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Bound by Flame Review


Bound by Flame is a curious mix of two-sides fighting for dominance. The first follows a stale, formulaic recipe of RPG tropes. But if you're willing to dig a little deeper and look past its shortcomings, the second side flares with creativity, resulting in a welcome surprise for RPG fans in search of a much-needed vacation from their current locale.

The first two hours of Bound By Flame are tiresome and largely uneventful. Following a brief character creation session, which offers the chance to change the sex of the protagonist along with a handful of customisation options, players step into the boots of Vulcan; a somewhat generic-seeming mercenary bomb smith.

As luck would have it, the land of Vertiel has only gone and been besieged by a necromancer, people are falling under his control and the dead are coming back to life. Vulcan, along with his troop of sell-swords, is tasked with a contract, one that he must finish for some reason or another despite the looming threat of the Deadwalkers. 



It's a tad all too familiar at first: Over-whelming odds! Faced with adversity! Fantastical creatures! Skeletons! Large-breasted female support character! But then the story takes a turn, and that's when Bound By Flame is born anew.

During the first act, Vulcan finds himself possessed by a demon, all by chance, which installs the power of pyromancy within. Instead of falling into the predictable badass mercenary trope, Vulcan transforms into something of interest. His mind now screams with the thoughts of a demon held prisoner against its will, and he faces a choice: Save the world or watch it burn?

Moral dilemmas are heightened by the game's combat, which, also during the first act, feels sluggish. Bound By Flame doesn't have a specific class you pick and then stick to until you start afresh. Instead, Vulcan can switch between two-handed weapons and dual-daggers at the click of a button.

The biggest issue with the combat is that it's all too showy – style over substance. Vulcan swings an axe or daggers with a defined grace, but while spinning an axe in the air looks nice, there's a part of me that just wanted him to just hit the bloody thing I'm trying to beat.

To add to the problems, Vulcan starts off incredibly frail. Player weapons cause little damage, while enemy weapons can kill you in a few hits. In other RPGs, the challenge comes from making the player aware they're playing in a subpar fashion. In Bound By Flame, the challenge feels artificial; it's hard because you're given the wrong tools to get the job done.



That is, until the demon shows up. Once Vulcan has the power of flame, he can shoot a fireball, buff his defence, create a pillar of fire, or enchant his weapon with fire. Even though his newly found powers don't offer anything we haven't seen elsewhere, it's still enjoyable enough, and being able to coat one's weapons in fire does level the playing field in terms of damage output. It doesn't help with the fancy-schmancy swordplay, but being able to actually damage enemies without resorting to slash, slash, parry, repeat, aids in alleviating some of the problems that haunt the overall combat.

It's funny, I feel as though I could start every sentence with "And then the demon showed up," and I could. The demon truly is the star here. It provides the player with choices, each of which has different outcomes. One of those choices in specific, offers the player power in exchange for doing the wrong thing.

It's an interesting design choice in that respect. Weapons don't do much damage, but if you follow the path of evil, it'll make you a force to be reckoned with. This simple choice almost forces the player's hand if they want to wield demigod-like powers. You can be good, and risk constant death, or you can give in to the evil inside you and force the world to its knees.

Another area where the game excels is in the crafting system. Enemies drop seemingly useless tat, which can either be sold to merchants or used to craft ammo, potions, and such. The same tat may also be used to upgrade armour. Not just by adding a +5 to them, mind. Upgrading not only adds a stat-based effect to a piece of armour, but also adds a new visual piece to it.

It's the same for weapons. You could find a fairly useless sword, but through upgrading, you could add a new hilt that helps with poison resistance or a pommel that increases mana regeneration.

Bound By Flame is at its best when it puts forth original concepts or places its own spin on tried-and-tested ideas. The story, for example, is interesting enough so long as you're willing to stick with it. Actually, the story gains a lot of its strength courtesy of the strong art design.

Some of the enemy designs, specifically the concubine, are beautiful and ugly, twisted, hell-infused monsters plucked straight from the mind of a psychopath. They're nightmarish, in all the right ways.

