest objective. Players can choose three companions from a variety of ten different classes.
Positional attacks are important in Vambrace, but they’ve been simplified compared to Darkest Dungeon. Short range attacks can only hit the first two enemies if the character is in slot 1 or 2. Mid-range attacks are the same, except the character can be in any position. Long range attacks can be executed on any position from any position.
Assembling a combat-ready team in Vambrace requires more than one expedition to create relics and healing items to support a boss run. The game is unforgiving and punishes back tracking heavily. A successful boss run requires plenty of resources, and some survival tips from our Vambrace guide.
Graphics and Audio
The art style and soundtrack in Vambrace is one of the strongest aspects of the game. The hand drawn art style draws influence from the Korean Manhwa style. The races within the game are your standard Western fantasy influences – Dwarves, Elves, and Drow. The Foxier race draws more of its influence from Korean culture. There are 26 different outfits to unlock and collect.
The soundtrack invokes feelings of apocalyptic loneliness, which is fitting since most of the game takes place in a dead city. There is some light voice acting in story cutscenes, but most of the story is told through codex pages the player can find.
One complaint about the game is how poorly thought out the UI is compared to Darkest Dungeon. Combat abilities are hidden on the character screen, with no easy way to access debuff text unless you’re playing in handheld mode. The map is also hard to read if you don’t pay attention to where you entered a room.
Vambrace: Cold Soul Review – Conclusion
I really enjoyed the time I spent with Vambrace: Cold Soul, despite some frustrations. The lack of any combat speedup ability is killer during long play sessions. Despite that, I found myself powering through to learn more about the world and characters that inhabit the game.
Final Rating: 3.5/5
A wonderful narrative wrapped in an average strategy game inspired by Darkest Dungeon.
Vambrace: Cold Soul feels like playing a visual novel mixed with Darkest Dungeon. The combat is a little watered down, but the narrative and art style make the game worth experiencing.
Recent patches on the PC version address a lot of the navigation complaints. No idea when that patch is coming to the Switch version, though.
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