Bound By Flame Review
Iâve been checking Bound by Flame out ever since the first gameplay trailer emerged. Funny thing with RPGs such as this is that their trailers always show them at their best, with attacks connecting perfectly and a minimal amount of glitches. This has been true for as long as I can remember, with both The Witcher and Dragon Age: Origins falling into the same trap. Whatâs important to note is that these games are perfectly capable of making you overlook the texture cracks, bugs and wonky animations. How do they do that? With great gameplay, great characters and great storylines, of course. While Bound by Flame might not reach the heights of the titans of the genre, itâs a delightfully good RPG that will give you a substantial amount of content for you to sink your teeth in.
As for my initial reactions, I was pretty much amazed with the atmosphere the developers have created. The main menu might be visually bland, but its soundtrack more than makes up for it. This astounding song threw me right back into the past. More specifically, to the moment I first heard Inon Zur (DA: O theme). Itâs both depressing and hopeful at the same time, which perfectly sets the tone for the rest of the game, but weâll get to that a bit later.
The first chapter has Vulcan, the protagonist, setting up defences against the Deadarmy around the perimeter of some old ruins imbued with magic. This is what completed my impression of this being a very enticing game. The landscape is dreary but inviting, the monologues and dialogues are both fairly interesting and the set up seems great. It makes you want to discover, just as it should. Even better, the enemies are perfectly scaled and provide a good challenge without feeling as âtankyâ, as they do in the later chapters. It only saddened me that after this pretty brilliant introductory episode, the game seemingly starts favouring the enemies over Vulcan. My biggest gripe with Bound by Flame is that itâs just too hard. And not in a good, Dark Souls kinda way. At its worst, the combat system will force you to cowardly flee (I mean, tactically retreat) from enemies to heal up. This sucks because the idiots will simply get back to where they were previously standing, without trying to hunt Vulcan down. Immersion killing moments, I tell ya. I started playing on hard difficulty, since Iâve got a fair amount of experience with similar games, but had to drop the slider down to the lowest tier during the second chapter.
The combat itself isnât the problem, though. Itâs the amount of health the enemies have. Nearly every monster youâll encounter will survive three times as many hits as their equivalents do in other RPGs. Setting that aside, the fighting is direct and visceral. There are options to block, evade, groin kickâ¦ whatever your heart might desire. Of course, there could have been an additional layer of polish added, but the system is good as it is. Stealth, sadly, is but an afterthought. A mere prelude to the âbig boyâ combat.
Anyway, if you can get over the difficulty issue, youâre in for quite a package. While the character creation is nothing to write home about, the ability to customize virtually every piece of usable equipment certainly is. And I mean everything â primary weapons, crossbows, armourâ¦ whatever Vulcan finds on his travels. As for the travels themselves, the first playthrough lasted 18 hours for me. I took some time and explored a bit, but everybody does that. Itâs not hard to crank out some more playtime due to interesting side quests, though. Also, taking the dialogue options and similar choices into account, thereâs a good chance most players are going to come back for more after the first playthrough. Itâs my firm opinion that, with some more meat added to its bones, Bound by Flame could have been a much bigger and more intricate experience. However, this way, thereâs virtually no chance youâll ever be bored by the jungles, cities or icy landscapes the game leads you through.
The environments are varied and plentiful, and provide a good playground for Vulcanâs death-defying area sweeps. On these sweeps, our protagonist can be accompanied with one of the five companions he will encounter throughout the game. Most of them have interesting backstories and some tit-bits that make them different from the genre mainstays. The rest of the NPCs can be interesting at times, but nothing extraordinary. Donât expect no Geralt-level characters here. Vulcanâs struggle with the demon he gets posessed by is mostly well depicted, but falls flat at some key points. His initial transformation, for example, doesnât seem to worry him one bit. At least the other NPCs react to his deteriorating visage. Aside from that, itâs both fascinating and scary to see this demonic entity shape Vulcan into his avatar. It takes some serious willpower to fight it back, too. After all, what better (and more poetic) way to defeat the Ice Lords than by being a goddamn walking inferno? It also ties in pretty well with the way hope and despair are weirdly entwined in this fantasy world. Bound by Flameâs Vertiel isnât dissimilar to what the Middle Earth would look like had Sauron succeeded in his tries to recapture The One Ring.
While pretty, the graphics are nothing special, since the focus is on the atmosphere rather than mere eye-candy. Animations are mostly fine, but some seem to spaz out at times. Nothing to worry about, since these occurrences are fairly rare and wonât get in the way of gameplay. What might kill the engrossment, however, is the lip syncing. Itâs really bad. So bad that Iâm not even going to mention it anymore.
To sum it all up, now. What weâve got here is definitely a great improvement over the mess that was Mars: War Logs, which kinda makes me excited about the developerâs next project. Bound by Flame is cool, fascinating and fun, even though it has a number of quirks for you to work through. If youâre waiting for The Wild Hunt or Inquisition, this little fire imp is going to keep you warm. A hearty recommendation to every RPG fan.