I’ve always loved fantasy RPGs, but have never had a chance to sit down and spend a large portion of my time delving into one. Fortunately for me, I was offered the chance of reviewing Bound by Flame at least a week before its launch. Developed by French studio ‘Spiders’, a majority of their experience has rested in fantasy-driven settings, so it’s no surprise they’re carrying on with what they know best. Your journey centres around a group of mercenaries known as the Freeborn Blades, tasked with keeping their sacred lands protected from the return of the ancient Ice Lords and their Deadwalker Army. Placed in the shoes of Vulcan, one of the members, you set out to help in the forthcoming war, but end up sacrificing more than you bargained for.
Without spoiling the story too much, the Deadwalkers overrun your camp and you soon find yourself in the middle of a spell gone wrong. In a bid to repel the Ice Lords, an ancient order known as The Red Scribes start a ritual to help them prevent war, but when it fails a Demon links itself to you and empowers you with the abilities of a Pyromancer – hence the name, Bound by Flame. With the immense power you now obtain your fight against the undead proves to be a little easier. Be wary, though, as if you choose to act under the influence of the demon inside, you may find yourself severing all connections with the human world. It’s up to you how you choose to proceed, and if you do choose your power over the people, your appearance will change to match that decision.
Aside from being able to upgrade your magic-based abilities, you can also choose to upgrade the skill trees of either Warrior or Ranger, depending on which fighting style you prefer most. I spent a majority of my time exploring Ranger, as I felt more agile performing combat and didn’t feel too sluggish getting out of the way of my opponents, versus that of Warrior. Equipped with two daggers, my playstyle consisted of a fast attack, dodging my enemies in perfect time to allow me to riposte for maximum damage. I more often than not mixed this up with the ability to turn my weapons aflame, which further increased my damage. If you have one too many foes to keep an eye on, then click your right analogue stick to lock onto the nearest target, cycling through the rest one at a time.
It took me a while to get into the rhythm of Bound by Flame, as at first I often found myself looking to explore and not to fight every enemy I encountered, but unfortunately once an enemy spots you, you’re unable to move forward until they’re defeated. This led to me getting stuck quite early on, and I quickly found myself repeating certain areas multiple times through my lack of combat experience. If you dread the prospect of fighting alone, then you’ll be glad to learn that a number of A.I. controlled characters aide your journey. With the likes of a Witch, an Elf and one of the undead, you’ll cross paths at certain points in the campaign and gain added support in fights.
It’s fair to say that though the developers have focused on the narrative, it’s the world and its design that sorely suffers. Compared to the colourful world of Kingdoms of Amalur, your surroundings in Vertiel often lack charm and character, instead portraying a rigid and uninspiring level design. I couldn’t help but become a little frustrated by having to navigate a series of generic twists and turns. I guess I missed the open nature of Skyrim, but then again, this isn’t and was never intended to mimic that game. My platform of choice was the PS4, but development was focused on older platforms, hence why you shouldn’t be surprised by its rigid animations and lacklustre textures.
- + Interesting premise
- + Fun combat
- - Bland level design that lacks depth and character
- - Clumsy animations
- - Repetitive missions