To further add to the illusion, Bound By Flame has a visually stunning lighting system. I know, I know, who cares about lighting? Well, the way in which light creeps through branches and permeates paths in the daytime, creates a stark contrast to night and everything it brings with it. It's small touches like this that help set the atmosphere; when night falls, so does the player's awareness…

I suppose the final area we need to discuss is the voice acting. Bound By Flame features a name-check of under-appreciated RPG actors; Gideon Emery of Dragon Age 2 (Fenris) voices the Russian elf Ranvall, and Skyrim's Robin Atkin Downes (Brynjolf) lends his voice to the lead. Both performances are good, but the show's stolen by Christina Batman, who voices Edwen - and obviously has the greatest name in the history of ever.

It'd be easy to criticise the voice acting as bad, but it's not that simple. It's good, but there is an issue with direction. There's several scenes where the actors seem unaware of what their in-game counterpart is doing. Imagine getting stabbed in the chest and responding to the incident in a jovial voice. That's kind of the issue here. It doesn't ruin or hamper the overall experience, but it can make it feel disjointed at times.

Bound By Flame isn't perfect by any means, it's a fantasy game from a small team, with an even smaller budget that sometimes feels like a Top 10 list of RPG mechanics. But then the demon shows up, and Bound By Flame renounces familiarity in favour of originality.

Vertiel may not be vast as Tamriel, Thedas, or Drangleic, but if you're after a quick trip abroad, then this is one destination worthy of your consideration.

Words by Wesley Copeland.

(Version tested: PS4)

Pros

+ Stunning lighting
+ Easy to like companions
+ Gloriously detailed environments
+ Moral dilemmas

Cons

- The first two hours are a drag
- Combat often feels weightless
- Lack of replay value past doing the opposite of your first playthrough
- Moral dilemmas

