We cross the evil ice barriers to reach the city of Dalerach, where the survivors fight against ghosts looking for a way to end the curse. We enter another dark, frozen dungeon, in the analysis of Vambrace: Cold Soul.
There has always been a very close relationship between difficulty and duration, although at first, these two concepts would not have to go hand in hand. Of course, for a more skilled person, a game may last less than for another with more lack of experience, but this difficulty is always understood as the skill at the player’s controls. I explain this, although it sounds basic, because the difficulty of Vambrace: Cold Soul, and if we put some parts of Darkest Dungeon too, does not obey exactly this ability, but rather long and heavy management of your units to get more away in the exploration of the dungeons.
In Darkest Dungeon this concept was well balanced because there were many elements to consider and that was the difference between life and death. At a certain point in the adventure, already advanced, we did have the sensation of “grinder”. Of going again and again for that improvement of units that were doomed to madness. But in Vambrace: Cold Soul, which since its first description takes pride in its inspiration with the game of Red Hook (and also with FTL, although we see less kinship), the struggle to advance is really unbalanced. It’s not that it’s difficult. It’s just long. A procedure very stretched to move forward, starting with the first real mission that the video game offers us. Their systems are created to start with really poor units, impossible to progress, based on deaths and abandonment will be replaced by better ones as we have money and resources to equip them.
The game interface is really confusing
The result of this imbalance in the mechanics is a real shame, because Vambrace is able to emulate the Darkest Dungeon formula with very good quality, and even add elements inherited from the roguelike, as emergent events that happen in half of the exploration that leads us to make a decision.
His style of drawing is also very striking, including a tremendous number of mission partners and a huge variety of NPCs that roam the damn city of Dalearch,including, in addition, a story that although it is nothing special, at least it has an approach that is expanding throughout the chapters for our main protagonist, but which expands with a good number of volumes and, above all, of different and varied conversations with the refugee citizens.
Thus, we follow the story of Lyric, a young woman who arrives in the city with a mysterious gauntlet inherited from her father. In spite of the suspicions of the soldiers of the city, because nobody has been able to avoid the ice barriers that besiege the city, Lyric embarks in the mission to find out the origin of this relic and the curse. She will be the only one capable of breaking the curse thanks to her father’s legacy.
Trial and error approach in combat are equal to Darkest Dungeon, but with much less depth in all the possibilities of the races. Just an attack and a special ability for each fighter, and a camp mechanic and terror that emulates the sight in the Red Hook game with the ability to camp and the torch, but with a certain twist that makes them interesting. For a system that, having such inspiration, should be easy to understand, the fact is that Vambrace makes things more difficult than they should be when explaining really badly in tutorials and interfaces. You will have to keep a sharp eye to understand basic concepts, such as the operation of the force, the geometer, the exploration of the different dungeons and their different exits or the position that your units must occupy to attack. Features that do not end up being as intuitive as I would like.
After many hours, there were things that I still could not understand and many others that I had to assimilate with trial and error. The worst of all, the choice of units. Getting new recruits, both in the city and in the middle of an exploration, is vital to have a good opportunity in the dungeons. However, in Vambrace you can not know what kind of features the unit has until they join the team.I have not found any way to see it in advance, which makes the elections a blind move that sometimes ends with a unit that you did not want for your company. Only when I was sent a full analysis guide a few days later, in which each and every unit of the game is detailed, I was able to understand the benefits of each of them, before selecting it.
With the passage of time, this slow progression is balanced somewhat more in the final stages, thanks also to some secondary missions that serve for and much to improve our units, but I am afraid that many players do not reach this segment of the game when they see confused in their early hours. First measures in which the games become longer and less satisfactory than they should. Engage, because this system has something that calls you to continue entering dark dungeons, discover new treasures and strengthen your units. But the road becomes too tiring, knowing that with a much cleaner, more informative and coherent interface you could enjoy the game more.
The player can feel a rarefied environment around him, that what he is facing is not exactly a challenge. He does not die for his bad decisions, for having tempted fate, for not paying attention or not trusting his instinct and experience. Die or abandon the exploration because the game is intended for you, creating a system of slow and misadjusted progression. And if before we said that the difficulty is related to duration, Vambrace, therefore, is artificially long.
A pity, because as I say, in spite of not being as deep as it could be Darkest Dungeon, there is a good planning in his system of dungeons, which makes us explore again and again, having to balance well our levels of health, vigor, terror and the resources we carry and find along the way. This certain mismatch in the progression and interface, however, is easy to solve with an update, which would make the experience more comfortable and bearable.
Vambrace: Cold Souls is clear about the type of game he wants to be. One challenging and profound. But there are better ways to do it than betting on slow, exasperating management of your units and a confusing interface. Adjusting your values could shine much more, because the background and shape are good and you always need more dungeon crawlers of your draft, where the danger is greater at each step we take.
Good and varied visual design
Interesting combat and exploration
Very unbalanced in the progression of the first dungeons
Confusing interface and omitting information