Bound By Flame sends you to a bleak fantasy world where it’s inhabitants are slowly falling to a Frost Lord who is raising his fallen enemies to make an ever expanding army to destroy life as they know it.
You play as Vulcan, the Powder Master of a band of mercenaries, paid to protect a group called the Red Scribes. With the end of the world drawing near and the undead armies sweeping across the lands, the Red Scribes think they can stop the army by using the lands energy called the Worldheart, as a last hope to stop the war. Vulcan helps the Red Scribes, but the plan goes south and Vulcan’s body becomes host to a demon of flame. With an opening storyline like this, paired up with some dark humour and juvenile conversations, who would had thought that this is as good as the story gets.
Where the Plot quickly wears thin the game is then held up by its combat system, An RPG aspect where you have three very different skill trees with a few buffs at each level. The Warrior, Ranger, and Pyromancer, slow sword stance, fast daggers, and fire spells respectively. The different combat stances can be toggled on-the-fly and the fire spells are available in both. I found after I had a fair lot of use with both stances I found myself using the Ranger stance most of all, which gives extra speed, critical damage, the ability to easily interrupt attacks and later on, the ability to sprint in battle, handy if you need to escape during a fight.
When upgrading your character, progression needs to be thought through. For every point it will give you a minor or substantial upgrade, which at first seems like nothing, but will eventually make your character a silent assassin or a tank. Both are effective and it’s really all about preference of how you want to continue. The battles can be hard and time consuming and you need to master your moves and time attacks perfectly to be successful and deal with enemies quickly. At times you will be required to use both stances to flank and defend yourself.
In all the combat feels good and is very rewarding, the weapons and armour you use can be personalised and you can craft extras to the make them work for you. They range from stiletto to serrated daggers and long swords to huge great axes, all of which have a different attribute and will help you in a many situations.
The environments are very dark but look great, the use of lighting and water effects really make the land seem less flat and as small as they really are, making great use of this to hide useful items. But sadly, there is very little to explore, usually if you kill all the enemies in these areas they will not re-spawn, leaving the area quiet giving you no point to revisit. This really shortens the life of the game, where most RPG’s give you a reason to revisit conquered areas, Bound By Flame does not, the game pushes you to move in a linear direction.
Within the damp and hard to follow storyline and interesting but non-retaining environments there is a choice system, where you choose to become corrupted by a the demon soul inside you, or retain your soul. Both sides have consequences, you will become stronger by becoming more demon, and essentially evil and getting what you need to change into a horned monster. On the other hand, choose to become a good person and you will benefit with more companions choosing to follow you and aid you in better weapons and support. The choice is yours, but again, this makes very little difference to the overall game other than your appearance and armour.
I now only play Bound By Flame mainly for the combat and the weapons. The skill trees help you but when it comes down to it, the fights take skill, and without that no amount of abilities will help you. The difficulty does progress quickly pushing you to make all your moves count and stock up on potions whenever possible and the companions are helpful as fodder and can usually Tank enemies giving you time to heal up or just reposition and their dialogue will leave you questioning the reason they bother following you.
The story although sounds great does lack and you may just want to skip over it and enjoy what it is for, the gameplay which is saddening. But I did enjoy the experience and something new to play on the PS4, with the lack of titles so far I do feel this will be the same for a lot of people. The graphics do make the game more pleasing and can take your mind off the objectives and storyline to allow you to just get stuck in and destroy some monster with a huge hammer and that’s something they did very well.