Vambrace: Cold Soul - PC Review

Vambrace: Cold Soul is one of those titles that seems harmless enough until you've finished the tutorial. Easy to get into, it doesn't take long before the cold wintery fangs sink into your warm flesh draining you of your heat and of your life.

Even before getting my hands on an advanced enough copy, in which after some updates you'll never know the true horrors that we experienced unless the developers release a hard mode patch, there was a lot of comparison to Darkest Dungeon. You move from left to right. It's pretty dark. There's a ton of perma death. And your character abilities rely on your position from front to back. There's a lot that could compared and honestly it's a fair comparison as let's be honest that almost everything recently is compared to Dark Souls in one manner or another. Is it Darkest Dungeon in the northern reaches of the world however? No. It isn't.

Starting off with one of the best nods to Final Fantasy, you learn the ropes with Sarge, Biggs and Wedge. As these three cross a frozen settlement with corpses all around, you're told that because of the uselessness of one that you won't be seeing the ghosts coming your way because they forgot to pack the tool that measures their presence. Following along a path, you are taught to loot and to just generally hope that your party can handle a trap if it so happens to walk right over one as all encounters of this sort are handled automatically with your party's stats versus the difficulty of a trap. Finding your protagonist at the end of their little trip, they head back to their base with you in toe and then things start up for real.

Waking up and being thrown into interrogation, Lyric gives you the player a bit more context as to what she's doing up here while also getting a bit of detail of where she finds herself. Having followed instructions left to her in her father's last will and testament, Lyric traveled the world until she came to this wintery wasteland. After having crossed the snow plains and icy mountains, she must have collapsed which is where the Sarge and her two cohorts found her but one question remained. How?

Surrounded by an incy barrier, people can make it into the city along a very particular path, but there's no way out as any that would touch the barrier or any others put up will instantly die. Telling her interrogator that she simply touched one of outer walls and walked through, it's here where everything falls into place. Wearing a Vambrace that her father left her, she can pass through dangerous magics that allows her an edge against the souls of the dead that plague this place as she sets out with any brave enough to face the cold as you search for a way out.

Basically starting for real at this point, Lyric after setting up shop in the back of the pub can shop for items that will help along the journey, store items that she and the party have found while out and about or hire new party members to help out. While there's no real set rule to how you should set up your party, there should still be a bit of a balance struct if you want to be able to make it both through the various battles of both the living and the dead trying to kill you as well as the various traps and environmental hazards awaiting your party's crossing.

Here's about where things start to truly set the bar for what you can expect. While sharing huge intertwined maps with the likes of Darkest Dungeon in which you can go back and forth, you don't need to worry about things like torches to see or stave off insanity. Instead you need to worry about health and stamina in which if either of these falls to zero, you die. If it's a hired hand, they are dead and you've just lost whatever they were carrying. If it's Lyric however, you are instantly brought back to town with whoever was still alive and whatever items you held in your inventory. You can also if you know things are not going well simply travel back to town and the most that you will lose is your forward progress. There's no penalty for being careful and you'll probably want to take the more careful route more often than not.

Not having a penalty to call it quits and head back was nice but at the same time it made me wonder why at first. You head back to town, you have all of the items that you've accumulated, minus the ones that you've used of course, and then you can make a killing on profits and buy new items for your team to equip. The team itself costs you nothing so where's the catch? What's the downside? There honestly really isn't any, but, and you knew the but was coming, Lyric and others don't level up. You don't get experience for heading out into the wasteland. You simply get more resources that can be used to craft new items or be sold for cash.

There is a maximum load that be carried however, so from that end of things you need to pay a bit of attention as you don't want to have to leave precious loot behind, but at the same time, you want to keep enough on you as there are items or equipment that can only be acquired outside of the town hub for the “right price” which is sometimes a load of materials that you literally just deposited back in your home base's storage. So what do you keep? How much do you keep? It's all up to you depending upon what your actual purpose is when you head out.

Honestly starting off I was more cautious than I ever should have been. Carefully checking space for what I could find, figuring out which route made it easier to pass from one room to the other, and seeing what could be gained from staying often at campfires brought more misery and woe that I can attest to. While staying at a campfire can allow you to explore and check out the various surrounding environments what they hold and keep you warm, it also puts some fairly huge ticks into the “ghost counter” that once passed the threshold will have you battling infinite undead beings often several times per map depending upon how far you had to travel within it. It doesn't stop at the map segment either, it lasts until you leave the area so I hope you're up to the task if you take your time because healing isn't cheap, healers are not the most effective, and healing items add ticks onto the ghost counter when used at a camp.

Battling is done in a turned based fashion in which I swear I never, ever, EVER, went first. So basically after your party took a few hits, you are then free to start hitting back or using abilities in order to impede your enemy. Shouting at them to cause them to freeze in their steps, using fire ammo or hitting a few at a time, each is available as long as your character has the gauge filled for it. Otherwise, standard attacks or defending is as easily done as running away from the battle if a character is way too close to death.

Starting from the front of your group which always goes from left to right, you have your first two melee and then your two ranged characters. Each character type that you can take along for the ride have their own abilities and weapons making them unique additions to your team. The rogue have daggers and flashbangs for distractions, the knight has a shout along with a sword and shield for defense while the dwarf is good with traps and mechanical elements while also sporting a flintlock rifle and incendiary ammo. Side to the more martial classes you have the blood mage who can attack with her draining ability or boost any of your own allies at the cost of their health while the healer can heal very minimal damage to two of your party members or launch a longer over several turns spell.

Now as I mentioned, you don't get any character experience while facing off against your normal random encounters or the spectral horde that will chase you once the gauge reaches its threshold. You, the player, will get plenty as you learn the dos and donts against the various enemies that you encounter as you move forward. Some are seriously not worth the effort and running from battle isn't something to even be ashamed about in this case as let's be honest, you get “nothing” out of it. What your party does get out of it however are items and material for crafting or trading that you won't really be finding within your environment so if the plan is to move forward, battle the least amount as possible in order to keep your party healthy. If you plan on mowing down enemies after enemies in order to accumulate resources? Get the ghost meter to full as fast as possible and then head back to town. Rinse and repeat as many times as necessary until you feel ready to truly push forward.

Now this may sound a bit silly, but something that I truly appreciated is that if you walk left or right, you see the left or the right or your character. You don't just see the same visual but on the other side. If a character has a shield walking one way, then you see it on their other side when walking in the opposing direction. The same is with Lyric in which the Vambrace is quite noticeable when walking in one direction but not the other. So many artists simply “swap” the asset but there are loads of tiny details like these ones that just improve upon the experience as it feels much more natural to look at.

Overall, whether playing on a keyboard or with a controller from the couch, Vambrace: Cold Soul is an adventure worth having. While not being an RPG in the traditional leveling up sense, there's plenty here to enjoy and the experience itself while being dark and snowy is still a very pretty one to look at with its choice of color palette.

Game Information

Devespresso Games
Single Player
Other Platform(s):
Sony PlayStation 4
Nintendo Switch

Provided by Publisher

Article by Pierre-Yves


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