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Vambrace: Cold Soul

Game review by
Chad Sapieha, Common Sense Media
Vambrace: Cold Soul Game Poster Image
Tough side-scrolling tale has some fantasy violence.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

Strong but simple themes of good and evil permeate the story, along with ideas to do with duty, responsibility, and trust. Subtle commentary on ethnic/cultural discrimination involving fantasy races occasionally surfaces during dialogue.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The main heroine is an undeniable force of good, pursuing a noble mission in the face of opposition and at great risk to herself. The characters she encounters and with whom she allies are sometimes suspicious, self-serving, and drawn to violence, but in the end, they at least fight for the right side.

Ease of Play

This can be a punishingly difficult game, especially early on while still figuring out systems and rules. Party members can die permanently and large chunks of progress are lost when players fail a quest. 

Violence

Turn-based combat sees heroes attacking spectral humanoid enemies using a mix of weapons including knives, bows and arrows, guns, and swords. Successful hits result in flashes of light. A red, blood-like blotch briefly appears whenever the player's characters are struck. Frozen bodies are occasionally encountered in the environment.

Sex

Some female characters wear low cut tops that expose deep cleavage.

Language

Dialogue contains occasional instances of mild profanity, including "damn" and "hell."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Scenes set in a tavern show characters drinking wine and ale. Some non-player characters behave drunkenly.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Vambrace: Cold Soul is a downloadable side-scrolling fantasy role-playing game for Windows PCs. The game puts players in the role of a woman attempting to free a frozen city from the icy grip of a shadowy villain. Players control a party of four characters who engage in turn-based combat against spectral humanoid foes using a range of weapons including bows and arrows, guns, swords, and daggers. Enemy hits are indicated by flashes of light, while player character hits are denoted by a brief red splotch of blood. Frozen dead bodies are occasionally encountered as players explore the deserted city. Text dialogue contains infrequent mild profanity, and some female characters wear revealing tops showing deep cleavage. Parents should also be aware that this is a punishingly challenging game with mission failure resulting in permanent death of party members and lost progress. There are also some scenes that take place in a tavern showing characters drinking, and non-playable characters acting drunk.

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What's it about?

VAMBRACE: COLD SOUL is set in Icenaire, a city under a frozen curse from the Shade King. It's cut off from the rest of the world by walls of ice: its upper levels are frozen and dead, while its lower levels are home to a group of survivors. One day, a woman manages to penetrate the barrier from the outside with the help of a magical bracer. Viewed with caution at first, the residents of Icenaire slowly come to realize that she may represent their only chance. Everything takes place in two-dimensional hand drawn environments. Play switches between exploring the underground parts of the city -- where players can sleep, rest, craft, shop, recruit party members, and advance the story through dialogue -- and the upper sectors, where they explore the frozen city, fend off random attacks from cold, spectral enemies, search for loot, and achieve mission objectives. Combat sees characters taking turns attacking and defending, paying special attention to each party member's range and special abilities. The longer the party spends in the city's frozen upper reaches, the more terrified they become, increasing the likelihood of random encounters and lowering their chance of survival. When any character other than the lead heroine dies, that character remains permanently dead and must eventually be replaced. Should you fail a mission, you'll need to start it over again from scratch.

Is it any good?

There's a lot to like about this role-playing game -- assuming you're not one to shy away from a high level of difficulty. Vambrace: Cold Soul has a rich narrative filled with interesting characters, along with plenty of world lore and backstories waiting to be discovered. Its intricate, hand drawn graphics -- complimented by a dark and dynamic score -- are wonderfully moody, providing a great sense of atmosphere throughout the adventure. And its systems are rules are sophisticated, demanding planning and strategy in order to achieve success. Putting the right character (preferably one with high awareness to identify and avoid traps and strong short range attacks) at the front of your party can make all the difference, as can posting someone with a high overwatch stat to stand guard during camping sessions. Plus, figuring out how to effectively deal with the party's constantly rising terror meter is crucial, as is keeping track of your location so you can efficiently traverse twisty, labyrinthine maps.

Indeed, if you don't take the time to learn how to play properly by reading all of the pop-up tutorials that appear early on -- or are prone to growing frustrated by frequent party member deaths or loss of up to an hour's worth of progress -- it may not be the right kind of game for you. Victories are earned through a mix of practice and tactical thinking. Failure must be viewed as a learning experience that gives you valuable lessons and insight that can be applied to your next try. It's punishing at first, but as you continue to play, your heroine will grow stronger, your instincts will improve, and you'll eventually begin finishing some missions without a single death. This intense difficulty won't be for everyone, but those who appreciate a compelling plot and lush hand drawn graphics coupled with a good challenge are bound to get plenty out of Vambrace: Cold Soul.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about screen time. Missions can last a long time in Vambrace: Cold Soul, and save points are sometimes far between, so how do you manage your play time to ensure your sessions don't last too long?  

  • What does duty mean to you? How does one acquire duties, and at what point do these duties fall away?

Game details

Themes & Topics

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