Vambrace: Cold Soul preview (PC)

Coming out on May 28th is Vambrace: Cold Soul – it’ll be out on Steam with console versions to follow later. Developed by Devespresso Games and being published by Headup, we decided to check out the game pre-release.

What we know

Vambrace, which isn’t a play on the words vampire and embrace but a piece of armor that is used for the forearm, takes place in the icy city of Icenair (which I’m pretty sure IS a play on words). It wasn’t always this cold in Icenair, but the King of Shades has put the city under a spell and is raising an army of the undead to rule the land. Any and all surviving humans have taken refuge underground, and only you are able to venture out and face them – thanks to your enchanted vambrace.

You’re not alone for long though, as you can recruit party members, whom you have to keep alive under harsh conditions and through combat encounters – which are of the turn-based variety. Because of Icenair’s weather conditions there’s definitely a survival element to Vambrace: Cold Soul, but there’s also a narrative campaign to follow with several chapters to string the story together.

vambrace3

What we saw

We’ve been playing a pre-release version of Vambrace: Cold Soul that was both feature and content complete. We also didn’t encounter any technical issues, so it’s safe to say that what we saw was pretty close to what gamers will receive on the 28th next week.

What we thought

The developer claims to be inspired by the likes of Elder Scrolls, Castlevania, Final Fantasy and FTL, but my first visual frame of reference was Darkest Dungeon – which feels very similar in a visual sense despite a different setting. And yes, the developers also mention Darkest Dungeon as a source of inspiration.

There is a top-down game map that’s reminiscent of old school (2D) Final Fantasy titles and there’s a game world that echoes the fantasy of Elder Scrolls and medieval qualities of Castlevania, but it’s the combat that really says “Darkest Dungeon” – and it’s great to see it in a different setting.

vambrace

The party dynamic, combined with the survival elements, in an interesting one – it constantly keeps you on your toes even though there were times we felt like the game could use a few balance tweaks. Maybe just our inexperience though…. What’s interesting about combat is also that there’s a fair amount of diversity in the enemies you face. It’s not just about the undead army that is roaming the surface, you’re also part of a society of survivors that’s in disarray. As in Focus Home’s The Plague Tale, the survivors live in dire conditions that make them do strange things and they can become a real menace to their fellow humans – including yourself. Combat is turn-based and follows fairly standard mechanics – with the added ability to use magic items that you find to boost certain attacks.

Although heavily inspired by other games, Vambrace is at least inspired by a couple of great ones. Darkest Dungeon is the most obvious example, but Devespresso’s game sets itself apart with both survival elements and an interesting back story and setting. I’ll be all tied up when this releases next week, so I’m happy to already be playing – can’t wait to go back to it.

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