Bound by Flame review: burned out

With Dragon Age: Inquisition still months away from release, the market is ripe for a good role-playing game to get fans through the doldrums of summer. Spiders and Focus Home Interactive attempt to fill the void with Bound By Flame has the potential to be a hit RPG, especially under the tutelage of a new team. Unfortunately, it gets nowhere fast, mainly because it leans too often on the basics. Case in point with the story. As Deadwalkers run amuck and the doubt of man's future lingering, you inhabit a character named Vulcan, either male or female (depending on the player's choice) and then setting out to turn the tide along his or her Freedom Blades. The story definitely has potential, but eventually collapses because of two things. First off is the writing. In a day and age where shows like Game of Thrones can produce startling surprises, Bound By Flame barely raises an eyebrow. Moments that are intended to shock eventually pass with a ho-hum, mainly because the characters are so underdeveloped that we just don't care what happens to them in the first place. It also doesn't help that the main character, our loyal mercenary, doesn't bring enough to the table. Little attempts at back story fall flat once battles begin, and we're left wondering why we should care. Secondly, the voice acting is outright poor. Spiders was wise enough to include accents, but the voiceovers never really lend the kind of conviction to make us care for the characters. In fact, it could almost be considered on the level of a SyFy production, so take that for better or worse.

'You got this one, right?'

So, aside from a lack of interest in the first place, that means it's up to the gameplay to carry Bound By Flame to the finish line. While the battles provide some interesting situations, they never really rise to the occasion. As a result, you feel like you're going through the motions instead of doing something meaningful. The lack of fire spells is disheartening as well. There are only four in the game overall, and this is for a game that includes Flame in the title. The wavering difficulty doesn't help either. Early going battles are so incredibly easy, I felt like I could flick a lighter on these guys and knock them down. Then come some tougher foes that seem so unbeatable, I generally lost interest in doing so, mainly because their defeat doesn't jettison the story forward much anyway. There is some slight hope with the crafting system. However, due to the lacking combat engine, these additions feel more cosmetic at best, only providing the slightest improvement to your strength and speed. More should've been done with this, but then again, that was pretty much my general feeling for the entire game. Bound By Flame has some ideas that can certainly be applied to a better role-playing game moving forward, showing some potential with the developer. But when it comes to being a worthwhile RPG for die-hard fans to enjoy, this one loses its cool before it gets anywhere. Final Score: 4 out of 10.
This review is based on a downloadable PlayStation 4 code provided by the publisher. Bound By Flame is available now for PlayStation 4 and PC. The game has been rated M for Mature.