Vambrace: Cold Soul Review – A Brutal Yet Beautifully Satisfying Adventure

    Title: Vambrace: Cold Soul
    Developer: Headup
    Release Date: May 28, 2019
    Reviewed On: PC
    Publisher: Devespresso Games
    Genre: RPG

Vambrace: Cold Soul is a turn-based roguelike fantasy-adventure, developed by Devespresso Games and published by Headup, with only two goals: To save the world and more importantly, survive. One thing I immediately noticed is that Vambrace: Cold Soul is that it’s a quite challenging game where surviving the game’s many threats becomes a big part of the game’s appeal. However, I was curious about its story as I find myself drawn to tales of curses and the world’s end, which is typically pretty dramatic. But to be completely honest, there is just something satisfying about the thought of being able to save mankind.

The story follows the city Icenaire which became cursed by the King of Shades, bring permanent frost to the world. If that wasn’t enough, the King of Shades sends an army of undead Wraiths to the city as well as along with previously dead residents. On the brink of collapse, a mysterious stranger appears with a weird vambrace said to be enchanted. The stranger, Evelia Lyric, eventually becomes the new hope of Icenaire.

From the start, it was clear that direction wasn’t going to be a problem in Vambrace: Cold Soul.  It’s linear, for the most part, but there are side quests to take on which is nice since they provide additional scenarios which expanded on the game’s lore. It’s because of these quests that I got to know the characters better, who are typically not in the foreground. These side quests can range from hilarious to emotionally touching, but the best thing is that you can even unlock new costumes through them. Additionally, players can collect pages all over the game for the Codex Illuminus, which is a book from Lyric’s father for even more side information to read to get the most out of the game’s story.

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Player-choice is a core theme with Vambrace: Cold Soul, especially since there are a lot of unique features. One of those features is how death is handled. While it is clear that you will die once your HP reaches 0 there is another stat, called Vigor, needed in order to survive. When it reaches 0 the character will die and this is permanent death. However, when Evelia dies, she will get ported back to the city and you will lose any progress. Another stat to keep in mind while exploring the dungeons is Awareness, which allows characters to see and avoid traps that are spread all over the battle maps. With all these stats to keep track of, dungeons require strategic planning to get further into, which I enjoyed.

Thankfully, not everything is doom and gloom, as you do have the power to recruit new party members from time to time. There’s quite a unique range of characters since you can assemble your party from 5 races and 10 unique classes of recruits. The catch with this is that not every class is available to recruit at times, so it’s vital to make sure to manage your party properly so that it fits your playstyle.

I really liked that every class had another purpose and special attack which made me have trouble deciding on which classes to create my party with. There is a specific system when arranging the positions of your party as there are three different attack positions which range from short, medium and long. While short ranged classes can only hit the first two enemies when placed in either the first or second position, mid-ranged classes can be placed anywhere, but are able to only attack the first two enemies as well. Lastly, the long ranged classes are able to attack any enemies from any position. So ultimately, understanding the balance of a party is necessary to get through the game.

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As aforementioned, Vambrace: Cold Soul is a challenging game which will require you to prepare properly before going on an expedition. There is no level system, but you are able to upgrade your characters with wearable items or other useable items which will help you through the battles. The real challenging thing here is that in order to reach the desired destination, you have to go through several areas without a reset of your HP or vigor which will decrease with time by itself. Successfully getting to each destination is a matter of stopping by campfires to recuperate, and strategically using your party’s abilities.

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But that is still not all, you can encounter small events during the game, which functions as gambling. Basically, you have to make a decision which might turn out bad or good and it is all based on your luck. There are bonuses such as additional vigor, reducing terror, and getting items. Additionally, treasure chests can be found which will give you plenty of items, but you don’t want to get over your maximum of carryable items as it will greatly reduce all of your stats. However, these additional events can be avoided, if you simply just want to go on with the main adventure.

As far as visuals go, I found Vambrace: Cold Soul’s art style to very lovely, and especially loved how there is even a cute chibi form of Evelia while walking around on the map. Admittedly, the art style differs per situation as it switches between 2D and 3D graphics for certain parts of the storytelling or during events. What’s dissapointing, however, is that the game doesn’t have voiced audio, but on the bright side for audio, the soundtrack was nice as it complemented the game’s atmosphere and tone.

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Always having to think before I made any kind of move is what kept me engaged at all times with Vambrace: Cold Soul. It’s not a game that you can just go through without any worries at all, it’s an absolutely challenging adventure. There isn’t any hand-holding here — to succeed, you must strategically pick out party leaders, camp to recuperate, figure out how to handle challenging and bizarre encounters, and survive deadly combat. Aside from all the challenges within it, I found a lot of joy in Vambrace: Cold Soul by completing the game’s side quests and while they are not related to the main story, none of them felt out of place in as they allowed me to get to know the game’s cast of characters and their stories more.

Vambrace: Cold Soul is a tremendously challenging game that requires effective strategic thinking and at times, even good luck, but that’s what makes it such a satisfying and fun adventure. Some players may get frustrated by the game’s steep learning curve, but I can definitely recommend Vambrace: Cold Soul to anyone who appreciates a good challenge.

A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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Lynn Caramella

an enthusiastic writer, who spends her free-time with rather uninteresting and boring things, while absolutely being in love with cute and girly stuff.