Release Date: May 9, 2014Platform: PS4 (reviewed), PC, PS3, Xbox 360Developer: SpidersPublisher: Focus Home InteractiveGenre: RPG
It’s been awhile since we’ve had a console RPG to sink our teeth into, hasn’t it? Before Dark Souls 2,what was the last memorable console RPG? I digress. But now, Focus Home Interactive has released the first PS4 RPG from the developers at Spiders with Bound By Flame,and reviews for this one are expected to be all over the place because of the god awful dialogue and story; is it supposed to be this bad, or is Spiders presenting an inside joke that no one else is aware of? And what does that mean for the quality of the game? Is the game ruined, or does the gameplay make up for it?
So, we’ll go ahead and get that part out of the way–the dialogue is absolutely dreadful and painstakingly awkward. It feels like the conversations were written by young teenagers, as words like “whore” and “fuck” are mixed in with phrases like “stupid faces.” It’d be one thing if there were one or two awkward phrases, but the whole story is written with that same tone. And, even more offending, is that there is so much dialogue contained in the game. I would say that it takes away from the story, but the story is all over the place, nonsensical, and ends abruptly. You’ll also be asked to make choices, similar to the style of any of the Elder Scrollsgames–except here, it really doesn’t matter since your choices don’t have any apparent consequences.
Character creation is also severely lacking, with very little customization comparatively to other RPGs. There are only five or so options for hair style and hair color, and you can’t customize body size or other facial features; it is as basic as basic can be for an RPG. Also, when you choose a name for your character–I chose Voltar–it is completely ignored by everyone in conversation, as characters all still call you Vulcan. Basically, you’re changing your character’s name for your own knowledge, and by the time the end of the game comes, you’ll forget what name you chose for your character since it is never actually used within the game.
Bound By Flame’sgraphics are less than impressive, and left us wanting more. Things that should be happening graphically in an RPG on the PS4 are simply not happening. For example, character animations while they are speaking aren’t even close to par, your character (Vulcan) is constantly walking on snow but not leaving any footprints, and foliage looks like it does on the Xbox 360. Sure, these are all little things, but this is 2014–step it up! The game doesn’t look horrible, by any means, just not up to what we were expecting to see.
But after you’re done kicking the tires on Bound By Flame,it still stands as a decent RPG that has some goodness in it. The game’s best asset is its extensive crafting system that allows you to upgrade your weapons and gear. You can outfit your character with gear upgrades to adapt to your play style using crafting materials. Whether you want to armor up and play as more of a tank style warrior, or increase your DPS with +4 to physical damage, the game let’s all types of players find their proper fit. Still, it isn’t as extensive as it should be. Spiders prides itself in not making Bound By Flameabout getting the epic loot, but they didn’t add enough to the crafting system to not make us want that epic loot. In fact, I’m not even sure if the upgrades that I selected had any effect on my character’s damage output or protection at all. But the system is a great start and an original RPG mechanic that is easy to use and easy to understand, with the only problem being that we aren’t sure how much it actually effects our character.
The game’s soundtrack is second to none. Each area has its own unique background music to it, and you’ll find yourself standing in some areas for more than a few moments after being swept up by the music. Bound By Flame’ssoundtrack is the most enjoyable game soundtrack of the past couple of years.
Boss battles provide for some great moments, and while some of them are easy if you just button mash without any tactics, other battles provide for a true challenge (I’m looking at you, twin concubine battle). The bosses are creative and imaginative, and their difficulty only makes them that much more enjoyable. Trash mobs begin to feel bland about 8 hours into your 15 or 16 hour journey, and you’ll find yourself just running through them to avoid engaging in more lackluster and tedious combat.
Combat is also pretty basic–a typical hack and slash with other options, similar to Darksidersbut without the intricate button combinations. You’re supposed to mix the three different styles of fighting–Warrior, Ranger, and Pyro–but I found it easiest just to use the Ranger abilities as to avoid the most damage. You’ll definitely take a lot of damage in Bound By Flame,too, as it is even surprisingly difficult even on its easiest setting.
Overall, Spiders has a decent, solid start with Bound By Flame,but it ultimately feels lacking in many aspects. Its grand ideas are appreciated, although the execution of those ideas is flawed. Maybe with more time and testing, itcould’ve been more than just okay, but unfortunately it doesn’t meet our expectations. That doesn’t mean we wouldn’t want to see what a Bound By Flame 2would offer, though.