The Vambrace of Destiny - appeal for complaints

A sincere appeal from the author: if you played Vambrace, I would love to hear one or two things you did not like about it. Maybe an irritating monster, or mechanic, or general characteristic.

Feel free to let the game have it right here, or if you prefer, PM me or email (a_dibianca at yahoo).

We all love to be nice, but I really hope you will be critical. It doesn’t have to be constructive. No justification is required. Trust me, I can take it. This information is quite valuable.


I found the game absolutely flawless during the judging period, but having come back to it and played a little more I got a little confused about the room with the kobold. It’s quite significant exactly which of the two structures various things are in (or might enter), but they’re merely referred to as “the first structure” and “the second structure”. I would have liked to see some description that made it more obvious at a glance which is which. I don’t think that would have made the puzzle any easier, but I feel as though it would have avoided an “Oh. I just misunderstood the layout of that room” moment when I finally turned to the hints. (I’d still give it a 10 even with that little issue, though.)


With the proviso that this is unfair criticism, I thought the curb appeal of your game was abysmal.

I played it because it was the next on randomizer. If I were passing this on IFDB, I don’t know if I would have given it a play. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad I did, but the blurb is inadequate for the effort clearly put into the game and the cover, while fine from an aesthetic point of view, tells me absolutely nothing more about the game than the title. The two together do your game a disservice.


I agree with @pinkunz here. Art, your games deserve good cover art and zippier blurbs. It’s like putting a diamond in a crinkled paper bag.

Edit: But I loved everything about the game itself.


I’ve still been hoping to finish it after catching up on some things, so maybe I’ll get back to you!


Hmm. I hit a few snags in an generally seamless experience. Like Damon, I had some trouble with the “structure” kobold room–I didn’t take great notes, but I think I was getting confused by the descriptions / trying to enter one structure and thinking I had, but in fact being in the other structure. Also I got stuck on the beeping robot, and then not helped by the hints because I was just looking at the hints for that puzzle, which mentioned getting a skill upgrade, but I had only discovered one skill upgrade room at that point so I didn’t realize the hint was talking about a different skill upgrade.

And as I mentioned in my review, I found myself really wanting the ability to do a SLIGHT bit more plot / character work, like offer my Krotonian operator a tip in the form of treasure at the end, have a dialogue with the rogue librarian, etc.

Thanks for writing the game!


I’m kind of surprised that the vambrace wasn’t used as a key image in the cover art, since it appears to be a big mechanic / special shiny in the game? (I haven’t played it.) I had to google what a vambrace was, and personally, I would have done something along the lines of this like, ~five minute-ish mockup (excuse the messiness, I doodled this with my mouse):

With the gems being whatever colour they were in game / a colour commonly associated with the kind of magic (elemental? necromantic?) and little glowy effects with swirls or sparkles to set the whole fantasy tone, colour scheme depending on the mood of the piece (a dungeon crawler sounds like it might be a bit more grim than roaming around fairytales helping little lost pixies and that sort of thing, so maybe more leaning in on the leather and dark grubby metal rather than mystically peppy elves, or whatever.)


If I had one complaint: the hint system. I got stuck with the machines on Level 2 and did not understand how to solve those puzzles at all, even after decrypting the coded hints.


It would be unreasonable of me to complain about your game without first sharing the things that I liked about it, and comparing to other games. Your choice to remove the return key was inspired. I liked that by the end of the game there were a large number of spells, compared with (for example) Inside the facility (2016). “Inside the Facility” did an amazing job of proving that challenging puzzles can be constructed from minimalist commands, but there is something very motivating about getting new commands along the way, and the multitude of commands by the end gave me (as player) greater sense of opportunity and freedom.

I liked the end game of Vambrace; I got to put to use a lot of the game-mechanical skills I had learned along the way, which is a good feature in any end-game. I managed to solve that part of the game without the hints (though I admit I used them in some of the other rooms of the lowest level.)

I wish there had been a “save” and “restore” feature. There is probably no way to put the game in an unwinnable state, but it is long enough that I needed to play it in chunks, and playing through the web browser made that difficult. My apologies if there is already a save feature and I didn’t find it. But that was my chief complaint.

Puzzles I had trouble solving were that lazer eye monster thing in the middle of the second level, the fire and ghosts room, the bee house, and finding some of the rooms in the third level. (not sure why I had trouble understanding the exits on that level. Sorry I can’t give you more info.)

My favorite game from your collection was “The Wand”. I played it when it was first released, only to the half way point (the beginners ending), never realizing I had missed part of the game. Years later I went back to it (don’t remember why exactly) and discovered the second half (the best half). “The Wand” shared the feature I mentioned at top of having lots of spells, and learning new ones along the way, and eventually discovering the secrets of the wand itself, which was a neat meta puzzle.


I really liked this game. I think it was my highest rated game for the competition. My only complaint, which feels kind of selfish, is that the past few games felt like they pushed forward with new ideas - maps, items and abilities - while this one didn’t really do that. But I can’t really complain since I like what it does. One idea (maybe easy, maybe hard) would be to combine and intertwine the puzzles with a more prominent story and more 3 dimensional characters.


