Developed by Focus Home Entertainment, Bound by Flame is an action role-playing game that places you in the role of Vulcan, a young warrior that becomes possessed by an ancient demonic power. Imbued with the power of the ‘flame’, you must battle the evil Necromancers and their undead army of Deadwalkers. During this conflict, the player must choose between the demon that possess them or fight for their humanity to become a true hero. The challenges that lie ahead are difficult, and at times frustrating. Bound by Flame will push your skills as a gamer to their limits.
After creating your character, which involves selecting sex, race and textures for both your character’s face and hair, the game begins with a cinema that shows Vulcan, the game’s protagonist, on patrol. During this cinema, the game briefly introduces the player to humanity’s struggle with the Deadwalkers, an army of zombie-like corpses controlled by ruthless Necromancers. Since Bound By Flame’s gameplay is linear, the player can only experience story-driven objectives as they occur.
Bound by Flame accommodates gamers of all skill levels by including four difficulty levels – Recruit, Hawk, Buffalo and Captain. Recruit reduces the amount of damage enemies will inflict on your character. And while Recruit is considered the best choice for beginners, it doesn’t make killing your adversaries any easier. Enemies tend to absorb more damage than expected, regardless of the weapon(s) being used against them. The remaining difficulties increase the challenge during combat, so it boils down to how much punishment you are willing to endure (and there’s plenty of it, I assure you).
As mentioned earlier, the game world is comprised of linear environments that limit exploration. Swamps and other locations are massive in size, but any branching pathways that are present typically lead to dead ends blocked by rocks, trees and other impassable background debris. While exploring these ‘dead ends’ can have its rewards (i.e. collecting rare minerals when they appear inside tree stumps and under rocks), the environments themselves offer little else in the way of content.
Combat is where Bound by Flame shines the most. Vulcan comes readily equipped with a crossbow for long-range attacks, a long sword for close-range melee combat, and daggers for Stealth Mode (more on this in a moment). Vulcan’s arsenal also includes magic, but this derives from his demonic host. Choosing to use the demon’s magic during combat will change the outcome of the story. Basically, you are given two choices – embrace the demonic host and use his powers or ignore the temptation and fight with more conventional means (i.e. sword, daggers, etc.). There are benefits to using the demon’s magic — fireballs are great for hitting distant targets and the self-buffing spell imbues your sword with fire, increasing its damage. It’s worth mentioning that combat can be more challenging without the demon’s magic.
Vulcan can surprise his enemies by entering ‘Stealth Mode’. Known plainly as ‘Ranger Combat’, this fighting stance reduces Vulcan’s ability to block and parry, but increases his melee damage (especially if he attacks an enemy from behind). Vulcan’s agility also increases, allowing the player to dodge incoming attacks by pressing Circle button. To make combat easier, a targeting system can be activated by pressing R3. When used, this system will lock the free-roaming camera in place and focus Vulcan’s attacks on the target. You can use the right Analog Stick to toggle between multiple enemies.
As the story unfolds, Vulcan will team up with a variety of companions. These companions can be ordered to attack, heal or defend themselves during combat via the ‘Order’ menu, which can be accessed by pressing R2. But there are times when your CPU controlled companion(s) will ignore these orders. For example: instead of casting a healing spell as ordered, your companion will either stand still or continue fighting, leaving you vulnerable with little-to-no health. Ordering a magic user to ‘fight from a distance’ has similar results. Instead of casting magic from a distance as ordered, they will run into a group of monsters and start casting; this usually results in their death.
Bound by Flame uses a comprehensive crafting system. Minerals and other resources recovered from chests and tree stumps can be crafted into special ‘upgrades’ to improve your weapons. These resources can be crafted into stones that can add critical hit power and physical damage to your weapons. The crafting system uses a simple, but clean design that is very easy to understand. The list of recipes to enhance your weapons is quite large, and they range from ‘protection from physical damage’ to ‘making heavy weapons lighter’, among others. And, as mentioned earlier, there are plenty of damage modifiers to experiment with.
Despite some of the issues mentioned, Bound by Flame is still an entertaining game that offers enough content to keep gamers busy. The Relationship System is robust in that it enables the player to build friendships, romantic connections and even rivalries through conversation. These connections, including the one shared with your demonic host, will influence the outcome of the story.
While not perfect, Bound by Flame is a challenging, if not frustrating, action role-playing game that pushes your gaming skills to their limits. And since the game changes based on your interaction with others, there is plenty of replay value to experience the adventure more than once. Just remember to bring your patients along with you; this is one adventure that isn’t for the feint of heart.
Platform: Playstation 4
Developer: Focus Home Entertainment
ESRB: M (Mature)
|Gorgeous 3D backgrounds and character models.|
|Great sound effects and music that is sometimes accompanied by stiff voice acting.|
|While combat is entertaining, the companion system could use some work.|
|Bound by Flame is a fun action role-playing game that could benefit from better companion AI.|