Edited On 09 May, 2014

Comments
73
The review sums it up perfect this game has got me hooked unlike i thought been playing it on the hardest setting and loving the challenge got the demon last night and arrived at the first major city and starting to slowly upgrade my weapons more now , i love how you can switch between different classes on the fly
Dark572Assassin 6 months ago
I will deffinety get this at some point. I love the art style of the game. Also nice review not to harsh since there past games.
Akemi no Zero 6 months ago
Might have a look at it during a steam sale
Loli-Nox-Tan 6 months ago
To be honest i think the reason it isn't reviewing that badly is because it'll be reviewed on the PS4 and the lack of games and lack of RPGs on the system will help it as it is the first RPG.
JoeToots 6 months ago
I don't know toots as ive had a couple of games just released on ps4 that im playing at the same time but bound by flame has just somehow gripped me, voice acting seemed really cheesy at first but then I was laughing at it , foul mouthed fun. im using daggers mainly and im level 17, thats just from yesterday as not played it yet today
jay.hamilton 6 months ago
" To be honest i think the reason it isn't reviewing that badly is because it'll be reviewed on the PS4 and the lack of games and lack of RPGs on the system will help it as it is the first RPG." - Well, that doesn't make much sense at all now, does it? I'm curious, have you actually played this game at all? I've been watching a lot of live streams of it the past few days and it seems to be going down well enough. Watching those is what convinced me to pick it up after work today in fact.
PrometheusFan 6 months ago
Fair enough Jay
JoeToots 6 months ago
Toots have you been drinking tonys the PS4 has no games cool aid by any chance haha
Bindiana 6 months ago
i was just expressing my opinion it'd be the same if it released on the xbone.
JoeToots 6 months ago
How come it hasnt been released on xbone as there is a 360 version I thought it was out for both.
Bindiana 6 months ago
anyway i said dont know coz i dont know, but am quite enjoying it and got the whole weekend to myself so it will be getting a good rodgering lol
jay.hamilton 6 months ago
They apparently didn't get the dev kits till too late. They said if it does well they will work on making a port.
Zombieflamingo 6 months ago
Looking at the review, there does not seem to be any enhancements with the PS4 like the use of the touchpad, so all versions should be the same, and not any better than the Xbox 360 version I drink no cool aid, the lack of games on PS4 is a reality. The only game that interests me on PS4 is Infamous, and that is the only game I am missing out on by not having a PS4, whereas if I did not have a Xbox ONE I would be missing out on Forza 5, Ryse, Dead Rising 3, Crimson Dragon, Killer Instinct, Max, Spark etc which is a lot lot more. Also in the latest issue of Games TM where they compare PS4 vs Xbox ONE, they agree with me too - the Xbox ONE wins the category of software, saying it has more a variety of exclusive titles. gives it the clear headway over Playstation 4
superniceguy 6 months ago
TONY TONY TONY you just don't learn do you.... i know where you are coming from though..
JoeToots 6 months ago
Tony, how can you say there is a lack of games on the PS4? I have a huge choice between retail and PS+. Yes, there may not be the games that you particularly like, other than Infamous, but there certainly isn't a lack of choice.
Dave 'BubbaJai' Aston 6 months ago
Well by my count PS4 has 65 and xbox one has 35 blows your argument of ps4 has no games out of the water.
Bindiana 6 months ago
I dont care if you think xbox one has the better games thats fine thats your opinion but you spout the same rubbish over and over again that the PS4 has no games which is untrue the PS4 has had more games since launch and continues to grow.
Bindiana 6 months ago
just get a PC.
JoeToots 6 months ago
The PS4 does have games and it has great exclusives too. OK you might prefer the Xbox One exclusives and that's fine, everyone is entitled to their choice and opinion. Personally I've really enjoyed my PS4 exclusive games, Killzone, Knack, and Infamous.
Spear 25 6 months ago
Really good game. Like the review said, it starts off a little slow but now I'm a few hours in I'm totally hooked, highly recommended.
Old Timer 6 months ago
Both consoles, both have strong and weak points and they have equally good games this argument will last for years to come
Dark572Assassin 6 months ago
I totally agree with Dark Assassin, the argument over which has the better games will go on for years and probably around in never ending circles. Some prefer XB1 titles, others PS4. I have my own preference but couldn't say the "other" console has no games, that's daft, it's just one line up suits my preferences better at this time.
Old Timer 6 months ago
pc...
JoeToots 6 months ago
Wii U FTW ;)
Gloria 6 months ago
Good and fair review, just wish it was on the X1, might get it for the 360 then, hmm.
SquareSofty 6 months ago
just to clarify the above TONY, the ps4 touchpad gets used for the inventory, skill tree etc ive seen the game on a friends ps3 too, lighting, textures are a little better, not much but better and its a little laggy on ps3 with framerate dropping a bit, also very smooth on ps4
