If judged by its launch trailer and screenshots, you couldn’t help but feel that Bound by Flame would be the next The Witcher or Dragon Age. However a whole host of flaws and annoyances have held it back from being anything great.
You play as a mercenary named Vulcan (you can give him/her whatever name you wish, but they’ll still call you Vulcan in the game) who is accidentally inhabited by a malevolent demon and is tasked with saving the world from the power hungry Ice Lords and their endless army of Dead Walkers. While the main story arc screams “generic fantasy,” it’s a bizarrely lighthearted tale that pokes fun at itself as it covers themes such as corruption, treachery, and greed. Outside of its main character’s inner struggle — which features morality-based choices that combine to decide whether or not the demon gets to take over — Bound by Flame‘s storyline is utterly forgettable.
Through progression, five different companions can accompany you throughout the game, each with specific side missions. The roster includes a prim-and-proper zombie type, a critically sarcastic mage and a glum knight. These missions don’t take long to complete and most can be done in tandem with your other missions, making them a simple way to score bonus experience and equipment. Just don’t count on your companion to save your life during battle. Aside from a handful of set orders can be issued during combat, you’ll find that allies aren’t very smart and are mostly there to distract enemies while you do all the dirty work. Still, it’s always best to take a friend with you whenever you’re out on the town, because Bound by Flame is far from a walk in the park.
Enemies know how to fight back, so you need to pay close attention to their moves and exploit their weaknesses whenever possible. Bound By Flame’s strength lies within its combat which is built around timing, precision and three different skill trees: Warrior, Ranger, and Pyromancy. The Warrior tree has you wielding a two-handed weapon, the Ranger stance focuses on speed with your dual daggers and Pyromancy gives you control over the power of fire. The combination of sword play and demonic powers make for some exciting battles but while the freedom to change fighting styles whenever I wanted was welcome, none of the three paths felt natural or powerful.
Completing optional quests and killing bad guys also rewards you with items used to create better weapons, armor, and items necessary in battle. The detailed crafting system isn’t just for aesthetic purposes either, as it gives you additional room to plan your strategy by mixing and matching different buffs and perks at any time. Everything about the system is streamlined, and you can create health and mana potions, exploding traps, and upgrades for your armor and weapons on the fly. The ability to recycle mods to regain spent resources alleviates the pressure of committing to a certain weapon, allowing for easier experimentation.
When it comes to presentation, Bound by Flame‘s world is rich in history and personality. The game is structured around a series of hub areas rather than a sprawling open world, and you’ll travel to icy kingdoms and trek through dark caves and dank sewers, fighting some impressive-looking monsters and listening to a haunting soundtrack that brings it all together.
While it’s not a long game by any means, requiring about fifteen hours or so depending on how much you decide to explore, Bound by Flame‘s nicely executed combat and leveling system, makes this “mercenary possessed by a meddlesome demon” a solid title that is strangely alluring to play until the very end. There is no denying the passion and ambition Spiders has for the titles they release.
Editor’s Note: Bound by Flame was reviewed using a PlayStation 4 copy of the game provided by the publisher.