Bound by Flame is sometimes a mundane title with a rough storyline and lower grade presentation. However, it offers strong and uniquely satisfying gameplay that gives a lot back to the player in terms of customization and progression.
'Bound by Flame' on the PlayStation 4 is an action role-playing game developed by Spiders and published by Focus Home Interactive. The game was developed for the Xbox 360, PS3, PS4, and the personal computer. We got our hands on the PS4 version in order to take the game for a spin. Developing Western fantasy role playing games has always been a challenge in the age of the JRPG (which has been forever, as far as we are concerned). Despite some reservations about the things we had been hearing in regards to the title, we felt we owed it to ourselves to see if we could find a gem of an RPG lurking in the pile of untouched games that we had. Released in May of 2014, 'Bound by Flame' offered us more than we anticipated but with varying degrees of success.
More than anything we found 'Bound by Flame' to be a game of choices. Not like 'Fable' or 'Skyrim' but on a more fundamental level. The title revolves around you, the hero, being enticed by the lures of a demonic power. In the game you will be offered a source of evil powers for no physical cost. All that you have to do is give up some of your soul. Conversely you can deny the devil, so to speak, and instead choose to develop your own skills. The game itself doesn't care which way you lean as it will pressure you no matter what choice you make. As you push further and further through the game's world you will find yourself face to face with increasingly impossible creatures that you have to defeat. While it is possible to get through the game without giving up on yourself, the demon will always be there ready to offer you untold power in return for your soul. The choices you make, regarding this 'rock and a hard place scenario', will sway the game in the direction of one of three different endings.
No matter what choices you make you will eventually find yourself pushing up against the Deadarmy (not a very original name, is it?). These creatures were raised back to life by a group of Ice Lords. The goal of these Ice Lords is to end life as we know it in the world that 'Bound by Flame' resides in. You end up being called to fight the Ice Lords after your mercenary group, The Freeborn Blades, is pulled right into the middle of things.
As you can see, we have what is essentially a morality tale stretched into a feature length, narrative driven video game. If your red flags haven't popped up yet that means you are not paying enough attention. Dealing with a story as simple as this, especially in the world of roleplaying games, is a little bit scary. There is no depth and texture and an alarming lack of a gray area for our character to hide in. Of course, this lack of gray area also leaves us to present our character baldly. It is an 'all or nothing' scenario. Are you a demon? Or are you better than them?
If you haven't heard of 'Bound by Flame', we aren't surprised. The game was developed by a passionate little company out of France. The developers over at Spiders can only claim a few Sherlock Holmes games along with 'Mars War Logs' and 'Of Orcs and Men' to be proud of in their back catalog. Still, the fact that they aren't a big budget, AAA studio doesn't mean they can't develop a pretty awesome title.
For gamers looking for a 'Skyrim' replacement on the PlayStation 4, keep on walking. The developers lacked both the resources and the vision to accomplish what Bethesda did with their 'Elder Scrolls' series. Instead what we get is a very workable product that, at times, managed to impress us when it wasn't falling short of its own goals.
The primary method of playing BBF is by slashing your way through hordes of re-animated fallen soldiers. These re-animated warriors exist in many different elements. Some are old warriors, some are ghosts, and others are giant beasts that demand all of your attention. The attention to detail given to these creatures ranges from nonexistent to uber impressive. But I digress. Combat is ultra important no matter what the characters look like and fortunately it was done well in BBF.
The coolest gameplay mechanic that we found instilled in BBF was the stance system. In order to fight you need to know which stance you are in. Hit the R1 button to set yourself into the Warrior or Ranger stance. If you have heavy weapons, like a sword or a pike, make sure you are in Warrior mode. Ranger mode allows the use of smaller weapons as well as ranged items. Being in this second stance gives you more freedom to duck and move out of the way of attacks, all while increasing your resistance to certain weapons. If you want to try and skip battles completely then hit R3 and your character will go into stealth mode.
While we have mentioned that BBF is no 'Skyrim', it still does offer some customization. Your character has a range of abilities that can be upgraded with skill points that you earn by doing battles and missions. Unlock special spells, increase your fortitude, and become more adept at dealing damage all while spending the points in the right way.
Surprisingly enough there was an ambitious crafting system as well. Crafting allows you to collect materials dropped by fallen enemies or collected via merchants and quests. Craft at any time as long as you have the appropriate raw materials. Not too different than 'Skyrim', these crafted items can give you boosts to different statistical categories.
In closing we wanted to take a peak at BBFs weakest section: its graphics. 'Bound by Flame' on the PlayStation 4 looks like an old gen game that was upscaled in order to port onto the next gen console. While the graphics look 'okay', they still are stiff and lack the pop that many other comparable PS4 games have. That was our biggest shortcoming with 'Bound by Flame' and probably the biggest turn off for many new to the series gamers.