Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Review: Bound by Flame (Game)

Neither Spiders or Focus Home Interactive are equipped with widely revered game release backgrounds; Spiders having released a handful of subpar fantasy and Sherlock Home adventures while Focus have a large collection of simulation titles. Knowing this information, it's easy to understand why Bound by Flame hasn't graced many consoles or digital libraries and still remains an underground release.

Genre: Adventure, Action, Fantasy, RPG
Developer: Spiders
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Release Date: May 8th, 2014
Play Time: 14-30+ hours
Price: $39.99 USD
Platforms: PC, Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Playstation 4

Official Website


Rating: 7.5/10

Neither Spiders or Focus Home Interactive are equipped with widely revered game release backgrounds; Spiders having released a handful of subpar fantasy and Sherlock Home adventures while Focus have a large collection of simulation titles. Knowing this information, it's easy to understand why Bound by Flame hasn't graced many consoles or digital libraries and still remains an underground release.

Bound by Flame takes elements from many other titles and interlocks them, such as Fable, The Witcher and slight hints of Diablo. The biggest selling point of the game is that you are a human who comes into contact with a demonic entity that possesses you, and ultimately you are left to decide whether you allow the demonic influence to take hold or battle against it and retain your humanity. Each decision that the player makes during key moments in the game will determine the ultimate outcome, and gamers who decide to let the evil flow will see the aesthetics of their personification gradually take on demonic characteristics like horns and glowing red eyes; much like in the Fable series. However, these changes are truly all too subtle for much of the early gameplay, and the malevolent transformation is difficult to obtain other than through trial and error.

As far as the plot is concerned, the player will take on the role of Vulcan, a member of the Freeborn Blade mercenary group; the gender and features of the main figure are entirely dependent upon the player. The world of Vertiel has been at war for years, though some say it has only lasted for close to a decade many others believe that the war has been going on for centuries. The necromantic Ice Lords have risen armies of the undead and much of the land is destroyed, few people remain and those left alive that can be trusted are even fewer. Vulcan will build relationships or destroy them, depending on the dialogue chosen by the player; even to the point that combat allies are able to be seduced by the act of completing all of their side quests.

The quests are plentiful and, at times, overwhelming. Much like World of Warcraft, there are many quests that will cause the player to have to continually return to the same areas and fetch new items, which can be tedious. Luckily, the environments within the game are lusciously beautiful and fail to wear out their enjoyability quickly. Unfortunately, there are no indicators as to when new quests are available, leaving the player to continually check up on companions after completing main story missions and other objective; this makes it incredibly easy to bypass certain ally side quests, which is quite frustrating at times. Along the way are various lootable containers and bodies, and looting proves to be the key to ultimately beating the game due to the crafting system of Bound by Flame.

The player will find themselves hording materials to craft items such as health and mana potions, traps and crossbow bolts; the crafting paraphernalia are much more plentiful than gold, so it is easier to make items than it is to purchase them. The crafting system even has a crafting system, in that the essentials can be combined to create stronger components used for advanced crafting. Equipment can also be formulated and improved with ingredients, each of the options provide a different bonus benefit such as increased armor or health and higher resistance to certain magical ailments. When new armor or weapons are found, the old ones can either be recycled for more materials or sold for coins, although players will find it incredibly necessary to recycle all useless components as the need to make a ridiculous stockpile traps, potions and bolts is necessary to complete the game.

When earning experience and leveling up, the player will gain points to add to their skill trees and specialized abilities. The skill trees themselves, again, are reminiscent of the new era for both Diablo and World of Warcraft, in that the player has a choice of three tree sets; Warrior, Ranger and Pyromancer. Where the Warrior tree focuses on the fundamentals of using axes, swords and hammers, the Ranger set focuses on quick dodging and daggers. The Pyromancer tree only becomes available after Vulcan has been introduced to the demon, and acts as the mage tree where the mastery of fire is obtained. Ultimately it is up to the gamer to decide where they wish to allocate their points, if they want to completely master a skill set or spread their proficiency across multiple trees. The specialized abilities contain everything from hearing nearby loot emit a chime, to bonus health benefits and even weapon comprehension; some of these abilities must be unlocked by performing different feats, such as killing 15 enemies with an axe or recycling 20 items.

Though the graphics aren't up to the standard of many 2014 games, the attention to detail within the environment is exceptional. The player will find themselves enjoying romping through swamps, wading in sewers filled with dead bodies and freezing in a dreadful icy wasteland. It's also an added benefit that with each new piece of equipment, the clothing and weapons of Vulcan will change. The characters themselves have an Elder Scrolls: Oblivion type charm to them, especially when it comes to the facial detail and movement; the cheesy voice acting and dialogue writing are as equally amusing. Much like Demonicon, without the creepy incest part, the depth of the characters themselves are shallow and their interaction together can be awkward.

The massive downfall of Bound by Flame can be blamed on two faults; the story and the enemies. During the early stages of the game, the player will be hyped up in anticipation to face eight Ice Lords, but rigid disappointment ensues when one comes to realize that out of the eight, there is only the opportunity to battle just one. The secondary, but almost as abominable, affliction this game contains are the enemies and their ludicrous difficulty; it's not that the game itself is that challenging, rather than the foes are overpowered and take way too many hits to bring down. I personally played the game on the second highest difficulty and found myself having issues, and I consider myself a fairly skilled gamer. In particular, the skeletal archers are outright annoying and overpowered; they will and can take your life in a matter of seconds, especially within the first few hours of the game, if they are not dealt with right away. Other foes take an alarming, near boss-like, amount of hits to take down. There are also not a huge variation of adversaries, and the repetition factor multiplies tenfold by the third and final act of the game. The final boss of the game is more of an endurance battle than skill, lasting from anywhere between half an hour to an hour; players will need to be well stocked on potions, traps and crossbow bolts to even stand a chance.

Bound by Flame will definitely never be considered a cult classic, and the shameful difficulty of the title is not going to be some bragging rights challenge incentive like Dark Souls. It's hard to tell what the developers were thinking when they decided to take so many elements of other franchises and weld them together as they've done within this game. By all means, the game is enjoyable and it has its share of replayability factors if you're into achievement hunting. However, the grotesque endurance difficulty and lackluster characters will put off many potential buyers. The steep price of $39.99 for the content may be worth it to some, I happened to get this title on sale for the modest price of $19.99 and do not regret my purchase. That being said, give this title a fair shot when it goes on sale if you have enjoyed Dark SoulsFable, World of Warcraft, Diablo and Demonicon.


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