If there is one genre that the PlayStation is currently lacking in, it's the role-playing genre. Sure, there are many PS4 RPGs in the works, but many of those are months, maybe years, down the line. Developer Spiders, teaming up with publisher Focus Home Interactive, looks to fill the PS4's RPG-sized hole with Bound By Flame, a game that feels like a combination of Dragon Age, Witcher and quite a few European developed RPGs.
It's the first role-playing game, but is it worth picking up? It depends on what your expectations are.
An RPG With a Different Feel
It's important to note that Spiders is based in France and that European role-playing games feel significantly different than anything created in the US or Japan. Most RPGs developed in Europe primarily reside on the PC and this is likely to be many US-based gamers experience to an entry in that niche.
European developed role-playing games often think big, incorporating ideas and themes into their games that you don't see tackled in any region. Unfortunately, the funding that is necessary to make these ideas perfectly happen isn't quite there and these games can feel very rough around the edges with quite a few cut corners. Think of games such as Gothic 3, Risen, Two Worlds and Divine Divinity for some of the best examples of what this genre can provide, both good and bad. These games have a look and feel that let veteran players of the genre instantly pick them out.
If you're a fan of the above games, you'll find a lot to live in Bound By Flame. If you're expecting a polished experience akin to Mass Effect or Dragon Age, you're likely to be disappointed. Fair warning and something to keep in mind while you read the review.
Interesting Take On a Familiar Genre
Bound By Flame may look like your average role-playing game, but the tale it tells is slightly different than what you may be used to. The world in Bound By Flame is dying, torn apart by a group of powerful ice-based necromancers who are depleting the world's energy for their own evil uses. As part of a mercenary group that is drawn into the struggle, you bond with a flame demon in order to gain the power necessary to stop them.
Through this flame demon comes the morality system popularized in so many other role-playing games: The demon wants you to do bad and, should you take his advice, you'll morph into a demon yourself little by little. Morphing into a demon makes you unable to wear certain pieces of armor but increases your magic power, so it's up to you to decide if the trade-off is worth it. The story will take a number of twists and turns as you need to decide who to listen to and what path to take.
Bound of Flame features a lot of dialogue and a lot of flavor text, making it very easy to become engrossed in its world if you want to. Unfortunately, the voice acting is poor, to put it nicely, but that's just another staple of the European RPG and is mostly due to a smaller budget. It's easy to overlook this flaw.
However, what may not be as easy for some gamers to overlook is the massive amount of excessive foul language used in the game. Female characters are constantly referred to as "sluts," and the use of the word "scrotum" appears ten minutes into the game. At times, the game feels like it was written by a teenager who just learned about foul language. Sometimes it's hilarious (I laughed out loud since it's been years since I've heard anyone use the word "scrotum" as an insult), sometimes it's just cringe-inducing.
Note: A lot of reviewers seem to be hung up on the fact that no matter what name you put in, the game continues to call your character Vulcan. As explained in the in-game journal, Vulcan is just a code name. The journal frequently explains things the game itself glosses over.
Combat Done Three Ways
Unlike other role-playing games that make you choose your class, Bound By Flame lets you play all three classes at once: Warrior, Ranger and Mage. Each class has its own skill tree and you can switch between each class on the fly depending on the situation.
Bound By Flame's combat feels a lot like Dark Souls 2, with a mix of light and heavy attacks, parries and a crossbow that can be used at any time. Like Dark Souls 2, Bound By Flame is a tough, tough game, especially on the hardest difficulty.
However, the combat does have its fair share of problems. The lock-on system in particular seems erratic, you'll find yourself getting hit frequently during animations you can't interrupt, and you'll frequently find yourself surrounded by enemies without any attacks designed to take on a group. While you can knock down enemies, they can also knock you down and you'll just have to sit there getting hit until you can get back up. In addition, near the end of the game some enemies have a very large health pool that can take quite a bit of time to whittle down.
As a reward for these fights you'll find your fair share of loot, with each armor and weapon piece making a notable visual difference on your character. It's a nice touch.
A Linear Affair
Unlike most European RPGs, Bound By Flame isn't an open-world adventure: Not even close. The game has a lot in common with the first Fable more than anything, as you'll traverse very linear environments, that are more akin to hallways, with towns and hubs in-between. For a more recent example, think Final Fantasy XIII but with a more action-oriented twist. If you're looking for exploration and adventure, Bound By Flame isn't going to satisfy that itch.
The PS4 Advantage
Bound By Flame alternates between looking amazing in some parts, most notably character textures and magical special effects, to looking quite poor, such as environmental locations.
While the game doesn't take advantage of any of the PlayStation 4's unique features, such as the light bar or touchpad, it does look significantly better than the PlayStation 3 version so there's that.
The trophies are creative, encourage you to explore every facet of the game to get all of them and are quite challenging as well. Good luck trying to finish this game on the hardest difficulty.
Bound By Flame will take the average gamer anywhere from 20 to 25 hours to finish (longer if you do every side-quest), so while it's not the longest role-playing game in the world, it is the longest single player adventure you can purchase on the PlayStation 4.
Some gamers won't be able to overlook its flaws and for those gamers, this game won't be a good fit. If you're a little more lenient on your games and you realize that Spiders and Focus Home Interactive made something this grandiose on what is likely a far smaller budget than your average AAA game, you'll find a lot to love here. It's an interesting mix of Fable, Dragon Age, Witcher and any European born RPG.
Bound By Flame will likely end up being a hidden gem or a cult classic, a game that won't appeal to everyone but for a small group of gamers it will be a fantastic experience. Instead of paying attention to the score for this one, do yourself a favor and read the review to see if the game's flaws are something you can overlook.
If you have just a shred of patience and want to scratch that role-playing itch, Bound By Flame is a great choice.
Final Score: 7/10
Game Category: Role Playing
A copy of Bound By Flame was provided to PS4 Experts by Focus Home Interactive for review purposes.
Article by - Joshua Phillips
Insert Date: 5/2/2014