I like to think of myself as an Action-RPG fan, as I’ve played quite a few entries in the genre. There was one popular franchise I happened to sadly miss out on called The Witcher, which I’ve noticed that a lot of people compare Spider’s and Focus Home Interactive’s Bound by Flame to. While I can’t make that comparison myself, I will say that this game is a slightly solid but flawed entry into the genre.
You take the role of a mercenary named Vulcan who is part of a group that calls themselves the Freedom Blades. One day while protecting some summoners from evil creatures as they perform a sacred ritual, a fire demon decides to enter Vulcan’s body which in turn gives extra powers to fight off the creatures. From here, it’s up to you to use these powers to do good, or for your own dark purposes as you press on to stop the evil that is taking over the land.
The controls help make combating evil forces a little easier, but not by much. There’s your standard block/dodge, weapon switch, basic attack, area attack, and skill buttons. Starting out, you’re forced to use your two-handed sword, which is slow but strong when fighting enemies. As you progress, you’ll learn to switch your weapons and use daggers, which are fast but weak, and a crossbow for ranged attacks. You’ll have to switch back and forth between the two weapon sets depending on who you’re going up against. As with any RPG, you’ll earn experience points and level up as you fight, which you can use the points to unlock and power up new skills such as setting your weapons on fire for extra damage, shooting fireballs, attacking faster and more. You’ll most certainly need these skills, as the combat can be quite a challenge, though sadly not for the reasons it should be.
This brings me to the number of issues that plague this game. First off, when you make your character (you can choose genders as well) it gives you an option to change your name, though everyone still calls you Vulcan no matter what. Why give that option if it doesn’t do anything? Second, the combat never feels as good as it should be, as the animations feel off / wonky. It also doesn’t help that you can only block/parry while using a two-handed weapon and not be able to do so when using daggers, making the combat even more tiresome as you’ll have to flip flop between the two nearly every few seconds to fight. You’ll also have a companion from time to time that is supposed to help you, but more often than not they die very quickly thanks to the bad AI their programmed with. Another thing that really threw me off was the senseless and out of place cursing that’s all over the game as you play. It’s as though someone tried to mix GTA: San Andreas with a fantasy RPG, as you’ll find your character and others you come across dropping F-bombs and other profanities like nobody’s business.
At least the game is easy on the eyes for the most part, thanks to the decent looking graphics that may not push the PS4 to their limit, but are fairly detailed. The framerate on the other hand doesn’t fare so well, as most times it’s nearly 60 fps, but it drops enough to notice one too many times to the point it’ll make you wonder if you’re playing on a next-gen console or not. Besides the atrocious dialogue, the music on the audio front is one of the best parts of the game, as haunting vocals sing over beautiful tunes along with epic fantasy fanfare that’s sure to give even the best RPG soundtracks a run for their money.
Bound by Flame is one of those games where you really want to like it, but can never really do so. While it may look like an epic Action-RPG at first glance, the flawed combat system, bad dialogue plagued by pointless profanity, and other troublesome quirks keep it from being the great game it could’ve been. Those willing to give it shot and push past the flaws will find a game that’s rental worthy at best. While others who are expecting something along the lines of The Witcher and Dark Souls franchises will be sorely disappointed.