Graphics:
6.7
Gameplay:
7.8
Sound:
7.1
Control:
8.0
Replay Value:
7.5
Overall Rating:
7.3
Online Gameplay:
Not Rated
Publisher:
Focus Home Interactive
Developer:
Spiders Studio
Number Of Players:
1-4
Genre:
Action/RPG
Release Date:
May 9, 2014


This is just one of those games. The seasoned player knows it has problems. The story is lackluster, the much-publicized possession feature doesn’t offer half the freedom of choice you anticipated, and there are disappointing frame rate issues in the PlayStation 4 version. And yet, if most action/RPG fans are being honest – especially if they’re fans of the more old-school linear style – they have to admit: Bound by Flame is kinda fun. In fact, despite the unfortunate drawbacks, it can be lots of fun.

The graphics don’t necessarily impress strictly from a technical standpoint. You won’t be wowed by intricate detail or uber-authentic realism. You might even find the dark, forbidding world oppressive. Even so, there are many who will appreciate such an atmosphere, as the ambiance fits the action perfectly, and the style is what you’d expect from a fantastical, medieval-type adventure. The animations suffer a little due to the aforementioned frame rate issue but the special effects are pretty slick. This visual presentation isn’t about raising the bar on the PS4; it’s simply about being effective. And it is.

The sound fluctuates between some generic hack ‘n slash combat effects and an inspired soundtrack that really takes shape during dangerous encounters. On the plus side, I don’t usually notice the musical score in such games, but I definitely noticed this one. It ratcheted up the intensity a few notches, and it’s not overly repetitive (despite the somewhat repetitive nature of the gameplay). The voice acting is largely forgettable, but overall, the audio and graphics work together to present the player with a world that demands our attention. No, it won’t win any technical design awards, but it should still satisfy those who aren’t overly anal.

Bound by Flame plays like a faster, more straightforward version of Dark Souls . It’s not as deep, it doesn’t have the same quality lore, it’s not anywhere near as big, and it’s certainly not as difficult. However, there’s something to be said for “simpler,” especially when it comes to this genre. Although the game doesn’t use the three-quarter or top-down view of old-school dungeon-crawling action/RPGs, it still has a traditional vibe. It’s quite linear, first of all, and I know that’s not the current trend in gaming today. Many really seem to dislike the restricted corridors.

I admit the game probably would’ve been better had we received a bit more freedom and general maneuverability. I also agree that too many of these limited corridors hinder the game’s greater potential, and it ultimately limits our enjoyment. The problem is that this game survives almost entirely on its gameplay, as the writing is hit-or-miss and the narrative is disjointed and somewhat predictable. Therefore, when the gameplay is this important, you want the developers to fully realize the promise of a great mechanic. In point of fact, the gameplay here could’ve been great, and it’s not as far from greatness as some critics would have you believe.

Your character has three skill trees: Warrior, Ranger and Pyromancer. The first is strong but a little slow, the second is speedy and agile, and the third is basically a mage. You can switch between these “stances” on the fly, which makes the combat that much more immersive and dynamic. For whatever reason, it reminded me of switching between the different combat styles in Devil May Cry 3 , because you can drastically alter the nature of battle with the press of a button. You might also be surprised at the challenge offered by certain opponents in Bound by Flame ; they often require very specified approaches.