Originally released for PC earlier this year, Vambrace: Cold Soul has brought its narrative-driven gameplay to consoles. The game - inspired by the likes of Castlevania, The Elder Scrolls, and FTL: Faster Than Light - is visually stunning on the Switch and with a story that could be interesting, but ultimately fails to garner enough intrigue to actually care about making your way through its uninspired dungeons.
Read My (Frozen) Lips
Vambrace: Cold Soul takes place in the frozen tundra of Icenaire, which was placed under a curse by The King of Shades, allowing formerly deceased citizens to return to the world of the living as mad Wraiths. As the army of the undead forms above ground, the living take refuge in the underground city known as Dalearch. One day, a girl named Evelia Lyric is brought into the city having survived The King of Shades’ cold thanks to the magical vambrace worn on her arm. Players take on the role of Lyric, who, although in search of answers related to her father’s death, winds up leading the charge against the evil king.
Immediately upon starting a new game, players are inundated with mounds of text to read concerning control and gameplay mechanics, as well as dialogue between characters to help set up the story. All of the reading during the tutorial is a lot to take in, and honestly, it was all relatively forgettable until I had a chance to explore the mechanics on my own (which still ended up being pretty cumbersome on the Switch).
Vambrace: Cold Soul’s overall gameplay leaves quite a bit to be desired. The nature of the game resembles that of a game of Dungeons & Dragons with its party building, stat and skill considerations, and overall luck of achieving outcomes. Unfortunately, the dungeons themselves are quite underwhelming with no real sense of satisfaction upon coming away victorious from any of the various battles (if you are able to come away victorious at all, that is).
The game also features a JPRG element while exploring the city of Dalearch, which is charming for what it is, but feels a little out of place with the rest of the game’s visuals.
"Animated Visual Novel" And Chill?
The overall story and interactions with other characters, on the other hand, are well-done, albeit not too terribly original. For instance, Lyric encounters erotic fox-humanoid characters, along with the majority of the female characters brandishing very… distracting… physical features. However, if this were a game with a more immersive open-world, rather than being a side-scrolling roguelite-esque dungeon crawler, the story would have probably been far more interesting. In fact, thanks to the stunning art design, Vambrace: Cold Soul would probably be a bigger success if it were simply an animated visual novel.
If there’s one reason to play Vambrace: Cold Soul, it would definitely be for the game’s visuals. The art style is, in a word, gorgeous. The visuals translate surprisingly well onto the Switch, featuring a grand sweeping musical score that adds to the whimsey of an otherwise bleak, icy setting.
There is definitely an audience out there for Vambrace: Cold Soul. It doesn’t quite hit the same spot as games like Darkest Dungeon, but if you like turn-based side-scrolling dungeon RPGs, you may be able to find something to like about the game. As a self-described “narrative-driven game,” Vambrace: Cold Soul succeeds with its lore and visuals. That’s just not enough to keep a fire lit for the rest of the game’s shortcomings.
2.5 Out Of 5 Stars
A Switch review copy of Vambrace: Cold Soul was provided to TheGamer for this review. Vambrace: Cold Soul is available on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.