Vambrace: Cold Soul is a story driven roguelite set in a frozen landscape; you play as Evelia Lyric, bearer of the Aetherbrace, allowing you to be the only person who can enter Icenaire and destroy all the various frost walls that have popped up around the city. For this reason it is your job to pick a party and venture up into the deadly lands above, facing various challenges. Your ultimate goal is to take on the King of Shades, but as the description states you are “woefully outmatched”, but does this make the game more, or less exciting..?
The start of the game is a long, hard slog with little to no reward, but we shall get to that part; I’d like to start of with some positives: Firstly the hand drawn artwork is beautiful, there has obviously been tones of love and care that has gone into the designing of this game. The scenes are beautiful, and each character has been carefully crafted too. Saying this, the characters are all a bit forgettable, bar Lyric because she’s literally the main girl. I guess this helps seeing as most of them will meet permanent deaths in the icy wasteland above; all of the ladies are largely endowed, so if this is what you look for in a game, hop right on it. Honestly there is zero body diversity here!
Characters come in lots of different races which is always nice to see, including your standard sexy fox people aptly named the Foxiers… Honestly they are my favourite race in the whole game; they’re too damn cute!! Despite each character being a little forgettable they are nicely designed. There’s lots of beautiful story building and world interaction in the underground city, and lots of story to learn; many players will get a lot of satisfaction from walking around and interacting with all the various NPC’s.
The combat characters can be used in the game to build your team, selecting and swapping characters out is completely free to do which is nice. It definitely takes away a little from the overall gruelling difficulty of the game! Adding cost based characters would just be a needless pain. You are completely free to build a team with the stats and skills you desire… Though I wouldn’t even bother with the merchant skill; you don’t need it. Other skills include your generic combat and healing, along with perceptive skills for trap avoidance and overwatch skills so that your team can have a safe rest up in the treacherous Icenaire.
When exploring the world you move through a series of maps, each with around 8 rooms containing a mixture of treasure, campfires, combat and merchant rooms – You don’t know what each room holds until you enter, much like Darkest Dungeon; every party member has a health and vigor stat, and if either of these drop below 0 then it’s a permadeath for them… Apart from Lyric because as I mentioned before… You literally play her and having her perma die each time would SUCK. You can buff your players with relics, but these are expensive, and if a character dies with one it’s lost forever. Your allies don’t level up either, but you can go find higher level allies and swap them out when Lyric levels up; it’s important to keep switching up your team in Vambrace.
Lastly you have this thing that measures the “ghost fog” in the area… When it reaches the red line… Every room is battle room! Combat is turn based and pretty unremarkable, however. The enemies aren’t really all that distinguishable from each other, which is a shame – It would be nice to have more diverse and memorable enemies. Another slightly annoying thing is you don’t really know which character should go where in your line up, and so you end up using precious turns in battle to get them all in the right place. Combat is also one of the few places you have the chance to heal up as campfires are few and far between; this really does amp up the difficulty in this game.
So far this game has been a difficult and challenging slog, but with some really beautiful artwork and fantastic world building. Players who like a challenge AND a story will love this game, but I do think the difficulty may turn some players away. Despite this, I think the game has some huge potential, and if you’re looking for a challenge pick it up! It’s currently a 7/10 for me, purely because of the sheer difficulty.