jay.hamilton 6 months ago
Played about an hour or so just now and it seems ok though I do feel the combat just isnt quite as solid enough for the Swords the daggers ok but swinging a two handed sword should have more weight to it. The fighting reminds me of Kingdoms of Amalur
Zombieflamingo 6 months ago
Haha, wait, there's NO Xbone version of this out? All of a sudden Joe and Tony's butthurt comments make a lot of sense :D
PrometheusFan 6 months ago
There's a PC release though which I could pick it up on.
JoeToots 6 months ago
ZF, i feel the same way thats why im using daggers and pyromancy, sword feels like its made out of wood, im having fun after getting past the slow start but im just gonna keep it to a single playthrough then pass the game on
jay.hamilton 6 months ago
I have made no butthurt comments. It is a fact that PS4 is lacking EXCLISUVE games. Read page 71 of the latest issue of Games TM, should be in stores until around May 22nd when next issue is out. Anyone else with an unbiased view knows that the Xbox ONE has the stronger line up of games. This is the Xbox ONEs strength. The PS4 has the better hardware, but without software just makes it useless. The only game that I miss out on by not having a PS4 is Infamous, and the Xbox ONE offers so many more which I have listed above plus Powerstar Golf which I forgot last time, All the other games that PS4 has that Xbox ONE doe not have like DCUO, FFXI, Outlast etc I can play on my PC. This game I can get for PC and PS3 too if I want. Still no need for a PS4. I rather have more choice than more power. In terms of software choice PC > 360 > PS3 > Wii > Wii U > Xbox ONE > PS4
superniceguy 6 months ago
Yeah Jay I was thinking of going down that road as well, only just got up to the small village but jumped off to watch Arrow and 24. ONly have sunday off now so It doesnt look like I will get to play it much this weekend.
Zombieflamingo 6 months ago
TONY nobody cares about what a magazine says sorry to break it to you buddy....
JoeToots 6 months ago
Magazines are more accurate than internet as they take time to sort out the information, whereas as the internet jumps on information before the whole truth is revealed, but Xbox ONE having a stronger lineup is common knowledge. The confusion here seems that people count ALL games, not games exclusives to the platform. Bindi claims the Xbox ONE has 35 games but it does not have that many exclusives.
superniceguy 6 months ago
Until the PS4 starts releasing more games that can ONLY be played on a PS4, then there is not much point having a PS4. If Xbox ONE only had Forza 5 and Titanfall then I would not have gotten a Xbox ONE either
superniceguy 6 months ago
"but Xbox ONE having a stronger lineup is common knowledge." - Is that why PS4 is outselling Xbox One by such an enormous margin worldwide? Sorry to break it to you Tony, but listing off any old shit and pretending it carries more weight because it's exclusive isn't how reality works with these things... a bad game is a bad game regardless of how many platforms it is available on, or do you seriously mean to tell me that trash like Crimson Dragon or Fighter Within are somehow worth taking into consideration as reasons to buy hardware as expensive as Xbox One because you can't play them anywhere else? You should read up on the best selling games on either of these platforms right now Tony, because the top 10 best sellers for both are almost entirely made up of multiplatform titles. While the Xbox One might have a couple of extra exclusive titles at this point in time, the overall line up currently available on PS4 is actually much stronger than the same on Xbox One. And besides, when all else is said and done, only one of these consoles is going have the next Souls game as an exclusive, and that console isn't Xbox One.
PrometheusFan 6 months ago
@ Superniceguy, I don't see how any magazine or internet site can say XB1 has the stronger line up, same as they couldn't say the PS4 has a stronger line up, surely it's just down to personal preference? Granted I personally prefer the XB1 at this moment in time because it has more games I personally like, even over the next year ( apart from the multiplatform titles ) I personally think the XB1 has by far the stronger line up, again though it's just games that suit my personal preference. So for someone else that doesn't like the games I do could possibly say the PS4 has the stronger line up? It's sort of the same for me when gamers say, "The PS4 has a lot more games or a lot more games coming" only means something if someone actually likes the look of the games coming. As said above, it's a debate that will roll on for years and in never ending circles, people still today debate what had the better games, 360 or PS3, who really cares as long as each of us are enjoying what we have.
Old Timer 6 months ago
