Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
As a preview, I will try to keep this brief. Action RPGs are on the rise thanks to Dark Souls being more popular than sliced bread. Focus Home Interactive and Spiders have come together and brought up a new game that is bigger than anything they have ever done. This is the same duo that made Mars War Logs and it shows in Bound by Flame. However, the main difference is that Mars War Logs was trying out a new game engine, the same engine that Bound by Flame is using now, but 1000 times better.
You play as Vulcan, a mercenary who becomes possessed by a demon and it gives him supernatural fire powers. However, the demon is a parasitic one and it can slowly begin to consume Vulcan if he lets his guard down. As you progress through the game Vulcan can either resist the demon or allow him to take over a small portion of his mind to gain better stats. Eventually, the demon gives Vulcan horns so you can’t wear helmets and his appearance becomes more and more demon-like if you continue to make the evil choices in the game. More than just Vulcan’s appearance changing with the choices he makes, many of these choices show up at the very end of the game when you enter The Worldheart where you fight the demon that talks to Vulcan in his dreams.
The story is alright, I wasn’t expecting much and there are some curveballs thrown at you, but overall it’s just serviceable.
The combat is a lot like Mars War Logs with better control response. Blocking is a necessity and I spent more time blocking than attacking. There is a parry system but it is rather challenging to get the hang of. Nearly every attack can be parried, so mastering this skill is a must. You can grind out levels, but the game is still heavily skill driven so learning to bob n’ weave is more important than dishing out the most damage. You can use a crossbow and magic for ranged damage, the knives for stealth damage and the claymore for brute force. Using which method of attacking is entirely up to you. The skills you obtain do not seem like much at first, until you start remembering where you started from at the beginning and you realize that instant casting of your flame sword is the most amazing thing ever. There are three different skill trees and a “feat” skill tree. When leveling up you get 2 points for skills and 1 point for a new Feat, many of these cost more than one point near end game so you will have to level up up to three times to get what you want.
The combat is better than Mars War Logs, but it still feels broken, many of the game’s status effects, like interruption, feel as though they never happen. While you only have a 15% of interrupting an enemy attack, the enemy has a 90% chance all the time, and it makes you wonder why you are even bothering being a demon/human hybrid if being a zombie means you can interrupt anyone’s attacks. Sure, using hammers instead of claymores will give you more odds, but then you sacrifice attack speed and attack damage just to interrupt the blasted archer.
The companion system feels incredibly wasted. The AI is only good for getting attacked by more than one enemy so you can focus on singling out the others. Given that you are outnumbered all the time this can be useful, but at the same time I wish the companion actually felt like it had a combative purpose rather than just being a glorified meat shield.
The environments are well designed so far and they are rather diverse in the different areas. As far as I could tell the game is not 100% free roam so once you move to a new base camp, you cannot travel to previous areas. So once you hit the mountain town, you cannot return to the jungle etc.
The game has its bugs and the animations are still pretty rough to look at. This is an indie game so finer details like that can be forgiven. However, it is still rather difficult to get over when Vulcan stabs someone and the sword is still moving around in the gut. Some additional art showing a stab would in the cutscenes would have been a nice touch, rather than just have the sword awkwardly placed inside of the enemy torso.
When I was playing through Mars War Logs I was able to get a taste of a very unique equipment system. Every piece of armor or weapon has their own stats as well as their own upgrade slots. You can craft new parts for the weapons and armor to not only change their look, but their stats as well. To do this you amass large quantities of monster drops and related material. Late game, enemies are more abundant and it becomes easier to get items that will give you the best upgrades. What is nice about this system is the amount of choices you have. Odds are, you are going to go brute damage though, mainly because the game’s enemies become ridiculously hard to kill.
The game has plenty of side quests but sadly they are pretty vague. I found myself failing a lot of side quests because the game just gave me an objective. The one that annoyed me the most was in the mountain area. I had to sneak up on a hunter. My objective was all the way across the map, but when I tried to leave base camp, Randval (companion) would tell me that I had to sneak up on the hunter. Thus failing the mission. There are four ways to go about getting to the objective point for that side quest, I went through all of them and I failed the mission every time, even when I walked in stealth. The quest is either bugged or it is just horrible game design.
Bound By Flame still has replay value, a cool art direction and soundtrack. You can have a lot of fun if you are willing to die a lot because of stupid reasons and if you can forgive some of the bad animations. Bound by Flame has plenty of design flaws that you will find as you play, but what game doesn’t these days? Bound by Flame is available on Steam, Xbox 360, PS4, and PS3.
3 out of 5 Nerds