Note: The following review is SPOILER FREE!
“Bound by Flame” is a demon influenced journey through Vertiel. Solid combat, character customization and armor/potion crafting does its job to outshine the awful dialogue and regularly misused obscenities found in this action role-playing experience.
“Bound by Flame” places you in the blood stained leather and crafted armor of Vulcan, a mercenary looking to help the Freeborn Blades (warriors for hire) and the Red Scribes (old beardy, book-readin’, spell-castin’ dudes) as they struggle to discover why so many undead soldiers and lethal creatures are roaming free and killing the citizens of Vertiel. Early in the game, Vulcan is the victim of a sorcery experiment gone bad and is joined by a demonic spirit of fire. The story progresses as the demon and Vulcan fight for control over the body they share as they quest to repair the Worldheart in search of power and the liberation of Vertiel.
While the story serves its purpose well enough, the main issue with “Bound by Flame” is the absolute horrible dialogue. Swearing just to swear works well in “Saints Row” or “Deadpool,” but the problem is that the obscenities flat out do not fit in the dialogue and seem to be shoehorned in there, causing for some unintentional comic relief. The dialogue switches from old school Shakespearean “thous,” “thines” and “doths,” to regular “f*cker,” “assh*le” and “goddamns.”
Another hiccup in the story is the lack of an effective choice system. The game suggests that your decisions will have an impact overall, but honestly, whatever decision you make is pointless given the fact that whatever you don’t choose finds a way to happen anyway. It is just one of those things where the developer needs to go full bore or not at all. The only decision that really felt like it made a difference in the outcome was the final choice, which in turn only decided what cutscene you watched.
The best working device in “Bound by Flame” is the combat system. You have two-handed swords and axes, daggers and a crossbow at your availability. There’s also the standard quick, heavy and melee attacks to accompany these items. The game implements a block and parry system, one with unforgiving timing that feels great once pulled off. The longer you play the game the more repetitive you will find the gameplay, but the mixture of weaponry and armor customization will motivate you to keep fighting while cultivating the ultimate warrior. With this goal, there are three skill trees in the game for you to spend XP on prior to leveling up. Pyromancer will aid in stamina or stronger powers, Ranger will help with your stealth ability and Warrior will make you stronger, providing more health and fighting perks. As with your skill tree, you can craft upgrades for your weapons and armor as you progress, giving them whatever buffer that best suits your fighting style.
The art team did a great job in attempting to visualize a different world for you to progress through. The scale of the monsters during the cutscenes are impressive, but the world overall is just so-so. Some things would look detailed in one area, but completely old school in others. The best thing “Bound by Flame” does is attach your upgraded weapons and items to Vulcan as you play. Adding tassels, hilts and other things will have a direct visual impact on your gameplay.
The backing music throughout works very well to set the tone of the game. The main problem with the voice acting is not the voice actors themselves, but the script they were given to read. The game does attempt to flesh out each character and make them each interesting, but the heavy handed use of Shakespearean aged dialogue, mixed in with modern day swear words just feels and sounds out of place. I found myself laughing more often than not at the awfully placed swear words, thinking every time how much stronger the conversation would have been without it. Those moments did more damage than anything else.
While repetitive, the combat system in “Bound by Flame” might be enough to keep you engaged through Vulcan’s demonic inner struggle as you fight to free Vertiel. If you can get past the godawful use of obscenities in the writing, you will have a somewhat decent game to keep you busy for a good 25-30 hours. For a game that currently retails for around $40, it’s not something you should jump at, and waiting for the price to drop further won’t hurt you either.
Will you be getting a copy of “Bound by Flame?” Are you just going to wait for “The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt” for a better experience? Thou shalt leave a f**king comment below.
*This review of "Bound by Flame" is based off playing a retail copy of the game on the PlayStation 4 console.
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