Review: Bound By Flame
AN RPG FOR THE AGES… AND THE TRASHCAN
GameStop had a deal over the holidays where Elite Pro Club Members could purchase 4 pre-owned games for $4 each. “Bound By Flame” was one of the titles I picked up, and to be perfectly honest, it’s not even worth that amount of money.
There are plenty of bad games that have memorable charm, and there are plenty of good games that are forgotten because they get lost in the fray of major Triple-A releases. “Bound By Flame” or what I like to refer to as “A Poor Excuse For A Title,” is forgettable, terrible and should never exist on any gamer’s shelf. If its ridiculous difficulty doesn’t turn players away, then it’ll be the juvenile writing and the pitiful combat system.
It’s an RPG trying its hardest to mimic the greatness of the “Witcher” and other similar franchises. The opening/tutorial level shows great promise, even on the hardest difficulty. But at the start of the next level, the game never quite reaches the same promising state. It gets downright painful to play.
Despite the several times I nearly deleted the game, I was able to force myself to finish for the sole purpose of writing this scathing review. The difficult final boss was only possible with 20+ health potions (on the Easiest difficulty by the way) and it turned out to be one of the more satisfying parts of the game. But at that point, nothing could’ve saved this title. It’s so bad it’s funny, and after reading this review, you’ll understand why.
GRAPHICS – 2
Graphics have really never been too important, to me, because I’ve had my heartstrings pulled and my emotions toiled by titles with 8-bit engines. But let’s talk about the graphics of “Bound by Flame” for a minute. Just for a minute.
With the exception of the artistic design of the levels, everything is mediocre. From the character designs to the poor excuses for special effects, there’s nothing that proves this game came out in 2014. “Killzone: Shadow Fall,” the previous game I reviewed, had better graphics and came out in 2013. “Dark Souls” was released on the PlayStation 3 back in 2009, and it has better graphics.
The Silk Engine, developed by Spiders (the developers of this atrocious game) is not a bad engine. It brings a unique, fanciful style to every one of Spiders’ games; just take a look at “Of Orcs and Men.” However, there’s an obvious indolence painted across the aesthetic of “Bound By Flame.” There’s barely any variety or any kind of risks taken to magnify this team’s creativity. Everything just looks so… monotonous in a very colorful world.
I will praise the attention to detail that went into creating and designing the different weapons and pieces of armor, which can be customized extensively through a decent socket/upgrade system. It’s an enjoyable feature but is nowhere near as extensive as “Dragon Age: Inquisition’s” system, which came out only a few months later in 2014.
If you’re looking for stellar visuals and jaw-dropping special effects, this game will not have it for you. The special effects and hand-painted vistas in “Final Fantasy IX” surpass everything in “Bound By Flame,” so do not have your expectations high.
GAMEPLAY (Mechanics, Style, & Difficulty) – 1
This game is difficult. Whoever beats this game on the hardest difficulty deserves a house bigger than Bill Gates’, including his underwater speakers. And since I wanted a house like that, the hardest difficulty was my choice at the beginning of the game. The first level, tutorial/introduction, was not all that bad. The first boss took more than a few attempts, but impossibility never crossed my mind.
Move onto the next part of the game, and everything changes. The smallest enemies, the supposed weak trash, block every attack and kill you with one hit. And from then on, that’s how the game plays out. The weakest enemies are difficult to beat. Their stronger counterparts are nearly impossible. Completing the game on the hardest difficulty will take patience, but then you’re taking a painful 10-hour campaign and turning it into a 50-hour suppository. Using patience in this game is the ultimate mind-numbing experience. Blame it on the combat system.
While it’s similar to the “Witcher” franchise and other RPGs like it, the combat system doesn’t work. One of its main problems is the RNG-based enemy mechanics, meaning, at times, the enemies get locked into using the same attack over and over and over again. And even while dealing with this on the easiest difficulty, there’s barely a window of opportunity to attack an enemy without taking damage. It forces to player, if they want to remain entirely unscathed, to dwindle their play-style down to a very basic “block, hit, block, hit” strategy. It’s extremely time-consuming and in no way pleasurable.
The combat systems in titles such as “Dark Souls” and “Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt” are time-consuming because those enemies have well-designed A.I. (most of the time) and will take advantage of any mistake the player makes. Using unique strategies will see you victorious in those titles, but “Bound By Flame” cannot conform to the unique styles each player brings to the table. The system is flawed and unbalance and has no variety. On the harder difficulties, the enemies simply have more health and you, as the player, deliver weaker attacks. Nothing else changes from the lower difficulty levels. It’s the same flawed system, just hidden behind an unethical, insulting façade.
There are some positives within the gameplay, though. Having a companion to tag along is always nice, especially when they can heal, but they also suffer from the atrocious combat. The loot system, crafting system, leveling system, and customization of weapons and armor are the aspirin for this migraine. Yet, migraines don’t go away that easily. Once you’re out of the pause menu… it’ll quickly creep its way back into your cerebrum.
