Title: Vambrace: Cold Soul
Developers: Devespresso Games / Headup Games
Publishers: Chorus Worldwide Games
Genre: Roguelike, Action & adventure, Role playing, Strategy
Platform: Xbox One
Age Rating: PEGI 12
Release Date: 27/08/19
Price: £20.99 – Rapid Reviews UK was very kindly provided with a review code for this title.
The denizens of Dalearch are relying on you, so you assemble a party of expendable warriors. Will this expedition finally bring success? One can only hope, but it does not look likely. Alas, the only way to know for certain is to tread the merciless grounds of Icenaire for yourself.
On reaching the frostbitten surface, a lifetime away from your underground haven, everything is overwhelmingly bleak. Bodies of men, dwarves, and elves alike blend into the environment so well that they almost become one with it. Not letting this deter you, you press on.
Unfortunately, due to your lack of preparation, the battle you find yourself in ends the only way it can: in death. Soon after awakening in the Elven Healing Grounds in Dalearch, it soon becomes apparent that you will need to find warmth in the cold embrace of death.
In keeping with Vambrace: Cold Soul’s rogue-like elements, let us journey back to the beginning. As previously alluded to, permadeath afflicts all-but-one party member. Therefore, the will to build a connection with the characters you select is weak due to the resulting uncertainty of their survival.
Furthermore, with each potential candidate comes a rather brief CV which fails to outline vital stats and abilities. Consequently, selecting a companion only becomes easier the more experience you accrue in the field, padding the early hours of the game with frustration.
Sadly, initial trips to Icenaire’s surface heralds little sign of improvement as the game’s map can cause difficulties with navigation. Its simplicity conflicts with the cluttered, corresponding rooms, getting players lost in the game’s world in all the wrong ways.
During the exploration that this incurs – rather than encourages – random encounters appear frequently. The majority of which are based on luck rather than the strategy present in the engaging turn-based combat. To successfully overcome these, you must have the right people in your party, which can only be achieved through the less satisfying means of educational guesses.
Mercifully, enduring the negatives quickly gives way to the positives. Therefore, let us renew this relationship by starting over again.
Firstly, despite its rather cluttered level design, Vambrace: Cold Soul will win you over with its chilling atmosphere bolstered by its ambient sound design, minimalistic musical accompaniments and haunting, yet beautifully animated visuals. Also, yes, that pun was unashamedly intentional.
What is more, Vambrace lacks a cold soul (last pun, I promise) when it comes to its rogue-like elements. The inclusion of a save system, in particular, makes an easier task of returning after a defeat and fits better with the game’s sprawling narrative. Otherwise, attempting to finish the adventure would be a fool’s errand.
Venturing through Icenaire’s many “dungeons” again with greater determination allows the game’s holistic sense of style to shine radiantly. While I personally am enamoured with the fantasy setting, the influences of the genre can be seen in the iconography, ye olde dialogue, and the perfectly imperfect UI. Without a doubt, Vambrace: Cold Soul is easily identifiable in the RPG line-up.
After finally besting one of Vambrace: Cold Soul’s bosses, you are sufficiently rewarded for your efforts. Additional snippets of lore surrounding the game’s detailed world through cutscenes and important documents give you that extra incentive to persist in order to discover what else you can uncover about Icenaire’s rich history.
In fact, let us take some time to focus on that word: incentive. Vambrace: Cold Soul may challenge at the beginning, but the merciful save and soft checkpoint systems incentivise players to push past this initial rut. In doing so, victory will be at hand sooner than anticipated.
Following this, players encounter even more rewarding incentives to see their adventure through to the very end as they witness the impact of their positive actions on the desperate people that surround them. All the while, learning more about why these actions are important, consequently adding yet more necessary weight to them.
So, to conclude, it may often seem like you’re getting nowhere, but the impeccable environmental storytelling and relatively forgiving rogue-like elements will revitalise your vigour on each run.
Of course, the game’s absorbing atmosphere, lived-in world, and holistic fantasy style will easily maintain attention for a while. However, it is the unconquerable elation you receive when you finally overcome an obstacle once thought impossible to overcome that will have you picking up your controller immediately after setting it down time and again. Therefore, although reaching the closing credits of Vambrace: Cold Soul is perfectly feasible and is something to strive for, Devespresso and Headup Games have instead directed the focus to the most important aspects in gaming: the enjoyment of the experience, and the satisfaction of small victories.
Rapid Reviews Rating
You can purchase Vambrace: Cold Soul on the Microsoft Store on the following link: https://www.microsoft.com/en-gb/p/vambrace-cold-soul/9n171cgfvt1l?activetab=pivot:overviewtab
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.