We take a look at Spiders latest game which offers some action adventuring set within a dark and foreboding world filled with the undead and plenty of demons. Appearing on last gen systems, PS4 and PC, is this game worth the time and effort or something that should be avoided at all costs? Take a look at our Bound By Flame video review for the full picture.
Bound By Flame Review
Today we take a look at Spiders latest game Bound By Flame which is available now on last gen consoles, PS4 and PC platforms and tells the story of a mercenary who gets imbued with special demonic powers after a ritual goes horribly wrong and leaves him or her chomping at the bit and flaming around the chops. Players begin their long adventure by choosing a male or female character with choice of a few variations and the option to select different hair styles and race. Aside from this the customization is pretty basic, but extends further once you’ve ventured deeper into the game by way of finding new bits of armour and weapons. The game starts off fairly tame but makes no bones about the attitude of the lead character “Vulcan” as she drops numerous wise cracks and sometimes obnoxious remarks amidst all the seriousness. There’s quite a well developed story here which becomes more interesting as players meet other characters and undertake side quests. The former often allowing you to team up as you venture out into the wilds collecting things and then reporting back at one of several hub locations throughout the adventure.
What’s key about the game is the combat which comprises of stealth based attacks, ranged with bows and magic, and traditional melee with swords, axes and such like. To delve a bit deeper, there are two stances players can adopt on the fly which allow for slow but powerful attacks with heavy weapons, and then light damage but fast attacks. What’s neat is being able to change the approach to suit the opponent and make use of each ability that comes with the stance, so for example the speedier ranger stance gives players the chance to effortlessly dodge incoming attacks which if timed correctly allows for a quick counter. On the flip side, the warrior stance allows for counter blocking and the chance to interrupt enemy attacks. It’s a solid system that works for the most part requiring tactical thought rather than all out button mashing but isn’t as well polished as it could be especially when faced with numerous opponents further into the game. The biggest problem lies with the game’s lock on system which is manually activated but feels a bit too fiddly when faced with multiple targets. When not locked on the character will often fall foul of having his or her back turned and killed in the process which is a bit of a pain. That said, with a bit of perseverance it is manageable once you get used to it – although later on in the game, status changing effects can lead to more headaches as players are attacked whilst downed with no chance to escape which feels a bit cheap.
As with all role playing games, there’s a skill tree system based on experience gained and provides some cool bonuses to the combat which are a must for success. Players can spend points gained for each level up on the desired skill tree which boosts either the Warrior, Ranger or magic abilities. There are additional feat bonuses as well which allow for improved skills in various fields that add another layer to the overall character status which is good. It’s all easy to navigate and understand despite the menu itself being a little cumbersome. With the inclusion of numerous side quests, it does pay to spend the time and energy completing these as ultimately the reward of more experience is most welcome.
Aside from leveling up skills, equipping weapons and armour, undertaking quests and checking the state of play in the menu, there’s also a handy option to craft useful items such as health packs from collected materials which are gained from the fallen enemies and various chests or objects in the field. Players can also craft their weapons and armour with new abilities which adds further depth to the customization options on offer. There’s a fair bit here which on the surface can be easily overlooked and perhaps a bit daunting at first, but once some hours are under the belt it all makes perfect sense and becomes a valuable resource aiding progression.
Throughout the story, Vulcan meets a varied cast of characters who offer their own stories and side objectives. Whilst it’s optional to dig deeper, there’s quite a bit of characterization under the surface which is good to explore as you team up and venture forth. Players are often presented with choices which affect relationships and the overall plot of the game, but with the demonic powers inside Vulcan’s head offers a stark choice to let it consume his or her being or ignore it entirely. Accepting the demon and its powers does have a profound effect on the appearance of the Vulcan, giving him or her horns and fiery eyes amongst other things. Interestingly, Vulcan can’t wear any head gear once horns have sprouted from his head.
In terms of looks, Bound By Flame offers some pleasant visuals across several themed locations, a day and night system and an assortment of generic and more original twisted adversaries. The game looks fairly good for the most part but does show some cracks from time to time with low resolution textures and some awkward animations. There’s also moments during combat where the camera becomes troublesome and the scenery obstructs the view of the fighting which is frustrating to say the least. That said, from the snowy wastes, swampy groves and dark cities the game is quite varied and provides some good linear stomping grounds.
Audio is of a high quality here with an impressive soundtrack that offers excellent music throughout. it’s obvious a lot of care and attention was lavished on the music as it can’t be faulted simply because each track tailors the mood perfectly. The voice acting is perhaps not as well produced and whilst fairly accomplished, isn’t performed as well as it could be. The lines of dialogue are hit and miss which will either have players groaning with contempt or laughing out loud in disbelief. There are several “did she really just say that” moments where the attitude of Vulcan is fairly obtuse despite the serious nature of some moments. In many ways, the script is comical and with some characters coming across in a similar manner makes for light comedy which isn’t necessarily fitting with the overall theme.
Gamers can expect to pump in many hours of play time depending on how thorough they are in talking to everyone and completing all optional quests before moving on to the next area. In many ways, the side quests are pretty easy to complete and involve grabbing items and returning them to specific characters – made much easier by appearing on the mini map at all times. Players can beat the game, then go again by upping the difficulty and perhaps trying a different set of crucial options on subsequent plays.
To conclude, Bound By Flame is a commendable game from Spiders and one that whilst interesting and full of pleasant surprises beneath the surface does take some time to reach its full potential. The opening hours are a little lacking and might put off some players, but once the game enters its stride, provides some cool moments of tactical stealth and action gaming that’s worth the price of entry. The story is pretty good, the characterization effective, and the music top quality. The only things letting the game down are some poor visual elements on occasion, unfair design choices which can frustrate or cause cheap deaths, and an overall lack of polish in some areas where things like companion AI gets stuck on the scenery. So, if you like action role playing games then this is worth checking out, although it’s not going to be to everyone’s tastes. There’s some genuinely jarring bits of dialogue from the main character that have to be heard to be believed, but at least there’s an abundance of humour here.
Score 7.5/10 – Review by Robert Cram