This article has been archived and may have some errors due to a previous design of MGL. None of the review has been altered however. Bound by Flame releases today and, for the most part you are going to be happy if you get it but you might not be as happy if you are expecting an all-out RPG experience here. In fact, as an Action-RPG it’s certainly more action based than anything else, not that this is a bad thing but do not go out expecting a game to the Role Playing levels of Dragon Age or The Witcher, we are more in Darksiders or at a push Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning territory here.
These of course are good games and so is Bound by Flame overall, there are lots of things to do and some very entertaining action sequences and big boss fights. Despite what I said, there are a number of RPG elements that really make the game richer than the standard Hack ‘N Slash action game and conversations with party members make for some of the best moments in the game. The combat is also more thoughtful & strategic than simply whacking Square/X until an enemy is dead, especially on top difficulty.
There are one or two bugs here & there and the game overall has some rough edges that stop it being great such as occasional camera issues in-combat and, most likely patchable, game crashes did spoil my experience a little but this does not stop the game being an enjoyable adventure.
Look & Feel
Look and Feel
The PlayStation 4 version of this game looks good, it’s not to the levels of Infamous: Second Son but it’s got some good touches especially on Vulcan, the lead character, and your companions. Given that this new generation is all in the detail, it would have been better to have a little more facial expression technology being used and some more striking scenes in the world would have given more impact. But overall the game looks very nicely designed, especially the look of the main character as you turn more and more demonic and the unique enemies, particularly bosses.
Unfortunately, because of the design of the game where you only ever see a few areas of Vertiel, you never really get to see or feel what this world of Vertiel is really like, the locations you visit are nicely designed and atmospheric but you unfortunately never feel part of something larger. You are simply where you are and have an objective to complete your main & side missions and never see the lands of this world.
The demonic transformation of Vulcan, should you choose to let the Fire Demon loose is very nicely done and not only effects your appearance but your voice and abilities too which adds to the effect nicely. Moving around the areas gives you a decent about of freedom to go and explore, you have a base camp and then a surrounding area be that a swamp, mountain or the lair of the Ice Lords you have plenty of space to go off and fight enemies, collect items and compete side quests. However you don’t have the expected freedom you would have in a true RPG, you are reminded to get on with the plot by NPCs or, most annoyingly, you are blocked from exploring after completing certain tasks and forced return to base camp for a cut scene.
Generally it looks good and feels like you are part of an interesting group of people out to do your part to battle the Deadwalkers but you never quite feel part of a bigger world and its inhabitants.
Story & Characters
You start the game as a powder master for a group of mercenary’s, the Freeborn Blades who are helping the Red Scholars perform some kind of ritual to stop the Deadwalker army (basically zombie soldiers) and their leaders the Ice Lords. The Deadwalkers attack which gets your combat skills going before the ritual goes slightly wrong and you get possessed by a Fire Demon.
Now while this Demon is inside Vulcan, he is still in control and it is up to you to decide if you let it loose or retain your human side as you progress. There are positives and negatives to each so this certainly adds at least one replay onto the game.
While the story overall is not overly complicated, the possession aspect is really what keeps your attention and it’s goal to get to the World Heart, the mythical source of power drawing both you and the Ice Lords together. There is a lot of questions as to what this creature possessing you is exactly and what it wants with you. There in gives you a choice of how to proceed: follow it’s guidance and let it become part of you or resist and remain your human side.
There are a few different endings to the game, should you go the demonic route you get two choices of how your tale ends and then if you are human you get two other choices on exactly what you will do to preserve humanity. Thankfully you can save between choices per character type to see what happens but you would need a second play through to see what happens if you pick the opposing stance with your demon.
One of the aspects that really shines is the conversations between characters, why this works is because no one seems to take what’s going on overly seriously. Vulcan is very blunt and says what he feels, regardless of picking the positive or negative reply he often gives very rude and sarcastic replies. Everyone swears at each other and there are lots sections where the banter flows to the point you may find yourself laughing. Like the overall game however, some conversation is a little rough around the edges here and there, but the dialogue is written in a unique and interesting way so you won’t mind that much.
If you aren’t into some rude words and some overly silly comments and prefer a more serious affair then this may well not work for you but I enjoyed it.
This is where the game is at its best; exploring areas and combat. There is a pattern you will notice as you progress through the game: a linear action area to get to point A to point B with optional exploration areas; beat something big and nasty in your way; get to your base camp in the area. Here it turns more RPG like and you are free to explore both the surroundings and conversations/requests from your party until you are ready for the next action area.
