by Preston Dozsa
reviewed on PC
Your name is Vulcan
Bound by Flame started out great. It looked good, had some cool enemy designs and the combat felt satisfying. By the end, the environments and enemies became generic fantasy fare, and the gameplay became tedious and frustrating. When I expected the game to start opening up and show more depth, it instead closed up and became a shadow of what it wanted to be. I just wish I had known that from the start.
Bound by Flame is a fantasy action-RPG that follows the struggles of a group of mercenaries trying to survive in a world that is rapidly being conquered by a group of immortal undead mages known as the Ice Lords. You play as Vulcan (who you can name whatever you want but will always be called Vulcan in dialogue), a young mercenary who becomes possessed by a demon during a magical ritual gone wrong. As a result, Vulcan becomes the worlds last chance against the undead Ice Lords.
Yes, the story is as generic as they come, but in practice it manages to become cringe inducing with how it’s presented in game. Why do the Ice Lords (all of whom have comic book villain names by the way, one of which is The Chiller) want to kill countless humans and destroy the world? Because… they can? Their motive is never fully explained and what little information you can get from NPC’s makes it seem that the Ice Lords are evil because they all decided to be. All plot related information, including backstory, is lectured to you by NPC’s, with zero context or reasons provided as to why things have happened.
And the dialogue! Well for starters, no matter what you choose in dialogue selection, Vulcan will almost always come off sounding arrogant. Even in casual conversations, Vulcan will routinely threaten either violence or pull out a swear word in order to seem intimidating. You cannot change the personality of the main character, regardless of what you want him or her to say. The rest of the dialogue is equally laughable, with characters inserting swear words for no reason into normal conversation, and one liners that are groan-inducingly unfunny.
The tone bounces back and forth from being completely serious to parody and nearly every character engages in irrational decisions. It’s as though the game was trying to be a dark fantasy in the vein of The Witcher series, yet halfway through development changed course to become a parody of those same games. Either way, it doesn’t work.
One of the features present in the game is that your character's appearance changes the more you follow the demon that occupies your head. Listen to him more often and you’ll start to slowly turn into a demon yourself, complete with ash skin and multiple horns growing on your head. However, this has little effect beyond your cosmetic appearance as people treat you the same regardless of whether you have horns or not. It’s a neat addition, but one that could have been better implemented.
Interesting gameplay concept, some cool enemy designs.
What passes for a story, frustrating combat system, bugs.