If there is one thing you should take from reading this, it is that Bound by Flame is a low-budget knock-off of The Witcher.
Bound by Flame tries to be a dark fantasy RPG but fails to do it as well as other games in the genre. It attempts to prove its darkness and maturity while failing to hide the shallowness of its gameplay and narrative. The game has certain strengths: a complex crafting system and a unique demon-power choice system. But they fail to coalesce into a greater whole. It’s a little brother’s attempt to copy the fort his older brother made, adding “cool” superficial features while sacrificing a strong foundation.
Bound by Flame follows the story of a mercenary named Vulcan, who can be customized but will inexplicably be addressed as Vulcan all the same. Vulcan is charged with saving the world from a legion of Deadwalkers and ancient necromancers whose desires for power threaten to destroy the entire world. Vulcan is eventually possessed by a fire demon who gives him supernatural powers. It is these powers that can help Vulcan defend the realm of the living against the hordes of the undead.
The class system in Bound by Flame is focused into three skill trees: Warrior (slow sword-swinging), Ranger (quick dagger combat), and Pyromancer (fire spells); and all three can be accessed within one playthrough. Combat stances, Warrior and Ranger, can be toggled instantaneously in the midst of battle while your fire spells are accessible in both stances. Each individual combat style feels unique enough, but none of them feels compelling enough to seem thoroughly immersive or intricate.
Bound by Flame‘s most intriguing aspects are the moments when Vulcan must decide to submit to the demon’s will or follow his own heroic path. Think of the karma system in the inFamous series, except with more fire. The more you side with the demon’s advice, the more you take on stereotypical demonic traits and gain epic pyromancer abilities. As the game progresses, reddish runes are etched into Vulcan’s blackened chest and, not one, but three sets of curled horns grow from his head.
The consequences of your decisions are more than just visual. Growing horns on your head means that you can not wear helmets and gain their protection. Instead, you are compensated with enhanced regeneration capabilities. Choosing the path of the demon rewards you with an amount of badassery that clearly points to “evil” being the right choice. The narrative choices in the game work well when you’re invested in the outcome but the game’s poor writing fails to encourage caring about anyone’s fate other than your own. The characters you are supposed to care for are crude and flat out boring. The only times they are funny are when they are unintentionally the butt of the joke.
Bound by Flame is a generic Western RPG that is steeped in good intentions but plagued by poor execution. It gives the feeling that whatever budget the developer had was spent on the game’s abstracts instead of the tangible mechanics that are necessary to make it playable. Bound by Flame is to Piranha as The Witcher is to Jaws, clearly inspired by the latter but not nearly as good. But it doesn’t mean it can’t be enjoyed for what it is. Just heed the warning….
[+Complex crafting system][+Demon-power choice system][-Poor writing][-Generic narrative][-Immature humor][-Atrocious AI][-Lack of character development]
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