Vambrace – Cold Soul has been released for consoles after first seeing the light on PC. We played the Xbox One version to see what has changed since we first previewed the game, coming from developer Devespresso and publisher Headup Games.
Our earlier report on the game, based on the PC version, already went into detail about the backstory for Vambrace. Its unique setting and visual style haven’t lost any of their appeal since then, even though they’re still reminiscent of Darkest Dungeon. Having now poured many more hours into the game, it’s safe to say that the similarities don’t end there.
Vambrace – Cold Soul isn’t afraid to copy some of the great works that came before it, and its biggest problem is that it can be a little rough around the edges and unpolished as a result. First impressions are great, but it’s the small nuances that start to hit you after a while – more on that later. Vambrace is also more forgiving than Darkest Dungeon is, so in that sense it’s a bit of “Darkest Dungeon Lite” if you’re interested in exploring the genre but find the prospect daunting.
My biggest issue with the game has been that, after a while, repetition rears its head and it doesn’t go away. Once you settle into a rhythm, you’ll notice a lot of the same locations and enemies – but the main problem is that battles start to blend together. There’s permanent death in the game, but the penalties for losing team members aren’t that great so a loss isn’t that impactful – especially because you can always run away during a battle to avoid further losses.
There is also the fact that you’ll get a decent grasp on how to assemble and manage your party after a while, and there don’t appear to be a lot of winning combinations out there – find your magic mix (I won’t spoil anything here) and you’re pretty much good to go for the rest of the game. This makes battles feel predictable, which is of course a shame for a game of this type where they’re such a big part of the experience.
In the end, I decided that what I was missing most was a certain layer of depth to the gameplay. The visual style is great, I love the lore and backstory, but the core gameplay could have been a tad more inspired. Or maybe it’s just games like Darkest Dungeon have spoiled us. As a “lite” alternative, Vambrace works just fine – just don’t go into it thinking it’s going to be “the next Darkest Dungeon”, because it’s not.