It actually works nicely, given the game is not overly long it doesn’t really have the time to go stale had the clock hit the 40hr+ mark. You are looking at around 18- 20hrs here depending on difficulty and the side quests you get involved with and of course your skill as the enemies will kill you many, many times if you do not think about your approach.
Combat involves either focused or area attacks mixed with fire abilities and fighting style selected. You can work on all three styles if you like, I preferred the Ranger which is more stealthy and quick whereas the Warrior can smash some serious lumps of people but takes more hits in return. The Pyromancer is your fire magic and can really be a big bonus in battle with area flame attacks and fire balls to spread out across the battlefield.
There is a need for all of them for different enemies however it is better experience wise to pick two at the most to really focus on them so you don’t end up spread too thin. I found this worked very nicely in the context of the game and was just deep enough for the size of the game.
While the game is action heavy, the RPG elements are well done while they are available. In the camps you can talk to your party and other NPCs to get information or complete tasks which range from clearing an area of Deadwalkers to collecting special ingredients and even a funny conversation with a 6000 year old about past sexual experiences… all I know is an Elephant was involved and I felt a bit sick!
The crafting and modification system could have been richer, I tried my best to work with it but there weren’t any interesting potions you could make or weapons you could turn into game changers. You can of course modify weapons and make them give out more damage or interrupt enemies as they prepare to strike, this comes in very handy of course. But given the game promised infinite combinations it is a slight disappointment and it’s not quite what I was expecting.
This does not make the gameplay any less enjoyable however, getting around the areas and getting into fights with the enemies is good fun and the boss fights are also good with some interesting looking creatures that are very well designed. You will find that it can actually be more difficult to beat a group of 3-4 standard Deadwalkers than the boss given that is usually two on one. But the game does mix this up having other enemies support the boss or possessed friends can turn on you and make the numbers very much flip into their favour and not yours.
Both enemy and companion AI is not always the best, if you give orders to companions it makes a big difference in keeping them alive but generally the fight is up to you to finish off. Occasionally you’ll have a creature or Deadwalker turn and run off randomly giving you the chance to stab them in the back but they are so tough to beat you actually don’t mind since this game is difficult and you will die… lots. Not a Dead Souls level of hard but certainly one for people who like a challenge, you have to concentrate since taking the smash the button approach will see you dead very quickly regardless of the difficulty you choose.
If you are like me and always a bit disappointed the final boss is too easy, you are in for some satisfaction. It took me some time to beat this one, his super-fast dagger combo will drain your full life to almost nothing in a second if you don’t get out of the way. I took about 20 tries to get him down on top difficulty and you will need health potions… many, many health potions! You have been warned.
While the game itself is around 18-20 hours long, if you get involved with the side missions and explore the world, you are not doing too badly value for money wise. Where the value is added is the very different outcomes if you go human or demon as you play. You would also have to play as a female character to get all the trophies/achievements here so it’s at least worth playing through 2 if not 3 times. However, being billed as an RPG you would say compared to those types of games it’s not overly deep, focusing on the main story would see the game completed in around 12 hours which is not long at all for a game promoted as a role play experience.
Difficulty should also be something to consider here however, I went right in on top difficulty and found the very early stages tough until I learned the ways to… put simply: stop dying! Saying that, having lowered the difficulty once I finished it once I didn’t really feel like was super easy, even on the lowest setting you still have to dodge, counter and think about the enemy you are facing.
Certainly a game for people who want a challenge, not for those wanting a Elder Scrolls level of story length and rich side quests.
It’s good, enjoyable game and has some stand out moments in combat and banter between your companions that will make you laugh. There will be times you are playing any you’ll be thinking, this is a very good game, I’m really enjoying this then a moment later something will go a bit buggy in a conversation or in the world and it’ll make your eyes roll.
But whenever I think of the bugs in the game, none are particularly bad and certainly nothing a patch or two would not sort out. With this being Spiders Studio first attempt at a game of this type and given the amount of bugs in massive releases from big studios that get exceptional reviews, I’m not going to hold it against them too much.
The reason being you can’t help but enjoy playing this fun Action-RPG and some of the dialogue is very well done and something they should build on. While the game is rough around the edges, as a beginning of something new to the market and to them, they have done well. Even if there were some things they could have done slightly better, you should certainly give Bound by Flame your time and Spiders should look into the next instalment in what could be a very entertaining series of games and try to expand it into a more expansive world.
We hope you enjoyed the review, keep on My Games Lounge this weekend for some tips playing the game on Captain, the top difficulty and how to defeat the really hard-as-nails boss at the end!