We have seen many amazingly detailed RPG games in the last few years. Bound by Flame wants to be part of the big-game party but bites off far more than it could possibly chew. It’s obvious from the start of the game as you choose your name. Feel free to put in whatever name you want because you’ll never see it again. Vulcan is your name whether you like it or not.
Going forward, the gameplay attempts to feel similar to that of The Witcher in terms of movement and controls, while looking like it contains the graphics and enemy base similar to that of Darksiders. Narrative and conversation are done with a similar setup to BioWare’s list of titles attempting to create multiple decisions that may or may not change if you are friends with a particular individual or not. The game attempts to be a jack of all trades but, of course, ends up a master of none.
Giving you the name Vulcan is not stating that you are part of the mythological god of the same name, but it does draw inspiration from that source. See, you are part of a group called the Freeborn Blades and you find yourself sharing your mind with a demon of sorts. When you can’t keep control of one or the other, the demon gives you the ability to use fire-based attacks and such. Sounds awesome, right? To a certain extent it is. You get to either work with the demon and his thoughts or go against them. Similar to that of the Fable series, when you go with the demon, you begin to look slightly more demonic as though it is taking hold over you. When you decide to be your own man, you look well… less demonic.
For this game wanting to be so story-centric, it doesn’t do it all too well. After cutscenes I found many NPCs, and even myself, picked up and placed somewhere else to match where the cutscene ended. This wouldn’t bother me at all if it wasn’t so obvious and jarring every single time. Not just that but it feels like you go in just to kill one boss, and then another, and another. Story doesn’t seem to catch my eye in this one and I absolutely ADORE lore. I couldn’t find myself caring about any of the characters as their stories were very cookie-cutter and generic. I have to choose someone to die? Might as well flip a coin, because it would be more interesting than me having to actually choose which one I would have to be forced to listen to over the rest of the game.
Outside of story, combat is actually interesting if it could be more accurate. Being able to switch stances from a ranged stance to a warrior stance was fun. Using pyromancy was even more fun. Customization was present in the term of a skill tree system, but it wasn’t too extensive and left improvement to be desired. I would love to use some of the amazing things I unlocked in the game but I couldn’t for the life of me hit anything. The target lock was unreliable and the camera felt like it was copied and pasted from a PS2 game.
For all that Bound by Flame gets wrong, there are some things that it gets right. It made me smile when I realized that if you grow horns you can’t wear helmets or that one horn isn’t enough when you can be so evil you have three horns. Decisions can actually change part of the game but not enough to where I feel like I have changed the entire course of the game and get a whole new experience if I hit that “New Game” choice from the main menu. Quite honestly, you don’t even get a full experience throughout the first playthrough.