We first heard about Bound by Flame at the back end of 2013 when a rather epic story trailer was released by Focus Home Interactive showing off what we considered to be an exciting Spiders Studio project.
Over the months following that, everything we saw coming from Focus and Spiders pointed to a game that was fast paced, graphically immense and above all else, epic. It seemed to have a brilliant story and enough twists to keep us entertained for hours.
So it comes as a bit of a surprise that the game we are reviewing here doesn’t really match these expectations. There’s no doubt it’s fast paced but that’s about all it brings from the criteria above. Why is that? Let me try to explain.
Bound by Flame sees you take on the role of Vulcan, a hero who gets inflicted by a demonic influence and then spends the rest of his time either battling the demon from within or going along with it and selling his soul to hell. The issues however start pretty early on, in fact as early as choosing a name for your character. As previously mentioned, Vulcan is the main protagonist but if you so wish to, you can change his name to whatever you like. Now that’s all well and good and nothing out of the ordinary (in fact it’s something we’ve become accustomed to over years of gaming), but very rarely does the game then completely ignore the new chosen one and continue to refer to him as the default throughout. You meet and greet many a friend or foe in Bound by Flame but not once will you see your character being referred to as anything other than Vulcan. It’s a strange feeling, especially when running through the numerous conversations are subtitle texts which refer to the character with his new ‘improved’ name.
You may call this being picky, but it’s a source of annoyance and when you combine it with the very bland acting, poor lip syncing and general feeling of boredom whenever a conversation tree is embarked upon, you’ll soon realise why.
If however you’re happy to ignore any of the story, acting and general laziness, you’ll find a rather decent little hack and slash action role-player that will keep you on your toes throughout and at times dazzle you with it’s depth, especially on the crafting side of things.
But, and this is a big but, for every minute you’re stuck in a conversation with some monotonous comrade, you’ll also find yourself involved in a full-on battle with numerous enemies and Deadwalkers. The fighting mechanics work in the usual way with basic attacks, power attacks and dodging being at the forefront of any fight. However, if you’re one of those gamers who like to just grab a controller and hack the hell out of whatever is in front of you then I’m afraid you’re going to be very disappointed and will get highly frustrated. Timing and strategy is the key to keeping alive and taking down the monsters who appear in front of you, and without a well balanced game plan, you’ll find yourself repeating the same parts of the story over and over again, especially if you’re playing it on one of the harder levels.
You can of course boost your skills like any decent role player and with three skill trees to bolster your attacks you find your tactics boiling down to whichever of the three play styles you decide to go with at the time, with Ranger, Warrior and Pyromancer all offering distinct styles. The Pyromancer skills come into effect shortly after Vulcan first gets hit by a bit of demon and this brings a lot of pleasure to both the eye and to any battle. With numerous magical attacks all stemming from the demon being, you can quickly ignore the basic fighting and get in on some proper hardcore firestarting. Never is this more true than when fighting some of the bigger beasts that are on offer in Bound by Flame. Outnumbered you may be, but with the help of your demon side, you’ll never feel totally outgunned.
Of course, run through the game like this and you’ll need to keep a hold of many mana potions in order to refill any magical attacks. Thankfully, mana, health, and weapons amongst other things can all be crafted by the junk you find lying around in barrels, treasure chests etc….You can also purchase many an item from traders dotted around the place and once you’ve got enough spare clutter in your inventory then you can really go to work.
Put simply, the crafting is a joy and the one thing that Bound by Flame really has going for it. It’s a break from the disappointing story and intensely hard fist fights and I found myself sitting back having a nice relaxing time in the rich deep crafting menus, seeing what stuff I could come up with to take into my next battle. You can ignore the crafting, but do so at your peril as without it, not only will you be dying an awful lot, but you’ll also be missing out on the games one real treat.
I really wanted to like Bound by Flame but even with three different endings, I can’t see any reason to go back and endure any more of it. In my eyes, there seems to have been a lot of corner cutting and this is no more evident by the inclusion of many invisible walls that stop you dead in your tracks just as you think everything is about to get going. I also experienced a few complete game crashes that could only be fixed by switching the console completely off. By all means take a look if you find it cheap, but it comes to something when you find yourself having more fun sitting in the crafting menu than you do whilst in the heat of battle.
It’s not just the demon in your head that’s confusing things!