For the first half hour, I was absolutely in love with this game. It was obviously low budget, but the combat was a fresh change of pace. The world itself was interesting, and the monster design was stellar. I was engrossed with it; the magic powers, the intense combat, the exploration…I was ready to hail it as one of the most underrated games of the year so far. But unfortunately, it’s all down hill from there.
Bound by Flame is a budget RPG. The graphics are very lackluster for PS4, and are quite honestly even lackluster for PS3. They exist somewhere between sixth gen and seventh gen, and it’s insulting how ugly the game looks on PS4. However, I enjoyed the combat so much at the beginning and the exploration that I didn’t even care about the graphics, and even somewhat enjoyed them in a sort of ironic, “so bad, it’s good” kind of way.
Unfortunately, the budget constraints infect the rest of the game as well. They couldn’t hire good writers, as a lot of the dialogue is awful, with NPCs droning on much longer than they need to in order to get simple points across. The story itself is ridiculously derivative of other movies and games, and the characters are horrendous. Not only do the graphics make them look ugly as sin, but they have dorky names, dorky characterization, and are so poorly developed that it astounds me that this many lines of dialogue were shoved into the game and yet the characters still have the personality of cardboard boxes.
At first, the combat was enough to keep me playing. However, the combat quickly becomes very frustrating. The combat is very hard-hitting and requires strategy as opposed to hacking and slashing, which is what I appreciated about it. The main character is also adept at lying traps, which adds another wrinkle to the experience. Unfortunately, later dungeons are overrun with enemies that make enjoying the combat system next to impossible. It boils down to having to run away and heal a lot, and that’s a shame. Not only that, but the boss fights are extraordinarily repetitive.
NPC characters tag along to help you on most quests, but they die every few seconds. Even on the lower difficulty modes, the NPC that was with me couldn’t live for longer than a few seconds before they were decimated by enemies. As you can imagine, this became extraordinarily frustrating before long, and it pretty much makes them a non-factor in the gameplay.
Bound by Flame tries to be like Mass Effect with the way it deals with romance and dialogue choices. Unfortunately, a lot of the dialogue “choices” feel hollow, and while the game does offer choices that change the story somewhat significantly, I can’t picture anyone going back through this game to see how the story changes, unlike Mass Effect, which I personally have played through from start to finish numerous times.
Managing one’s inventory and quests is similarly a nightmare thanks to the clunky menu system. This makes one of the more entertaining aspects of the game, the crafting system, a lot less engaging and cumbersome. It’s not the worst menu system in the world, but in this day and age, there’s no reason for it to be so unintuitive and archaic.
Most RPGs are known for the extremely long play times. Bound by Flame is mercifully short, and its replayability is in the gutter. There are trophies, of course, but having to slog through this game even longer to collect them all is not something that I could ever see myself or anyone else doing.
Bound by Flame starts with a lot of promise. The fundamental aspects of the combat system are really great and unique, and they make sure that even though most of the game is a chore, that there’s still a glimmer of fun here and there. Unfortunately, I can’t recommend this game based on the brief glimpses of what it potentially could’ve been. There are far better RPGs out there, leaving little to no reason to pick this game up, even at its lower price point.
Tested on PlayStation 4. Final Score: 4.75/10