GAME NAME: Bound by Flame
PUBLISHER(S): Focus Home Interactive
PLATFORM(S): PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360
GENRE(S): Action, RPG, Adventure
RELEASE DATE(S): May 9th, 2014
Bound By Flame is developer Spiders’ first foray into the world of the PS4. Coming from a wealth of RPG gameplay experience, playing Bound by Flame felt like somewhat of a chore for me, but I’ll get into that a little bit further down the line. Bound by Flame sees the player take on the role of Vulcan, a brutish male (or female) character that you create at the start of the game. Character customization is obviously not Spiders’ strong suite. There are only a few limited options regarding facial features, hair styles and skin tone with which to customise your character. After games like Skyrim or even Oblivion and older, it’s pretty inexcusable that there’s so little character customization allowed in Bound by Flame. Moreover, while it takes away from the game it also speaks of cutting corners. That’s never a good thing.
The story of Bound by Flame revolves around the world of Vertiel being overrun by powerful Ice Lords and their accompanying undead armies, the Deadwalkers. Naturally, fighting against the living dead shouldn’t be an easy task. In Bound by Flame, however, that task is made monumentally more challenging in the early stages of the game. If you’re not prepared to die, and I’m talking A LOT, then I’d suggest staying away from this game. Players are given the choice of developing their character via 3 pathways: the Warrior, Ranger or Pyro. Warriors focus on dealing damage with heavy weapons such as longswords, hammers and axes. Rangers utilize daggers and gain the ability to dodge attacks. Pyros, of course, use fiery flame magic to deal damage. Players can opt to level up any of the 3 particular skill trees but will be forced to invest in a combination of the two. This is due to the fact that there just isn’t enough game time to max out all 3 trees and it becomes pretty evident early on that opting for jack of all trades master of none build won’t cut it.
Beyond this, the player will also have access to a fairly limited crafting system where weapons and armour can be modified to provides buffs such as +15% more flame damage or +5% to physical defence etc. In addition to this, players can craft explosive traps (proximity mines) that they can use to their advantage in battle. A crossbow is also included in your set of weapons and can be pretty useful when upgraded to inflict poison damage.
With the basics set aside then, what exactly is the premise behind Bound by Flame? Vulcan, the player’s character, is a member of the Freeborn Blades, a Mercenary group of sorts that were hired by a group of magicians called the Red Scribes. Very early in the game, the Red Scribes are attacked at a temple while under the guard of the Freeborn Blades and an influx of demonic energy is transferred to Vulcan. This influx of energy manifests itself as a split personality in Vulcan; it’s a demonic possession of sorts. This entity, subsequently, goes on to serve as the game’s main plot driver.
In terms of gameplay, the demonic entity can grant you power, should you choose to follow his instructions, at the cost of your humanity. While this sounds like a moral dilemma, there really isn’t much choice to disobey the demon and you’ll find yourself having an easier time if you just follow his method of doing things. In addition to the demonic entity inside him, Vulcan can be partied up with specific characters. These characters, or companions, add to the story by each having their own history and reason for joining the cause. However, despite having an array of characters to talk and interact with, very little is explained with regards to the back story of why the Ice Lords want to destroy all of Vertiel. Going through every possible conversation tree, not much was explained and some character interactions just left me asking even more questions with no real answers presenting themselves. In addition to this, the ability to romance one of your companions by developing your relationship with them felt unnecessary and the potential it carried was wasted.
Bound by Flame attempts to create a dark fantasy world where all hope is lost, a dystopian fantasy if you will, but characters insist on doing mundane and menial tasks first and foremost, instead of focusing on the larger issue at hand. Throw in the profanity and the plain old abrasive vulgarity of your main character and you’re in for quite the narrative letdown, at least in this regard. The voice acting and writing is not terrible, but there are moments where things just don’t add up. For example, one particular chat option will have you speaking in a calm tone of voice and then suddenly in the next part of the conversation, profanity is being flung around and your character is all riled up. Furthermore, certain events in the story happen regardless of the choices you’ve made and you’re just left confused as to why something happened or why you’ve been forced to make a particular decision.
I’m also sad to report that this same inconsistency carries on into the combat as well. Enemy creatures that were once boss encounters soon become minions in the later levels and every fight turns into a war of attrition as you dodge, attack, retreat and rinse and repeat. In fact, a lot of the game’s difficulty stems from the player being ridiculously underpowered while enemies are indiscriminate tanks and do large chunks of damage in an almost unfair manner. By the time I actually started to enjoy the combat, I was literally level 25 and the end of the game was in sight.
Graphically, Bound by Flame has its moments where it looks visually stunning. Making use of the Silk engine, the game has a distinct look and feel though not quite delivering on so called “next generation” graphical standards established by some other games that have been released recently. The best part about this game for me was honestly the OST. The soundtrack to Bound by Flame was beautiful and if only the rest of the game could compare to this, it would have been a whole lot more enjoyable.
Overall, Bound by Flame is a game that just leaves the player asking themselves “Why ?” more often than it should have. It’s by no means an absolutely terrible game, but numerous design flaws and glaring mistakes on behalf of the developer will leave a bad taste in your mouth. As it stands right now, Bound by Flame is bargain bin material.