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Vambrace: Cold Soul

The King of Shades has cursed the great city of Icenaire. Now cast under a permanent blight of frost fall, its former residents have returned from the dead as mad Wraiths. Survivors take refuge deep underground where they lead a desperate campaign against this unearthly power. Woefully outmatched, they are forced into hiding as the King of Shades amasses an army of the undead above them. One fateful day, a mysterious stranger appears in the city with an enchanted vambrace. She may now be their only hope… You are Evelia Lyric, bearer of the Aetherbrace and the only human capable of entering Icenaire. The survivors now look to you as their best hope against the King of Shades. Only one problem...you’re woefully outmatched, and survival is not guaranteed. Vambrace: Cold Soul is a narrative-driven game filled with memorable characters, brutal challenges, and deep strategy. To succeed, you must choose perceptive party leaders, camp to recuperate, navigate strange encounters, and survive deadly combat. Will you scavenge for supplies to sell or use them to craft new items for your next expedition? The surface of Icenaire is cold and unforgiving. So, prepare your party well before departing...lest you join the cursed city's undead.
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Game Discussion

Review by Anonymous
Review from Steam

Vambrace: nicely drawn
Vambrace: Cold Soul is a peculiar blend of Darkest Dungeon’s turn-based crawl and visual-novel style of storytelling. This unusual core concept is built around the game’s distinct artstyle, likely the precise reason for which you would pick the game in the first place. Step into high-heeled boots of Evelia Lyric, as she makes her journey to the underground city of Dalearch, compelled by her father’s last will. Along with the late father’s letter, Evelia is presented with titular vambrace, soon revealed to be a powerful magical artefact. To begin with, it is capable of destroying the magical frostfences surrounding the city. The icy obstacle would normally kill any who dared to touch it, making Evelia the only newcomer in a long while. One that will soon shape Dalearch’s fate.
Slippery path
Over the course of the game, player will mount multiple expeditions to the surface, both to investigate her father’s connection to the city and to aid Dalearch in a war with Shade King, a local bogeyman capable of raising an army of the dead. This provides an ample supply of dungeons to crawl, one randomly generated set of rooms at a time. Admittedly, Vambrace does attempt to take the turn-based combat in its own direction, however anyone who played Darkest Dungeon before will immediately make a connection.

Unfortunately, while Vambrace does resemble DD on a surface level, the game in question doesn’t remotely share the intricacies of the latter. If you are looking for Darkest’s second coming, you are likely to be disappointed. On that note, the Vambrace’s combat is solid enough, if fairly easy most of the time. The game does provide a solid variety of character classes, each coming with their own set of skills allowing for a multitude of viable party setups. However, combat’s weirdly unclear interface offers little in a way of redeeming qualities. The game has an absurd amount of status effect icons and the player can only observe and guess what exactly a given symbol represents. Supposing the effect lasts longer than the fight in question, it is possible to divine its details from the character card, when it comes to enemy buffs it’s a straight-up guessing game. Not exactly the most tactical manner of handling things.
To make matters worse, Vambrace has a strangely dysfunctional autosave feature. Every expedition has to be finished in one sitting. Otherwise, the player will be returned to the starting point, albeit up to date with any loot and casualties incurred along the way. Yes, the above does make grinding for supplies easier, however if for some reason you need to interrupt your play, past 30 minutes of progress can fly right out of the window.
Dead cold
Being a story-driven game, despite the semi-open exploration of the outside world (the player can replay each expedition in search of further loot and secrets as they please), Vambrace has a fairly rigid structure, with each story-related expedition being a separate chapter. Each one of them furthers the plot of the city and its denizens. Much like the game’s combat, the overall story is a mixed bag. To avoid major spoilers, I will cover briefly the plot’s biggest issue. Alas, Evelia is the most passive protagonist imaginable, being essentially used as a likeable, albeit a tool to further goals of other power-players. While it’s not surprising, that everyone is better-versed in the state of affairs than the only newcomer to the city, the scale of plot convenience, sheer luck and outside intervention becomes absurd at later stages of the game. Evelia Lyric is unaware of being gradually groomed into becoming something greater, exclusively by the machinations of others.
Curiously, the Dalearch’s denizens and their side-stories are far more compelling than the main plot. Brought to life with just a couple of drawings, they provide a colourful cast of characters and optional quests. You can aid others within the city in their struggle for influence or engage in a mundane search for a lost cat. Many such subplots are easy to overlook or straight-up hidden, rewarding the ones who look under every nook and cranny. Honestly, it was these mundane conversations and observing how Lyric’s progress affects those around you, what truly kept me engaged during my playtime. Rather awkwardly, quests are primarily rewarded with... skins. Evelia’s wardrobe can store over 20 costumes, each complete with dedicated art and animations. At first, I was taken aback by such “priceless” compensation. On the other hand, Vambrace is likely to attract players with its artstyle and having more of it made for the protagonist is not a bad thing, I suppose. One could argue that the developer’s resources could be better spent elsewhere, while the other enjoys a possibility of running around in sub-zero temperatures with Evelia wearing only lingerie, without mods. A number of quests are mutually exclusive, inviting the player for a second playthrough, the game also has 3 endings, based on the player’s choices throughout the game.

