As the PlayStation 4’s first RPG, Bound By Flame is hardly anything revolutionary. It combines many elements we have seen in previous RPG’s to create a solid action-orientated adventure, albeit one that’s lacking a little polish. Unfortunately, it is in the occasionally cringe-worthy narrative where Bound By Flame ultimately falls short.
The Ice Lords have brought endless destruction upon the world of Bound By Flame, leaving only a pocket of survivors left to fight the onslaught. You play as Vulcan, a fearless mercenary of the Freeborn Blades, who after a failed ritual now possesses flame wielding powers – the perfect ability to use against the Ice Lords.
You soon discover that you have in fact been possessed by a demon who is hell bent on recovering his lost powers and physical presence. A key part to the game is how you decide whether to let the demon take more control over your body or if you fight to retain your humanity.
The story is told through messy cut-scenes and weak character dialogue across the course of its rough 10 hour length, depending on the side missions you tackle. Character animations during cut-scenes are noticeable bad; Vulcan often runs and slides on the spot, which although humorous at first does detract from the overall expereince. The voice acting is also wooden with not a single performance having the ability to connect you emotionally to the game, which means that following the story can be quite difficult.
As mentioned in my initial impressions of Bound By Flame, the script of the first few chapters is full of out of place cursing, and despite letting you enter a name for your character upon starting the game, you are always called Vulcan during any interaction. Minor inconveniences at most, but ones that I feel will frustrate you more than they should.
I was initially critical of Bound By Flame’s appearance. The heavily outlined environments and wide array of vibrant textures first appear cartoony, which isn’t what I expect from a fantasy RPG. However, as the hours start to pass by the heavy outlines become barely noticeable, and you’ll start to warm to the vibrant and varied environments. You’ll venture through swamps, fallen cities and ice palaces throughout Bound By Flame. Although areas aren’t really open world, there’s plenty of opportunities to explore away from the main path.
Where Bound By Flame really shines is in the combat, with techniques split into three categories; warrior, ranger and pyromancer. When in the warrior stance you can use long swords and axes to deal heavy damage on your foes. As a ranger you’re equipped with fast paced daggers and the option to stealthily crouch around and melee unsuspecting enemies from behind. Finally, the pyromancer skills, which allow you to fire flaming orbs and enchant weapons, can be combined with either play style.
Although you can easily switch between warrior and ranger stance with the press of a button most of the time you will find yourself engaging in battle with a long sword. It’s far more useful than the dual daggers in terms of damage and protection and also the stealth combat doesn’t work that well. Many times, I tried to sneak up on an idle enemy only for them to turn around just before I could attack, leaving me vulnerable rather than giving me the upper hand.
Despite this, the combination of sword play and demonic powers make for some exciting battles. With the easy to access weapon wheel for your powers you can seamlessly light up your sword with fire or shock-wave nearby enemies amidst the heat of battle.
Each combat style can be upgraded via a level-up system. Upgrade points can improve Vulcan’s abilities from mana usage to your maximum health and weapon damage. Bound By Flame also features a simple to use crafting system. Exploration rewards you with materials which can be used to craft health and mania potions, as well as consumables such as crossbow bolts and explosive traps. Crafting can also be used in battle, which is a handy feature when you find yourself running out of consumables during a tough fight, but it will only slow time rather than pausing the action completely.
These materials can also be fused with weapons. Gemstones can add poison damage to swords or improve the speed of heavy weapons, for example. This gives the combat a tactical slant, as you can pick and choose between which enchanted weapon to use on each enemy, depending on their weaknesses.
For the most part of Bound By Flame you will be travelling with a companion. There are a handful of different companions that aid you in your journey each with a specific strength in battle. Sybil, one of the Red Scribes, has a healing ability, whereas Edwen, a shady witch, specialises in dark magic attacks. However, none of the companions are particularly good in a fight and can be easily defeated by the weakest of enemies, leaving you alone to fight a horde. They respawn a few minutes later, only to most probably be knocked down moments later.
Despite their uselessness in battle, you’ll find yourself wanting to be accompanied by Sybil for the entirety of the game as her healing ability allows you to save precious material otherwise spent on health potions. Given the fact you have a companion for the majority of the game you would think it would be appropriate to add in multiplayer coop, but alas there is no such feature, which is a sorely missed opportunity.
If you can look past the poor narrative and weak character dialogue Bound By Flame is a solid action RPG. The combination of fire and sword is an exciting duo which flows seamlessly in battle. However, you can’t help but feel that, with the PS4 in mind, Bound By Flame has been rushed to fill a gap in the market.
Version tested: PS4