Bound by Flame (video game review)

23 When faced with annihilation by the Deadwalker Army, the Red Scribes will attempt anything to ensure their survival and everyone else on Vertiel. While attempting to save the Red Scribes, you are caught in the middle of a ritual that leaves you forever changed. Bound by Flame by Spiders and Focus Home Interactive is an action RPG driven by your decisions which can alter your overall journey. Will you overcome the demon within and save all, or allow the demon to take over with the hope the power provided is enough to stop the Deadwalker Army?

A Journey Through Vertiel

As the game starts, you find yourself in a mercenary group assigned to protect a group of scholars called the Red Scribes. Broken down into 5 acts, you venture as Vulcan, a member of the Freeborn Blades mercenary group. You are able to choose from male or female, with customization options such as hair, face and skin color. You can change your name, but everyone will refer you to as Vulcan, a nickname provided to you by the Freeborn Blades. As their munitions expert, you can craft weapons to aid you in combat, such as explosive traps and bolts for your hand crossbow. In a story filled with decision-driven actions, you are faced with a demon inside you that is thirsting for control. As the game progress, the demon offers power to aid you, but at the cost of your soul. Little by little, your appearance will take shape of the demon inside, and everyone will react as you change. Along the way, you meet many companions that will assist your journey:

  • Sybil, a mage and youngest member of the Red Scribes. She yearns for knowledge and has mastered the arts of magic and can heal you during combat. She is also the daughter of Eolas, Head of the Red Scribes.
  • Edwen, a witch. You first meet her imprisoned by Eolas, but why? Little is known of Edwen, but her motives and history slowly reveal themselves. As a witch, she can attack from a distance and control enemies during combat.
  • Rhelmar, a elvish ranger. He was branded a criminal for stealing goods with the intention of preparing for war despite the Elves’ policy of neutrality. He can attack in both range and melee combat.
  • Randval, a warrior. The last of his clan that was killed by the Deadwalker Army, Randval travels the lands helping anyone he can and fears no one. Like Vulcan, he attacks mainly in melee combat.
  • Mathras, an undead immortal living at least 6,000 years. Being highly educated, he transfers bodies to remain alive and has lived throughout history. With his experience, he has mastered hand to hand combat and several powerful spells.
companions

From left: Sybil, Edwen, Rhelmar, Randval, and Mathras.

Each with their own motives, the companions will either implore you to not allow the demon to take over, or advise the use of the demons power to aid in combat against the Ice Lords and the Deadwalker Army. Time and time again, you are faced with decisions that alter the story, creating friendships/romances, but at the cost of lives and even betrayal. With no true answer but to one destination, the Worldheart, Bound by Flame will test you as you decide for an honorable journey, or temptation of the demons power.

I’m Not Left-handed Either

2014-05-16_00004The first chapter, The Prologue, is designed to help understand the game and mechanics, mainly the tutorial level. As you progress, you are shown the entirety of the game, main quests with several optional secondary quests. Each quest during The Prologue helps you understand each stance, fighting style, and parry timing. by the time you reach the end of The Prologue, you should have at least the understanding of how the combat mechanics work. This I feel is where the game shines. After you master the parry system, you gain an upper hand against the enemy and find yourself in intense battles. The Warrior stance allows you to wield several types of weapons: two-handed swords, axes, and hammers. Each weapon type has advantages over each other, like swords have better speed and can swing faster while the hammer can have a high interrupt skill allowing you to disrupt the enemies attack or even break through their shields while sacrificing speed. The Ranger stance utilizes daggers with speed. Quick attacks allow you to attack more efficient and offers a dodge command. The only downside is the parry is harder to utilize and blocks can stagger you or knock you down while a two-handed weapon would easily block. Speed is key allowing you to attack several times before the enemy can strike.

The level-up system offers 2 sets of points, one to allocate a talent tree, while another set to gain passive skills. The talent tree is designed as most RPG talent trees, broken into 3 skill sets: Warrior, Ranger, Pyromancer. Each tree focuses mainly on each stance, allowing you to increase weapon damage and adding new skills. Warrior gives you added strength to both offensive and defensive stats, like interrupt resist. Mastering the Warrior tree will give you the advantage of high interrupt upgrades as well as good defensive resists. War Cry allows you to regenerate health while increasing damage and resists temporarily. Ranger focuses on critical hits and adding poison chance to the daggers. Stealth can be upgraded as well to allow sneaking easier. Mastering the Ranger tree will provide high crits and the skill Speed Demon, allowing you to slow down time for extra hits. Pyromancer is available once the demon enters, and grants enhancements to yourself and weapons, like Burning Weapon. Upgrades in Pyromancer can even add the ability to set enemies on fire for added damage. Mastering the Pyromancer tree will provide high spell damage and useful defensive spells, as well as Fire Spirit, a mini companion that hurls fireballs at enemies. With the same attributes as your character, the Fire Spirit can even set enemies on fire.

skillset

Feats can be gained by points, usually 1 point per level up. These are passive skills that can upgrade your character slightly. Useful combat passives, like Swashbuckler, can increase sword damage by +2. There are also crafting passives that allow you use less ingredients when crafting potions and even make potions more effective. Choose wisely, since points cannot be reset.

Crafting offers a dynamic way to alter your performance. Each piece of armor and weapon can be upgraded numerous ways. You can focus on just added defense, allowing yourself to receive more hits, or focus on elements, minimizing spell damage received. Weapons give you the opportunity to add more damage, or increase other skills, like speed. An axes slow speed can be upgraded so it’s not a huge loss when favoring a higher attack. Interrupt can be increased, giving you the chance to interrupt an enemy during combat. While striking, your attack can stagger the enemy or even break their shields. With countless possibilities, crafting offers a unique experience to your character creation and experience.

Final Reaction

One of the things I like most about Bound by Flame is the challenge it gives. The counter and parry system is unique and effective if utilized correctly. The spell mechanics are a nice touch to melee, giving both offensive and defensive abilities. The story itself is well written with great NPC interactions and unexpected consequences based on what you decide. The constant battle with the inner demon is a nice touch, one that can influence the outcome of the story and the way NPC’s interact with you. The romance feels nonexistent, something that just happens even if you didn’t know it was going to happen. Compared to Dark Souls or Mass Effect, Bound by Flame feels a bit short which gives us begging for more demonic action. All in all, it was one hell of a ride that shouldn’t be passed up.

Rating: 4/5 Atoms

NR 4 Atoms - B

 

 

Bound by Flame is available now on Steam and the PS3, PS4 and XBOX 360 consoles via physical and digital distribution.

 

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