Winter wonderland
In the end, I strongly believe that Vambrace: Cold Soul soundly delivers on the one thing it truly promises – a beautifully drawn comic-style world. Inviting visuals were the reason for which I bought the game and they are this title’s single best quality. Visual-novel storytelling has been likely chosen specifically to further highlight the game’s art. It was a wise choice, as the game is sadly unremarkable in every other regard. If you happen to be the kind of person that enjoys spending time online in search of nice drawings – Vambrace is essentially a game-sized, interactive artbook. For everyone else though, this is an average title with a hint of heart. Much like looking after an infant, the game requires plenty of patience and a certain appreciation to be enjoyed, which understandably is turndown for many. I personally give Vambrace: Cold Soul a borderline pass mark, exclusively on the grounds of delivering the art I’ve been after. On that note, I cannot in clear conscience recommend the game to the wider audiences. Should you ever “come across it”, perhaps as a part of a bundle or at a big discount, the game is worth at least checking out. Even then, purchase at your own discretion.

Review from Steam

Vambrace it's not a bad game, considering the relatively small team that created it.
Visually is very pleasing, with a style strongly reminiscent of korean manwha. Quite a bit of effort went into world building and the story, despite the fact that it seems to follow a checklist of all the cliches of the genre (mysterious father missing - check; enemy who turns out to be on the same side - check; betrayal of the supposed friend - check ... and so on, with unerring precision).
From the point of view of the gameplay it is clearly inspired by Darkest Dungeon, but without approaching neither the difficulty (players with a minimum of experience in the genre will probably never see any of the characters die) nor the depth of the tactics or customization. This last part was the most frustrating thing for me: the main character evolves very little in the course of the story, and the companions even less: they have fixed statistics, and the only change that can be made is to slightly improve the characteristics with a single piece of equipment . You probably shouldn't expect too much from such a short indie title, but it was a disappointment nonetheless.
Another element that would require a lot of work is the interface: almost everything that happens (skills, buffs, debuffs ...) is represented by unclear symbols and a trivial function like an explanation pop-up window with mouse over is missing, so you have to go all the way to the character sheet to understand what's going on.
That said, it's still an enjoyable game and a commendable effort on the part of the developers, whose passion for the project is clear even beyond the flaws... I would still recommend buying it when it is on sale.

Review from Steam

This is a really fun story driven Darkest Dungeon style game.
You should not be scared off by the rating of the game, as it is much improved now.
I played this game back in 2019 for the first time and I honestly hated it, but now I have to commend the developers for saving this game with their updates. The game isn't perfect but you can feel the passion of the developers. I would love a continuation in this world where the devs have the opportunity to show what they have learned.
A special praise goes to whoever created the art for this game, as I'm just absolutely in love with the artdesign.

Review from Steam

A December 2021 review:
A Darkest Dungeon-style game that all fans should play AND VCS is a great gateway game for anyone new to the genre or felt that DD was a little too difficult. VCS has its challenging moments but never becomes frustrating. To comment on the past reviews:
+Yeah, the character design (waifu central!) and artwork (incredible backgrounds, foregrounds, and lighting) throughout the game are top-notch. It's a very nice touch to have the main character not only unlock 20+ different outfits to wear in-game, but have those outfits show up in the dialogue and portraits too! Bravo on going the extra mile on that one!
+Music is awesome: sets the scene well (and I could listen to the title-screen music all day).
+Addictive. "Failed" runs have you recruiting new party members and getting back in the action immediately without having to level-grind toons.
As for the "no tool tips," many of the tool tips are displayed in the menu for your character abilities and in your item inventories. The game is not overly complicated and you will be able to identify most of what is going on with ease. It is true that there are some in-combat buffs and debuffs that do not have tool tips so I'm not sure exactly what they mean, but it rarely (only once so far in my 19 hours) delayed me from progressing. Do not let a few missing tool tips prevent you from playing this great game!
To summarize: a must buy for DD fans, and a must buy for anyone on the fence about this game and/or genre!

Review from Steam

Art is amazing, the game-play is simplistic and its heavily inspired by Darkest Dungeon. Yet, in my opinion its better than it.
I like to relax when i play games, not get stressed about them like what Darkest Dungeon is good at doing. Darkest Dungeon is not my type of game and i really wish it was but it turns out i was lucky enough to find a game almost the same, with many new original ideas added in that would not only satisfy my desire for a great storyline with great characters but also satisfy my desire to relax and just enjoy the world as it is presented.
I have no objections and i am simply happy i own it, it was worth the money in my opinion.
Also, did i mention the waifus ? I have never been so happy in my life.
unreal.

Review from Steam

The classes are way too simple, the itemization/character development are non-existent and the combat is shallow, but the audiovisuals are great and the story is interesting, so it is a good experience overall. Just don't expect anything deep, and you'll be fine with this little game for a few hours.

Review from Steam

The game is actually amazing, The artstyle and the story are well unique. I'm not really a reviewer of a game but I do think this game is pretty underrated, I do love the artstyle though how the combat are done are a bit tedious. The UI when combat started, and the way you need to open the character biography in order to see which skills is which can be pretty tedious to do. But other than that, a good game if you're into nice story and some Darkest Dungeon feeling.