A TESTOSTERONE-fuelled action RPG, the medieval bloodletting in Bound By Flame is a patchwork of influences from the fantasy genre. Occasionally, they mesh together to form a congenial romp, but for the most part its component parts never quite coalesce, resulting in a game that is frustrating and never quite justifies its core premise.
Game review: Bound By Flame
Platforms: Playstation 4 (reviewed) / Playstation 3 / Xbox 360 / PC
Score: 6.7 / 10
The player assumes the role of a mercenary who becomes possessed by a demon, throwing into doubt whether the journey he embarks upon will be characterised by good or evil. It is a novel and interesting dichotomy yet is rarely exploited in the way it should be. As the narrative is introduced and the Tolkienesque proceedings unfold, the dialogue makes for an inauspicious first few hours.
The script desperately wants to raise eyebrows and stoke controversy, but its deliberately coarse edges feel gratuitous and, after a while, gratingly repetitive. The word, ‘ass’, and numerous variations thereof, feature time and again, making you sympathise with the residents of Vertiel and their unhealthy fixation with all matters posterior.
Fighting is robust if a little slow
Combat, whether swordplay, daggers, or the use of magic spells, is at the heart of Bound By Flame, and is the key mechanic by which the game stands or falls. The fighting is robust if a little slow paced and as your protagonist amasses an ever expanding and customisable roster of skills and moves, there is sufficient variety to keep things interesting.
A major flaw, however, is the collision detection. No matter how hard you strike one of the undead, it never feels wholly convincing. Indeed, when caught up in a scrum several enemies strong - a scenario that presents itself with increasing regularity as the game goes on - often the only indicator that your blade has made contact is an animation of blood spurting from a wound.
Matters improve significantly when the game throws some of its giant antagonists into the mix. Boasting superb character design and - for the most part - robust challenges, they ask the player to make use of every skill they have learned if they are to perform David and Goliath style heroics.
There is the kernel of a promising series here, but Spiders Studio would be well advised to stop trying to imitate the likes of Dark Souls and tread their own path. Bound By Flame is by no means a bad game; unfortunately it does not offer enough of anything sufficiently distinctive or involving to stand out from the crowd.