Developers Spiders have been honing their role playing game foundation over the past few years. With games like Of Orcs and Men and Mars: War Logs under their belt, they have taken what they’ve learned from those two released and have went forward to make their most ambitious project yet. Bound by Flame marks the true arrival of Role Playing Games on next-gen hardware with a massive sprawling story and deep gameplay mechanics but have, until now, mediocre studio finally got it right with Bound by Flame?
I gotta say, I like Spiders, the developers of course! Playing Of Orcs and Men, while it felt clunky in areas, I could see the ideas in place and that some honing and tuning would greatly benefit the developers going forward. Some progress was made in Mars: War Logs so when Bound by Flame came around, it was exciting to see just how much has improved. Most of the clunkiness from previous games is gone but because the game is much more ambitious than their previous games, it falls down at some key aspects.
Bound by Flame is clearly inspired by two RPGs: Dragon Age and Dark Souls. The role playing mechanic has clearly taken some cues from Dragon Age with the structure of the story, some enemy designs, and the relationship between you and your party. The enemies can be quite reminiscent of the creatures that come from The Fade.
The Dark Souls inspiration comes from the gameplay. Bound by Flame is a challenging game on the default difficulty. A lot of enemies can take you out in just a couple of hits. The main difference between this and Dark Souls though is that Dark Souls always feels fair, Bound by Flame doesn’t. It’s very easy to get caught by a couple of enemies and be cheaply killed.
Bound by Flame is similar in the fact that you must watch enemies’ attack patterns but registering blocks and hits don’t always seem accurate. There were a number of times, especially during boss battles that it seemed like I blocked an attack, the enemy didn’t react, the controller didn’t vibrate, yet my health dropped. There were other times when I clearly got out of an area of attack’s range but still received damage and was sent off my feet despite having a clear distance between the attack effect and my avatar.
This frustration is the main detractor from enjoyment from this game. The story sees your character be infused with a demon which has somehow resided inside your character. Throughout the course of the game, you are given a choice to accept the power of the demon and become stronger or reject and receive hero perks. It’s an interesting idea, one that could be morally intruiging but it never reaches its full potential. It can, at times, feel like a novelty with the moral implications not feeling like anything really at all. Still, it’s still rather enjoyable seeing your character succumb to the demon should you let it with the look of your character changing.
Part of it comes down to the phoned-in voice acting. No performance stands out but to its credit, none of them are laughably bad. Some of the dialogue is rather cliché while some of it offers some depth to the world and characters. It’s inoffensive and that’s possibly worse than corny voice acting because it’s incredibly easy to forget once you stop playing.
Possibly the strongest aspect though is the music. Assassin’s Creed composer Olivier Deriviere brings an incredible soundtrack to the game that gives the game more depth than the actual story. It’s moody, epic in parts, and enjoyable throughout.
Visuals are not impressive at all. The version reviewed was the PlayStation 4 version and while some areas look decent as well and the 60 frames a second is a nice touch, it’s simply underwhelming considering the system it’s on. Animations are clumsy, and some of the visuals nearly have a cel-shaded look to it with thick black outlines. Once again, it’s not terrible, but it’s also unimpressive.
Bound by Flame does build on the foundations of previous Spider titles but it also brings with it new problems. Aspirations to follow in Dark Souls footsteps in gameplay and Dragon Age is structure has led to a decent title that feels more mediocre than it could have. Still, despite all its shortcomings, having an RPG on a new system is great, and it really could have been a lot worse. If you can overlook its smaller budget feel, then you will be in store for a rather enjoyable action RPG.