The writers of Bound by Flame have definitely hit the fantasy section in their local libraries – you can tell by the number of tropes the game ticks off in its set up. Your custom character is a rebel fighter defending one of the last outposts of the living from an onslaught of undead armies, before becoming host to a flame demon who offers you phenomenal power at the cost of your soul. It’s all very by-the-numbers sword and sorcery fare.
This temptation of power is at the heart of the game though, and built into your progression – or rather, it’s meant to be. Choosing whether to join in a battle for a city or finish off a quest laid out by the demon presents a fascinating potential for branched storytelling, but the result is ultimately the same. Choice is an illusion, but far from making that into any deeper philosophical point, or even a narrative one where perhaps the demon has control of you despite your actions, it’s really just an excuse for the mostly linear nature of the game.
Bound by Flame’s greatest asset, by a country mile, is its combat. Your character has three ‘stances’, Warrior, Ranger, and Pyromancer, each with their own unique skills. The warrior is tough and sturdy, capable of knocking enemies back or charging up area melee attacks, while the ranger is speedy, using dagger to kill with a thousand cuts, and able to dodge enemies. The pyromancer is the spell class, and while powering up that category allows you access to powerful magic, it also means giving more of yourself over to the demon possessing you. The three styles balance tremendously well though, with quick switching between them allowing you to tailor your assault to a particular enemy. Controls are responsive, and combat is pleasantly challenging – not quite to a Dark Souls level of difficulty, but tough enough to make you work for each victory, making each battle that much more satisfying. A strategy element, mostly in the form of crafting traps and weapons to prepare an area before enemies arrive, adds extra depth.
However, excellent combat alone can’t overcome the game’s other deficiencies. Character creation is remarkably basic, with only five faces and hair styles for each gender, and too many people in the world are unresponsive; little more than moving mannequins, ignorant to your attempts to talk to them. Voice acting is largely mediocre, with a curious mélange of accents, and dialogue ranges from passable to juvenile.
Bound by Flame looks great and benefits from some excellent music, but offers few surprises gamers won’t have seen elsewhere, particularly within the fantasy genre.
Reviewed by Matt Kamen