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.
For instance, there are enemies that actually have shields on their front and back. So, timing and blocking becomes paramount. The controls are tight and responsive, too, so you’re always rewarded for a skilled offense. With a rock solid battle mechanic, a dynamic battle system, and plenty of demanding enemies and bosses, the fun factor is quite high. Provided you can deal with the negative points of the production – and there are several – you’ll probably get a lot of enjoyment out of slaying hundreds of baddies and becoming stronger and stronger. I just wish the “bound by flame” element was more of a determining factor.
You play as a possessed character who’s always fighting a demon within. The way the game was described, it sounded like player choice would have a big impact on the game’s action sequences and outcome. That’s not really the case, though; the “choice” aspect isn’t anywhere near as compelling as we expected. Many times, it doesn’t really matter what you do, as a scripted event doesn’t change, anyway. Other times, you feel as if your choice just doesn’t matter much at all, which of course lessens the impact of this feature. I suppose if you were looking forward to something that was more robust and meaningful, you’ll be disappointed.
And with merely average writing and some crass jokes that are sometimes more cringe-worthy than funny, you have to rely on the gameplay even more. A lot more could’ve been done with the storyline, which had loads of potential. The frame rate problem does pop up here and there, too, which is a little irritating when you’re talking about a supposedly superior PS4 version. All this being said, I keep coming back to the following fact: I always had fun playing. I was able to ignore the shortcomings just because I was enjoying the on-screen action. In many ways, the gameplay alone saves this production.
Bound by Flame doesn’t necessarily deliver what it promises. The story isn’t exactly accomplished, the good vs. evil struggle concerning that inner demon isn’t half as interesting as it should’ve been, and yeah, it’s pretty linear. But the proper role-playing depth, fast and responsive control, and enjoyable combat keeps you coming back for more. Sometimes, you can overlook a bevy of disappointing factors, just because the gameplay keeps you in your seat. This is one of those times. Hence, I won’t subtract as much from the overall score as I theoretically could ; that being said, I do understand the lower scores.
It really just boils down to one question: Can you ignore the missteps and missed opportunities and simply focus on the entertaining gameplay, or will you be unable to get past those flaws? That’s the key. This is why you’re seeing such a discrepancy of scores. Some people can get past the flaws and enjoy themselves; others can’t. It’s that simple.
The Good: Appropriately dark and intimidating fantasy world. Inspired, effective soundtrack. Crisp, responsive control. Good combat mechanic: Dynamic, rewarding and challenging. Gameplay can be quite addicting.
The Bad: Minor to moderate frame-rate issues on PS4. Story falls shy of expectations. Possession/inner demon concept not fleshed-out enough.
The Ugly: “A game this straightforward shouldn’t have tackled such a complex story idea.”
Because I really like dynamic combat systems I'll probably check this out at some point. I knew already the game wasn't going to be AAA caliber in the production department, but it seems to have it where it counts most for me.
Last edited by Temjin001 on 5/12/2014 10:20:43 PM
The combat is different from what you're used to, it feels like half action/RPG and half dungeon crawler.
So…like an easier DemonsSouls/DarkSouls?
Easier depending on what difficulty you play .Last difficulty will feel harder and the one before , just like dark souls .
Last edited by berserk on 5/16/2014 3:29:28 PM
Great review Ben, saves me doing one but I was already doing it in my head and I was zeroing in on a 7.2 🙂
I frickin love this game, can't stop playing it. Best Bioware impression yet. It's like when you see a movie like the Judge Dredd reboot, where, instead of some huge epic spanning massive set pieces with tons of crazy action styles flying at you, you just have a few characters in the pressure cooker of a smaller plot where they have room for closer examination.
The progression of this team since Mars: War Logs is truly impressive. One more game, a higher budget, and Spiders could be heading toward really great things.
Last edited by WorldEndsWithMe on 5/12/2014 11:11:08 PM
biggest problem with this is it feels like it was built to such low standards.
it honestly feels like a game built by a few college students as a extra credit project.
the combat, the graphics, the level design, the AI, the story, everything just scrapes through the bare minimum requirements.
theres no sense of ambition and granular, just a meh it works thats good enough lets go.
I gotta agree , it s a fun game but it don t seem like much effort was put in anything .Except make it work as a whole .
I'm having fun with the game. Yeah, it ain't perfect but I still think it's a fun RPG to mess around with.
Great review Ben! I am really enjoying this game.
I will get this game on the PSN for 5 bucks in a few months. 🙂
Good game , just sad that you re kinda forced to put point in pyromancer if you want more move then light and area attack . Even dark souls have more move set then this ( unless you take pyro like i said ).