Vambrace: Cold Soul (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Athanasios 28.08.2019

Review for Vambrace: Cold Soul on Nintendo Switch

There's no point in wasting time before saying it: Vambrace: Cold Soul is basically Darkest Dungeon, but with an anime, or, more specifically, manhwa look, as well as a Norse setting. Mechanically it is almost the same exact deal, and the only difference is that this throws a stronger focus in its narrative, and is substantially more merciful compared to Red Hook's gem. Trouble is, it's simply not that fun. It's the inferior game, and not even by a small margin. After paying a visit to its icy caverns on the PC, here's a look at the Switch version to see if there's any hope for it.

The so-called King of Shades has cursed the city where Vambrace: Cold Soul takes place with a permanent winter, as well as a wall of frost that kills whoever tries to go through it, with the dead coming back as monstrous wraiths. For some strange reason, however, a mysterious wanderer by the name of Evelia Lyric manages to enter this realm, and its few living denizens soon realise that she is their only hope. Inspired by The Elder Scrolls, with a little bit of Final Fantasy thrown in, this follows players as they try to fix the damage that has been done to the city of Icenaire.

The setting at hand is ripe with potential for some awesomely dark storytelling, yet despite some black spots here and there, this is a relatively simple tale the likes of Skyrim, with just some tinges of gothic fantasy. Humans can be rude and somewhat hostile towards the protagonist, and the monster cast consists of bloodthirsty undead, and so son, but the tone of it all isn't really that threatening - visually, or in terms of writing. On the bright side, this microcosm is one with plenty of well-crafted lore, and, the pacing at which everything moves is simply perfect.

Visually this is of very high quality, with backgrounds that have great design (although they do suffer variety-wise) and characters that belong in fashion magazines rather than a war-ravaged fantasy world, with the protagonist being a particularly stunning beauty. As mentioned before, it's not as dark as it could or should be, but the atmosphere is far from bad either. Sadly, it all crumbles under the uninspiring gameplay on offer, with one problem being how much it copies Darkest Dungeon, whereas other titles, like Iratus: Lord of the Dead, twist the basic idea around a bit.

Screenshot for Vambrace: Cold Soul on Nintendo Switch

Of course, copycats are acceptable if they are fun... but this isn't. Both of its main parts are similar to other games of this kind, but the execution is subpar. Take the exploration bit, for instance. The party will have to visit the same areas, fight the same enemies, and avoid the same kind of traps, with the strategy required to do so never really changing that much. Moreover, the disorienting map design, combined with the use of two endurance meters of sort that make your expeditions harder as time goes by, discourage exploration, making it feel more like busy work instead of adventuring.

The second part of the equation, the combat, isn't that great either. Most encounters are slow, take more time than they should, and can feel somewhat unfair - are they, though? Well, this is the thing: they aren't! It's hard to verbally explain this, but, although a well-balanced product, the battle mechanics are such, that everything feels a little bit too constricting, with no room for additional attacks or buffs or tactics. Add to that the fact that all your hard work can disappear in a millisecond due to perma-death, and you are in for quite the enjoyable ride...

Sadly, Vambrace: Cold Soul's biggest issue seems to be the fact that there's simply no incentive to move on. There's a general missing sense of purpose, which makes the whole dungeon crawling and grinding thingy feel more like a meaningless chore. As for the story, it is fine and all, but it really struggles with making you care about the characters - main or otherwise. All in all, while this is, without any single doubt, a labour of love, there are far better alternatives out there; better tactical rogue-likes; better RPGs; better narratives; in the end, better games.

Screenshot for Vambrace: Cold Soul on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

5/10
Rated 5 out of 10

Average

This is, for the most part, a disappointment. By no means a terrible game, Vambrace: Cold Soul plays it a bit too safe with its concepts, as most of them are straight up copied from better tactical rogue-likes and RPGs, and especially Darkest Dungeon. Gorgeous character design can only get you so far...

Developer

Devespresso Games

Publisher

Headup Games

Genre

Turn Based RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  5/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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