Bound by Flame review

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Bound by Flame review

Post by Rory on Tue May 13, 2014 6:34 pm

Rory Reviews: Bound by Flame

Bound by Flame, developed by Spiders(ha!), is a recently released RPG for all current-gen and last-gen consoles and Windows, as of May 9th. The game's story follows a mercenary who has entered a pact with a demon. In his quest to free the world from the grip of the enigmatic Ice Lords, now made personal, he/she must decide whether to trust the demon at crossroads decisions, sacrificing control and/or physical appearance for the power to save the world. Also, which of the six companions(which may or may not be a figure determined by your chosen gender) to bone.

The combat system is designed around two styles, Warrior and Ranger, and Pyromancer, which is less of a combat "style" and more of an ability tree that can be specialized in or leveled to augment the former two. The Warrior style is sluggish and embraces two-handed combat exclusively, and the Ranger dual-weapon assignment. A third "style" is accessed by pressing a button to enter "Stealth", which is only operable in the Ranger configuration, though it can be accessed from whichever is the current style engaged. Ranged attacks via crossbow are available in either style, leaving a true "ranged" style, such as with bows, right out. The response system is lenient, allowing the player to interrupt his own actions when dodging or blocking, though the Ranger-specializing players will discover that they cannot easily cancel or avoid their ripostes, which, especially given that they do not automatically interrupt targeted enemies, leave the player open to an enemy's continued attack. Switching between the two styles changes the controller layout. The Warrior's "bash" action is replaced by the Ranger's "dodge", both occupying the same button, while blocking is possible in either layout, although it is questionable that Warriors cannot dodge, and blocking while in the Ranger stance yields no favorable boon. Switching between the two styles causes confusion, and when switching from Ranger to Warrior, a specialized Ranger will find himself repeatedly kicking when he instead wishes to dodge or block. Spells take time to cast, and points can be spent toward shortening or removing that time completely, or buffing the player's resistance to interruption. Raising a spell's destructive power is rare on the skill tree, and the straightforward effectiveness as it pertains to damage is ever uncertain. At level-up, the player is given two points to spend on skills and one point that counts towards the feats. The feats are divided into four categories: Exploration, Combat, Crafting, and Passive. In order to obtain a feat, a player must accomplish a certain task related to the feat he wishes to acquire X amount of times. Feats include increases to health, increase in base damage caused by the various weapons available, decrease in required ingredients to craft other ingredients, increase in XP gains, perks that make treasure hunting more profitable, and so forth. The Passive feats are not gained in the same way, less on that to avoid spoiling anything.

The crafting system is, at the start of the game, tedious. Weapons can be upgraded to increase damage, crit %, or resistance to damage or elements, but the upgrades require ingredients that are, for a while after the game takes off, not commonly obtained. The player can craft the needed ingredients from their gold, or buy from the locals, the latter option being more thrifty, though limited in quantity. It takes some story progression to get it off the ground, and by that point it becomes a repeated cycle of recycling equipment, buying new equipment, and even selling ingredients to free up inventory space, to avoid being overloaded and unable to sprint. There are no "rare" ingredients to scout out and acquire for the best of the best, lifting the penalty of players less attentive or taken with wanderlust. Ingredients are easily acquired, provided the player has obtained enough gold to purchase them, or killed enough enemies for said ingredients.

A Ranger will have an easier time than a Warrior when fighting, taking as little damage possible while dodging and wearing down the enemy. Warriors, however, appear to have less forgiving response time for counterattacks, on top of being sluggish by design. Up until the final boss, however, an unprepared Ranger will be unpleasantly surprised when the difficulty curve catches up to them, taking death after death after death against a fast enemy with magic spells the destructive power of which seems to dwarf their own. In subversion to the customization of most RPGs, heavy damage seems to be a forte reserved for the game's enemies, while the player is forced to stack debuffs through fights drawn out longer than they ought to be, especially given how involved the stealth mechanic is. A heads-up to any up-and-coming world-savers out there, better spend the points necessary to move faster while in stealth mode, and take advantage of the crafting upgrade that increases two-handed weapon attack speed. You will need those if you plan to go all-out as a Warrior.