@ PrometheusFan, regarding your comment, "Is that why the PS4 is outselling Xbox One by such a huge margin worldwide" , in my opinion the PS4 isn't outselling the Xbox One because of what Sony have offered the gamer or the games they have offered. I believe the main reasons were the price difference/Kinect and the terrible run up to launch Microsoft had, DRM, no DRM, a lot of gamers got severely cheesed off and jumped ship. Now I'm not saying Sony haven't made a cracking console, they have but I don't believe it's the actual console that lured the gamers in. Even though I don't believe Microsoft will close the gap anytime soon, if ever but you have to take into account that XB1 hasn't released in anywhere near as many regions/countries as the PS4 yet.
Old Timer 6 months ago
I have to agree with old timer. It is all down to what you like better. I reckon he is also right about why the ps4 is doing so well.
Zombieflamingo 6 months ago
The only reason the PS4 is selling well is because it is cheaper, has better specs, and did not parade the DRM so publically even though Sony were thinking about it too etc and people think the games will come. The Xbox ONE has the stronger games line up and that is fact as to why it is selling so well. It may not be matching the PS4 sales, but without the strong line up the Xbox ONE would be doing worse than it is and even the Wii U.
superniceguy 6 months ago
@ Superniceguy, again I agree to a degree meaning that I much prefer the line up of XB1 games, released and yet to be released, the PS4 just isn't doing much for me at this moment in time but to say it's "fact" isn't really true because there are people out there that prefer what games PS4 is offering so once again it's all down to personal taste/opinion.
Old Timer 6 months ago
God sakes guys stop arguing over something so trivial and that ultimately comes down to an opinion. It's pathetic.
JoeToots 6 months ago
Personal tastes changes things and makes it opinions, but taking that out of the perspective the Xbox ONE has the more variety, and more exclusives, and that is fact. Also if someone does not have a decent PC then the PS4 looks more attractive again, but when you look at the games that only the Xbox ONE has and what the PS4 only has, that no other platform has, the Xbox ONE wins, that is why ALL the articles over the internet and magazines state the Xbox ONE has the stronger software line up
superniceguy 6 months ago
Can you get me some links to these articles on the internet? Also both PS4 and xbox one are just glorified entry level gaming PCs
JoeToots 6 months ago
I brought this topic up in this weeks pod cast and JOE and the team handled it well , there is not one over the other both have strong and weak points its just down to choice what you prefer
Dark572Assassin 6 months ago
I am not wasting time searching back through the internet, over the past months and can not get to them, now without wasting time. It is said in the latest Gamer TM magazine, as they are catching up. Count up the exclusives on each and see for yourself. PS4 - Resogun, Knack, Killzone, Infamous (4). Xbox ONE - Forza 5, Ryse, Dead Rising 3, Crimson Dragon, Killer Instinct, Max, Powerstar Golf, Kinect Sport Rivals, Fighter Within. (9 or 10 if you count the Spark Beta) It is all out there in the black and white, as fact. The Xbox ONE games is its only strength, and without it would not sell at all. If you like all 4 PS4 games and do not like any of the 8 Xbox ONE games, then the PS4 is the stronger but that is just opinion.
superniceguy 6 months ago
So you have no sources apart from one magazine Anthony?
JoeToots 6 months ago
Tony, have you ever considered working for MS, because your attitude would fit right in. I also love they way you claim everything as 'FACT'. If I remember correctly, I read (can't remember the source) that Sony said they NEVER considered DRM measures. The only fact you should note is that an opinion is like an asshole, we ALL have one. I for one completely agree with Old Timer, I have a PS4. It has and is getting the games that suit me and I want to play, e.g. The Order 1886, Unchartered. (Yes, I realise I have only listed 2). Why can't you accept that people have a different opinion to you and stop trying to force your views on everyone else. Rant over
Dave 'BubbaJai' Aston 6 months ago
probably offical xbox magazine
jay.hamilton 6 months ago
also me too, ps4 games are suiting me better and the future lineup suits my preference better, so THAT MUST MAKE IT FACT THAT THE PS4 IS THE BEST because i think it is,, , the all the consoles are awesome machines, the wii u is an awesome machine too, coz someone likes the massive amount of exclusives that nintendo have does not make it the best and the argument will never be settled because there is no fucking argument, buy what you like and enjoy your machine, People must have something better to do with there life than fanboyism, enjoy your console man and let others enjoy theirs
jay.hamilton 6 months ago
Absolutely Jay, Hopefully Tony will get the message
Dave 'BubbaJai' Aston 6 months ago
its like an Xbox Jehovahs witness lol
jay.hamilton 6 months ago
PMSL
Dave 'BubbaJai' Aston 6 months ago
Jesus Christ... I honestly do not have the energy to provide counterpoints to all of Tony's ramblings.
PrometheusFan 6 months ago