So obviously, the combat system is the biggest flaw. And since combat is a MAJOR part of the game’s style, the entire game is frustratingly annoying. I chalk it up to laziness by the developers. After you read the rest of this review, you will too.
STORY & CHARACTERS – 1.5
The story does have a beginning, middle, and an end. The fact that there are actual plot points and forces of antagonism building roadblocks in front of the protagonist are huge positives for “Bound By Flame.” However, having a decent story on paper is not enough. Character, theme, and integrity turn a great story into a memorable tale. There is a theme about morale fiber layered within “Bound By Flame,” but the lack of character and integrity force it to become an embarrassing knock-off of a romance novel.
Similar to the gameplay in the introductory level, the setting, plot and character are introduced nicely. The player understands the main character, Vulcan, is a cruel bastard and he’ll change over the course of an interesting story. But then, once again, when the player moves onto the second section of the game, everything crumbles.
The game’s spirit and dialogue become belligerent, juvenile and offensive. The unnecessary cursing, sexual innuendos and elementary insults are rather annoying. Character development goes out the window. There are a handful of companions to choose from, but developing relationships with them proves to be tedious. You are able to romance companions of the opposite sex, and each comes with a “suggestive” romantic scene. One of which takes place, out in the open, in the middle of an evil fortress, which does not make any sense. And after the scenes are over… nothing develops further, so what was the point? Juvenility at its finest.
Throughout the game, all the characters are freaking out about being annihilated by powerful beings and evil creatures, yet they don’t think twice about the main character slowly turning into a demon. Based on the player’s choices, similar to “Fable,” Vulcan either appears human, as a demon, or somewhere in between. It’s an admirable function for the player to enjoy. Although, seeing an NPC scream at a zombie but then smile at a demon with fiery eyes and hones protruding out of his/her head completely erases any hope for logic and immersion.
And to cut my rant short, the voice acting also becomes laughable; to the point it’s hard to accept that it actually exists. It’s a nice exclamation point at the end of the overall indolent nature of this game. 14-year-olds must’ve gotten their hands on a good idea and decided to make it “hip” and “funny” for their friends. This kind of development makes me sick to think hard-working gamers spent more than $1 on the title.
MUSIC – 2.5
The soundtrack is good and fits the aesthetic of the game, but it’s limited. There are only a handful of tracks, and each of them is repeated constantly throughout the game. And if you do want to purchase the soundtrack, there are only three songs available and they aren’t even the good ones.
BUGS & GLITCHES – 0
During the credits, Localization and Quality Assurance departments are credited, with a handful of names scrolling along with them. In my opinion, I believe the departments did not exist and all of those names were made up.
The amount of grammar mistakes made in the subtitles is so bad “Grammar Nazis” on YouTube could make a career out of it. Seriously, when one of the companion names is misspelled on more than one occasion (“Mathras” is spelled as “Matthras), how can you miss the development lethargy? Here’s an even better example:
It’s insulting. I understand Spiders is a French company who needed the game translated into English, but that’s what Localization is for… the department that obviously did not exist.
On top of that trash, there were a plethora of functionality bugs, graphics glitches, characters egregiously clipping through walls and NPCs repeating “triggered” dialogue. An example of that is when Vulcan steps into the vicinity of a group of Lost Soldiers, it activates a trigger and the soldiers start to whisper and call for help. Once you find them, they will continue to repeat their two dialogue strings until Vulcan speaks to one… even when Vulcan is standing directly in front of them.
The game, if at all, was barely QA’ed. Adding more disrespect to the pile I have for Spiders.
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE – 1
At the character creation screen, there’s the option to give Vulcan a unique name. This is always fun for players, especially if some are looking to daydream more than others. So, since I like a little more immersion during my playthroughs, I decided to use a unique name.
When the game started, my character, Merrin, was not referred to properly. He was referred to as somebody named “Vulcan.” That’s not the name I chose. If I was naming a save file and not my character, I wouldn’t even be mentioning this right now. But no, it’s clear the player has the option to NAME THEIR CHARACTER during character creation. It’s a bit of a slap in the face when you go through the trouble of coming up with the perfect name for a character and then never seeing it mentioned. It’s a tough feature to implement into video games, yes, and sports game developers have worked hard to make leaps and bounds in that department. But if Vulcan is the only name for the main character, then why have the option to name him/her?
Why am I talking about this and not the Entertainment Value? Because I want my readers to understand where my entertainment value started with “Bound By Flame.” It started low and got lower and lower, only spiking here and there because one or two fights actually went well.
REPLAY VALUE – 0
The game is now placed underneath my laptop, which now receives proper air circulation.
Make sure to check me out on Twitch at twitch.tv/brunhofer as I play the next game up for review!