Review – Bound By Flame

By: Louis Edwards

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Bound by Flame has now been unleashed upon the masses but we’ve been strutting around the world of Vertiel for days. Does it fill the RPG gaming void on the PS4, or should you let this one die in flames?

Read our review to find out.

Developed by Spiders Studio for PC, PS3, PS4 and Xbox 360, Bound by Flame is a heroic fantasy, action RPG that has you playing as a mercenary tasked with defeating an invading force of strange and powerful creatures.

The game opens by giving you the ability to create your main character, with both male and female options. Character creation isn’t all that robust, and the name you give your hero ends up being basically irrelevant since everyone calls you Vulcan in-game regardless of your choice. The name you give your hero is used in subtitles so there’s that at least.

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You are a mercenary in the ranks of the Pure-Blades. Strict, discreet and highly professional, the Pure-Blades are known for having in their ranks some of the most formidable and efficient fighters in Vertiel. In over ten years of existence, they have never been defeated. Your world is being invaded by the Deadarmy and your band of warriors have been hired by the group of mages known as the Red Scholars to protect them while they conjur up a plan to defeat the leaders of the Deadarmy, known as the Ice Lords, once and for all.

The Red Scholars’ plan was to summon a demon and use that demon’s powers to free the world of the Deadarmy and eliminate the Ice Lords. Something goes wrong with their ceremony, and as your hero looks on, he/she is somehow drawn into it and a dark passenger climbs on board and possesses your body. From here on out you’ll have to decide to either use the power of the demon in battle or face your enemies with only your mortal strength. Your decisions not only affect your personal appearance, but affect the overall storyline as well.

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Choosing to go down the demonic path tends to make the game a little easier since you have all of these awesome powers at your disposal. Just keep in mind that the more you use the Demon, the more you lose yourself. It’s an interesting twist that will have us playing the game through more than once just to see how everything changes from one style to the next.

Along with choosing to use your inner demon or not, you also have three basic areas of skill-sets you can upgrade. The Warrior area is for enhancing your abilities with long swords and heavy two handed weapons like a Morning Star or a heavy hammer. Our favorite weapon so far is the sword known as the Dragon Tear, but more on weapons in a moment.

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It’s been the Warrior route for us

The second skill-set you can upgrade is the Ranger area. The Ranger fighting style utilizes daggers and can even employ stealth, allowing you to sneak up on an enemy and dispatch them with a quick slice and dice. With skills such as invisibility and surprise, this area is designed for those that don’t want to attack head on, but would rather use stealth and timing to dispatch their foes.

The final skill-set only becomes available once your dark passenger climbs aboard. These skills are for improving the powers of the Demon and, when used , will alter the look of your hero. Eyes will glow, horns will grow, and helmets will become useless. Your demonic powers can light your blades on fire, increasing their damage, as well as shoot out waves of fire or a more directional blast of an orb of fire. If you find yourself surrounded and in a tough spot, there’s the Guardian Flames that will encompass you with fire and ward off quite a bit of damage, allowing you to back off and step out of harms way, or allowing you to dispatch your surrounding foes a little easier.

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For every foe you dispatch, they’re kind enough to drop items for you to gather. These items range from blood to gold, and may include weapons and items for crafting and enhancing your weapons. This is where the game really takes the RPG title seriously. Weapons can be purchased or found lying around, and can then be modified to increase their efficiency. Swords can have both their guard and their pommel modified to increase their damage, your overall health, or even the ability to interrupt the attack of a foe.

The developer came up with a wide variety of names and designs for the weapons of the game and that Dragons Tear is one of the most fearsome looking swords we have seen in a game in a while. Add a couple of mods to it and it leaves a path of destruction in its wake any warrior would be proud of. There are also a wide variety of light weapons and daggers for those of you wanting to go the Ranger route, and even a couple of cross-bows when you need to shoot at something from afar. Using mods to craft a better weapon is definitely worth your time, so be sure to do what you can.

For when it absolutely, positively, needs to be dispatched quickly

For when it absolutely, positively, needs to be dispatched quickly.

It’s always great to have these awesome weapons at your disposal, but it’s the actual battles that determine if the game is fun or tedious. We found it could be a little of both. As you roam around the open world of each chapter, you’ll come across members of the Deadwalker army and can choose to either fight them, or run like hell. We generally chose to fight them since they always seemed to have something useful on their corpse once we finished them off, but occasionally we wanted to just get on with the story so we ran on by.

Traveling by yourself is okay for some folks, but having a partner to help you out can be a good thing, as long as they are actually useful in battle. You’ll have the option to add one companion to your party and there are several to choose from, each with their own pros and cons. You can discuss with them what you think they need to do with their battle styles, asking them to be more offensive or defensive, and you can give them orders that they will follow once a battle commences. Our personal favorite is Sybil as she can stand off in the distance and heal you as you fight, just make sure no enemies zero in on her as she will fall pretty easily. If she does fall, don’t sweat it too much as she’ll regain consciousness once the foes are dispatched.

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While in the heat of battle, you’ll have an item wheel menu to assist you with quick actions that can be mapped to your liking. Once you open the wheel (press L1 on the PS4) the battle slows down to almost a full stop. This can come in handy if you find yourself greatly outnumbered and need to find a hasty exit. It also comes in handy if you are looking for a strategy to take down one of the big bosses, so always keep that menu in mind when you feel ready to panic.

The adaptive storyline, coupled with the gameplay makes this a pretty fun title to play, but some of the battles are more of a rinse and repeat and can be a little tedious. Couple that with the weakness of the companions and that can turn into frustration if you let it. Upgrading the skills of your companions would have been a nice addition, but you’ll have to learn to make do with what you get.

Impressive cut scenes

Impressive cut scenes

The graphics for the game were a bit of a let down on the PS4. This is next gen, and with the likes of inFamous: Second Son and Killzone Shadowfall setting the bar, it’s not an easy task for multi-platform developers to achieve that mark. That being said, they could have polished it up a little bit more and gave us characters with a bit more detail. Don’t get us wrong here, it’s not a bad looking game by no means, but it could have been better.

The soundtrack for the game is by composer Olivier Derivière and the singer Iré. The songs range from haunting melodies to up beat tempos that match the tempo of the game itself. This is a soundtrack worthy of a separate download and will end up on our music player as soon as it’s available to the masses.

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Developer Spider Studios had great ambitions for Bound by Flame, and hit the mark on most fronts. The storyline can get a bit disjointed and hard to follow at times with cut scenes that seem to forget you had a companion, but the story itself is still entertaining and compelling. Completing the game as demonic as possible is fun, but makes us want to see what happens when we try to play as nice guys. Twelve to fourteen hours for an RPG is a little short, but a double play through will double that time frame.

Good job Spider Studios. Just needed a little more spit and polish.

8

 

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