also tony its not an attack at you, its for all people who have these ideals that because someone likes certain games more the console is the best, i wish i could afford all three consoles and then enjoy all these awesome games but ive not got that much free time, i just enjoy ps4 more, but ill admit ps4 is not the best, gaming is a whole, divided into seperate factions but make up the gaming industry, competition makes games better and people choose there factions but decent gamers want to try all platforms at some point and see what they missed
jay.hamilton 6 months ago
I used to have a 360, but I also bought a PS3 purely because I wanted to play the amazing Last of Us. Simply put I would have everything, but as it stand it's the PS4 that suits my needs. If the roles were reversed I would've bought XB1. Never been a Ninty fan, but that doesn't mean I am going to slag it off
Dave 'BubbaJai' Aston 6 months ago
im a zelda fan, i had my wii u stolen from my house, kids were gutted ill probably pick up again when the new zelda comes out and a lot of new games are on it for my kids to enjoy
jay.hamilton 6 months ago
Xbox Jehovahs Witness? LMFAO, if they turn up at my door today and I see a "I love Bill Gates badge" I will pass out ;) .. I'm out of this one now but just to add what's already been said a few times, it's a debate that will roll on for years and go around in never ending cirlcles and I don't think anyone can deny, both consoles have a pretty decent line up already with a lot better to come in 2014 and beyond so I can't see anyone being too disappointed not matter what console they have. Have a great weekend all :)
Old Timer 6 months ago
Yeah its just like Sega and Nintendo all over again :) Sucks about your Wii U Jay, i hope whoever did it will get whats coming for them.
Zombieflamingo 6 months ago
Zombie I don't know if you've gathered it or not but I've ordered my PC :P so any spare keys I owe you one!
JoeToots 6 months ago
Bastards! One thing I hate more than a fan-boy is a Thief
Dave 'BubbaJai' Aston 6 months ago
+1 on the hating thiefs
JoeToots 6 months ago
Didnt realise you were getting a PC joe :)
Zombieflamingo 6 months ago
None of what I said is opinions, and no one provided any more PS4 exlusives than the 4 I listed, so it makes it fact the Xbox ONE has the more varied software. I am not the only with this view, so why attack, attack attack me each and every time even when I say NOTHING. At the end of the day the PS4 titles should come, but the Xbox ONE currently has more exclusives and that is fact. I would not have said any of this if Bindibanana did not say I drink "cool aid", and that is just plain rude, even if it is not fact and you think it is my opinion then not respect that, I do not think any of you are nuts for liking the PS4 better, that is up to you, but it does seem that all these posts are just trying to justify that I am wrong and take away the only strength the Xbox ONE has because PS4 people can handle the Xbox ONE being better in one area at all. I hope you all get the message, and Tooty why change from PS4 to Xbox ONE if the PS4 has the an awesome software library? And yes, PC MASTER RACE. PS4 may one day have a better software line up than Xbox ONE, but Xbox ONE and PS4 will never beat the PC.
superniceguy 5 months ago
Why can't we just enjoy games regardless of consoles , whether they are Nintendo , Xbox 1 or ps4 , a great game is a great game regardless . speaking as a gamer since the early nineties
james 5 months ago
Does seem arguments focus more on consoles nowadays over the game quality, or maybe I am too young to remember the original wars :P
growkin 5 months ago
outlast and daylight are also on ps4 and not Xbone, they cant be called exclusives as they on PC too but they are not on xbone, they they could be included in the above discussion, ive been a proper gamer for 21 years now since i got my first console, SNES with super mario allstars, ive wanted to try every console since, I will be getting my wii u back, and yes toots i found out who but wont go into detail lol, and i want a xbone at some point too, and ill be upgrading my pc to play the vast amount of pc only games that are released as id be a sucker to want to miss out on possibly awesome games just because of what system they are on , fanboys your loss
jay.hamilton 5 months ago
Tony I didn't swap from PS4 to xbox because of the games that's for sure. I swapped just for the pure fact that my gaming was slowing down so I would of much rather had an entertainment centre because if you check my gamertag I have more hours knocked up on netflix than all my games together. All my gaming from now on will be done on PC.
JoeToots 5 months ago
I will give you a month Joe then you will be back to the consoles :)
Zombieflamingo 5 months ago
I personally don't think I will, all my mates moved from consoles to PC last gen so I'm just joining them
JoeToots 5 months ago
Also use to be a big MMO player so no doubt something will grip me *cough cough* runescape *cough cough*
JoeToots 5 months ago
Not really found that many MMO that I have stuck to have been really enjoying FF14 just wish I had more time to play it. Looking forward to trying Wildstar as well I like the art style.
Zombieflamingo 5 months ago
I lost 8 years of my life to runescape
JoeToots 5 months ago
Bayonetta 2 Inc. Bayonetta 1 - WII U Pre-Order Now
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