Bound By Flame has a good premise, but tedious boss fights make it more annoying than fun.
I have to admit that after reading so many negative reviews of Bound By Flame, I wanted to be different and really like the game after receiving a PS4 review copy. And I did like it… up to a point. It’s am ambitious title, brought to us by the same group behind Mars: War Logs (which I liked), so I thought it would turn out to be not just decent, but good. Unfortunately, that just wasn’t the case.
I really like it when a game dev decides to do something creative with the story of the game, and Bound By Flame really does have an ambitious plot. Basically, these things called the Ice Lords are taking over the world, and although you start out as a lowly mercenary for hire, after being possessed by a flame demon, you suddenly get tasked with saving the world. What truly makes the story interesting, though, is depending on how you respond to the demon in-game (as it talks to you inside your head), you either embrace the darkness or do not, which affects the way the game plays and your skill levels for certain things.
It’s a cool story, with a lot of potential, especially when it comes to choosing how you’re going to tackle the game. Unfortunately, the gameplay itself isn’t complex enough to really follow through on any choices you make during the game, so you end up basically changing your appearance and voice, and not much of anything else. The stakes of allowing something to possess you are huge, and really should have been made more huge.
For example, I chose to use the demon’s skills, but decided to keep it in check for dialogue options. I think things would have been interesting if by choosing to use the demon’s magical abilities, I was actually giving into it. In fact, this is what I expected until I realized that using the demon’s magic had absolutely no effect on anything. To me, that’s a missed opportunity.
Sights and Sounds
For an indie studio, Bound By Flame, however, does look good. I like the thick outlines of things and how stylized the environments were. Unfortunately, as the camera sometimes did weird things while playing, I ended up dead, because I missed something behind me. And occasionally, particularly in one setting, there would be a weird moment where I would turn a corner and everything, the background, floor, etc., around the character would just be blue. It was a weird glitch, but happened several times.
However, I can only say good things about the sound and the music for the game. The ambient music is great, but I especially loved the song that came up during the title track and the instrumentation during the final battle. Unfortunately, even great music didn’t take away from that final battle frustration (keep reading).
I will admit it: BioWare has spoiled me on how games that give you choices should work. Every choice should affect something. And although you do have some choice in this game, the character is exactly the same: sort of a smart ass mercenary type. Seriously, even if you play it as saintly as possible, the character still comes across as sort of a douche, which honestly isn’t a lot of fun to play if that’s not what you’re going for. Why allow for choice when it makes no difference?
Also, the combat is frustrating. Most of the bigger battles require no strategy rather than running around in circles and trying not to get hit while waiting for your health and magic to replenish? And those character with you? They’ll be dead 30 seconds into EVERY FIGHT. I mean, why even bother with other characters?
That brings me to the final battle that left me so frustrated that I eventually threw down my controller. I don’t mind a challenge, but if you also make it frustrating to the point that you’re done spending an hour trying to fight ONE DUDE, then it’s no longer fun. And for me, personally, if a game is no longer fun, I don’t want to be bothered with it.
Also, why allow the character to have a unique personalized name and then NEVER USE IT IN THE GAME. Just know that this character’s name is Vulcan and he/she will always be called that, regardless of what you name him/her. Seriously, just type in FartMonkey, because you’ll never hear or see that name again anyway. (Okay, I will give the game some bonus points for allowing you to choose your character’s gender and some basic physical characteristics.)
Finally, there is an option for romance, but don’t expect anything impressive. It’s a single choice (or so it seemed in my gameplay) and it lasts all of five seconds. But hey, I did get the achievement “Romance with Pointy Ears.”
Voices From Beyond
The voice acting wasn’t bad, and some sounded familiar from Mars: War Logs, however, it always felt like the wrong voice was being used for each character. I never quite got used to the voice for the female character I was playing – it just never fit.
I’ll admit that my overall impression is one of anger and frustration and much of that is based on my experience with the final boss battle. I want a game to be fun, and at that point, it just stopped being fun, but, unfortunately, much of the combat felt that way. Although I generally love what these game devs do, I’m going to suggest skipping Bound By Flame.