My biggest complaint is that some spells are unpredictable in their effects, so you have to spam them everywhere to see what happens. For example, I got stuck on one puzzle because I’d forgotten to T in one room; the intent seems to be that you use it in every single location. A is less tedious but I also found it disappointing that I had to just use it in every room with a glyph to see what would happen—I press A because if there’s a glyph then it must have a game purpose, rather than because I have any idea how activating this particular glyph would be useful to me.

Also, I feel like a game with such straightforward mechanics has a lot of potential for fun worldbuilding, so I found it a little bit disappointing that it’s such a played-straight fantasy setting. But then again, this isn’t a game you play for the story, it’s a game you play for the mechanics, so a standard setting that doesn’t get in the way of anything might be perfect.


There is! The first bit of the help text notes that if you type a tilde, that allows to input standard system commands like save and load.


I included a link to this in my review, but in any event, here’s my transcript of the game: vambrace.txt - Google Drive

I put in a lot of comments as I went through, so hopefully it should serve as a running commentary on where I got confused.


I don’t know if you’ve had a consistent running gag in any of your comp entries. I think you’ve had callbacks, but it would be cool if you could put one in. I mean, not for its own sake. But something has to fit.

Also, maybe give more names to the NPCs.


Have you gotten anything worthwhile from this effort? Or have the benefits not outweighed any black eyes?

ETA: Asking for my own benefit, to be clear. Trying to decide if such an approach might be worth imitating.


I had a Vambrace saved game during the Comp (played online)… is that saved game toast now that the games aren’t on the IFComp website any more? (I clicked Play Online from the IFDB page and it said I had no saves available)


Unfortunately, probably so. Browsers put restrictions on which pages can access each other’s data, to avoid websites stealing your private information from each other. But a side effect is that IFDB and the IFComp site can’t see each other’s saves.


Oh, here’s one more complaint that came to me while thinking about other things.

It’s hard to know when INVESTIGRAB will provide vital clues, so I ended up trying it in basically every room—N I E I S I E I and so on. But if the game wants me to just use it everywhere, why doesn’t it make it automatic for me? After all, this game goes so far as to say “you’re always going to want to press enter after typing a command, so let’s just automate that away for you”. An I after every movement is just as unnecessary.

But making it automatic would also lose something. So I think having more indication of where exactly INVESTIGRAB works would help—something to make me think “oh, I should INVESTIGRAB here” instead of thinking “I need to spam this everywhere”.

(Or maybe there is this indication and I just missed it. That’s also entirely possible.)


Seconding “better blurbs, please!” I played this because I know I like your games: if all I had to go on was the blurb, I probably wouldn’t have.

I did notice (as @gfaregan said) that there weren’t new things here, but I guess for me the new thing was putting together all the different things that you’ve been experimenting with in your past games and that synthesis seemed like a worthwhile experiment. So I minded that less.

I think my biggest complaint was that there was often no real way to tell which command to use, so puzzle solving often devolved into just trying everything.

For instance, it was often clear when you needed to use investigrab, but not always. Some things that you’d think needed investigating actually got no response so I wrote them off as just scenery and forgot where they were… and then regretted that when I got the Tag command and they did turn out to be significant. Some places just aren’t significant at all, I think? The Kitchen, the Meeting Hall, the Storeroom on the first floor? But the Kitchen has a “heavy wooden block,” is that significant?

Similarly, say, the hobgoblin. Is he vulnerable to Quakes when he’s standing on one leg? Does taking off his helm render him vulnerable to Radiance or Keening? Can I Tag something in the room to distract him? Guess I’ll just have to try them all.

I think The Wand is still my favorite of your games. There I felt clever for figuring out which thing to use. And you had to do it: there were too many possibilities for lawnmowering to be viable. Here I had some good moments, but (partly with the lack of examine object to double-check for clues about what to do?) I mostly just felt like I exhausted the possibilities.

Edit: hmm, I also think it didn’t help that Investigrab’s descriptions were inconsistently helpful: sometimes it’d be a description of the thing you needed to deal with, even a pretty broad hint like “You notice that the goblin has extremely large ears.” But a lot of other times it’d just uselessly tell you the thing that you already knew: “you can’t get the <thing> while <enemy> is in the way.”

The wolf was clever (“oh yeah, that’s a command too; we haven’t had many puzzles that used that one yet.”). The little animated diorama/train set for the dragon treasure puzzle was one of my favorites. It felt like a bunch of moving parts but it was actually pretty easy to figure out. And it had a lot of character. Though maybe I’m just a sucker for train sets and historical tin wind-up toys and things. I had fun figuring out the Bell Room too.

I really really struggled with the artifact: I had to look up the walkthrough there. It shines a light on you, so maybe Radiance would respond to that? It beeps at you, so maybe Keen (or the supercharged Keen) would respond to that? I hadn’t gone back to the previous floor with Magnet to get the key yet, so I didn’t know that you could upgrade Operate.

I feel like Metroidvanias or Zelda-ish games tend to work the best when it’s obvious that there’s an obstacle you can’t get past (and that you will probably be able to get past in the future): “I can uproot bushes but not this rock that is obviously blocking my way, and definitely not that huge rock; bet I’ll get a new ability later.” Here the regular puzzles were illegible enough that it was often very difficult to tell the difference between “you just need to figure out the right order and timing of the spells you already have” and “you need to go away and come back when you have a new ability.”


Thanks, Daniel… a shame though!