The side quests and companions' personal quests of the game aren't marked out. If you want to do more stuff and possibly(I can't say for sure) get on the good side of a chosen companion, you have to be obsessive. You absolutely must talk to people you otherwise would not give the time of day, or ask the questions you would already normally assume to know the answers to. Talking to companions or other NPCs between excursions into enemy territory is almost mandatory. Will you be the dashing rogue who saves the world by repeatedly asking and talking to people like a bad habit? Or will you focus on the goal ahead of you, and finish the game with the ultimate decision being your labor of love? Now, having read this review, you won't have to leave it up to ignorance.

Lastly: "Hawk" mode is f***ing HARD mode. Don't let anybody tell you differently. That last boss is going to eat up your pride and spit it back in your face, so don't feel like you need to save it because you'll get less Achievement points, or you're on "Hawk" mode and you'll get no points if you switch to "Recruit" to beat the game. Evaluate which is more fun, and opt for the more entertaining route. Your pride is expendable and meaningless.

Final verdict: 7/10
Badass Seal: Almost, but not quite there(totally ripping off Angry Joe btw), but a definite must-play.


Last edited by Rory on Thu May 22, 2014 7:37 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Re: Bound by Flame review

Post by Kolson on Wed May 14, 2014 1:09 am

Sounds like it would be a good buy after a price drop or two. What system did you play it on?
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Re: Bound by Flame review

Post by Zeiss on Wed May 14, 2014 1:23 am

Boning your companions. That always adds something meaning full and... deep to Western RPGs.

From the other review I read, that game didn't seem good at all. That little text might just give me the motivation to look into it later. Tanks Rory.
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Re: Bound by Flame review

Post by Essoje on Wed May 14, 2014 12:55 pm

Yeah, sounds like something I'd get with a price drop as well. Specially after a certain cynical brit's review.
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Re: Bound by Flame review

Post by Rory on Wed May 14, 2014 5:23 pm

I played it on the 360. That didn't make my experience better or worse, if it's available on a last-gen console at release, it just means the only difference is that it looks better on current gen. It looked pretty fluid, if I was shown it played on a PS4 I probably wouldn't have seen any difference in performance if only I had a flatscreen TV of a large enough format, because the resolutions of games made these days makes everything a little tinier and blurrier and that makes reading small text a problem. You can rent it and beat it in 2 days on Hawk mode, if you've got nothing better to do with your time. I'm on my second playthrough with different choices.

I forgot to mention in regard to the skill trees: "jack of all trades, master of none" should explain how to build your character.

Turns out I was exaggerating when I said you had to talk to everyone for quests, that's just for the companions. It's just that their last quests aren't triggered by dialogue and don't show up on your map.

I was exaggerating the companion bit too, you don't actually score a night with anyone. Instead, you pick the one dialogue choice during their one quest that gets you an achievement and probably some changed dialogue with them later.

There's no endless summer and no epilogue, but story from beginning to end is okay. Passable. At times you might get hints of "oh, this actor could have read that line better", or "ugh, I wouldn't have said it quite like that", but it doesn't interfere. As far as the world is involved, you're basically moving from one sandbox area to another. They set up basically a fantasy world with the Humans and two-three high fantasy races, and place you at a spot on the timeline where everything's gone to shit. There was no John Shepard to get everybody together before it's too late, the world has been ravaged.

It feels like the world is due a sequel if only to flesh out the world, because as it stands it's just "Once upon a time, history we don't remember, Ice Lords enter as the evil Evil, conquer/kill more than half the world, Enter You, good luck." And that's only history. There isn't much to add as story progresses other than a village, two cities, and their corresponding regions, nation and country. And not just for the sake of fleshing out the world alone and fixing/revamping the game mechanics, I really think they could pull it off, despite the multiple endings to the original(heck, they could even add save importation because loopholes).

So yeah, if I left a few things out, there they are. Should probably drop the score by another point.
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Re: Bound by Flame review

Post by Rory on Thu May 15, 2014 6:00 pm

I finally beat it on Hawk mode! I am proud of myself. Helpful hint: exploding traps can help you with more than just ambushing unsuspecting enemies.

I picked the super-good ending this time around(with the achievements for all three unlocked now), and it looks like the super-good ending is the canonical one. Apart from the other two, it does have an epilogue scene, and it's well worth it if you're like me and hoping for a sequel with all the dirty and awkward bits cleaned up and straightened out.
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