Focus Home Interactive is making a name for itself publishing quirky titles that range across well-known intellectual property licenses (Game of Thrones, Blood Bowl) to the more inventive spectrum end of gaming design (A Vampyre Story, Virtual Skipper, Pro Cycling Manager).
The polish is usually slightly off, but the endeavour and aim of each title is always high. And so it is here with Bound By Flame, a tale of high fantasy, possession and retribution all in a frame work that will challenge players beyond the normal for today’s video games.
Sound familiar? Dark/Demon Souls often gets a similar overarching description, and it is easy to draw parallels between the experiences of From Software’s titles to that presented here. So we won’t, we will stick to talking about Bound By Flame as it stands.
Bound By Flame tells the tale of a land under siege. Monstrous Frost Lords have raised legions of undead warriors and they, of course, must be stopped, for a price in gold. In steps your mercenary avatar to protect the good folks from a horrible death, again, for a price.
The Red Priests have a solution, conjuring up a fire demon to help fight back the shuffling horde. What could go wrong with that?
Well, it turns out what does go wrong is in your favour as your character is infused with the demon when the summoning goes pear-shaped (saw that one coming).
The result is a player character with a complex interface for role-play progression. There is an inventory with crafting to consider, separate skill trees for multiple stances the character can take during combat. A perk system with multiple streams rounds out the character development.
Items can be enhanced via socketed items and spells (pyromancy) can be learnt, then it is off into the narrow directed corridors of this land to save it from evil.
Our hero will team up with allies which wield not overly impressive AI abilities, but can be directed to a degree during battles. They are also immortal, meaning a canny player can use them as fodder during the tougher fights, knowing that come the battles end they will get back off the ground if knocked out.
Fights are mini vignettes of battle-arenas. Players attack foes using magic, or a choice of “battle stances” that dictate a chosen style or weaponry. Unfortunately they will also fight against the control system which is somewhat unresponsive and prone to unwanted animation sequences. It is something that can be a frustrating hindrance to enjoyment, once mastered however, can be exploited in ways that feel both tactical and a little game-breaking at times.
Battles are hard – right from the get-go you will die a lot, though the penalty is zero, you can find yourself trapped in a seemingly no-win-no-progression situation that takes some dedication to get through. Or, restart the game and think about how you build your character to better suit your play style.
The other thing to note about Bound By Flame is the dialogue in both cutscenes and during the game – It is somewhat cringe worthy. The voice acting is stilted at times and the writing is quite horrendous.
Bound By Flame has depth, particularly in character development, but falls down in other areas. Certainly for fans of action RPG’s there is a lot of tough enjoyment to be had here, but if your interest in the genre is only passing, perhaps look elsewhere for your fix.