Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Swing and a Miss - Bound By Flame Review

It’s clear what developers Spiders Studio has attempted in Bound By Flame - a new fantasy action RPG marking the beginning of a new franchise. Whilst it seems that inspiration has been taken from games such as Dragon Age, Bound By Flame falls at almost every hurdle, delivering a mediocre experience that really isn’t worth wasting time on.

Attempting to mix strategic planning – such as laying traps in preparation for your enemies’ arrival – with dynamic action gameplay is a great idea, and could potentially allow for some great and epic battles. However this only works if the combat is fun. Bound By Flame’s combat SEEMS entertaining, for all of about thirty seconds. It attempts to provide variety by giving a choice of different playstyles, from two handed weapons, to dual wielding daggers, archers and magic attacks. However, apart from the ranged attacks, the game does nothing to mix up the actual gameplay. No thought is needed on parrying or countering, and the bulk of the combat comes down to simple button mashing, and hoping that the enemy dies before you do. Even the different weapon styles affect little more than attack animation and the speed at which your target’s health depletes.

Compare this to a game such as Dark Souls, where changing your equipment changes not only your move set, but the mind set you have to be in. Heavy weapons require precise timing, quick weapons focus on breaking poise. This is a level of variety that a gamer has come to expect, and these expectations are far from fulfilled.

Combine this with an unreliable lock on system and a camera that does whatever it damn well pleases, regardless of player input, and the battles become tedious and frustrating instead of thrilling and rewarding. The basic levelling system allows for some character customization, and unlocking and levelling up new abilities opens up the combat a little, but it wasn’t enough to hold my attention throughout the relatively short story. The playtime is padded out by optional missions and side-quests, but the gameplay was so repetitive and the world so dull that I wasn’t inclined to seek them out the same way I am in a game like Kingdoms of Amalur.

Furthermore the character customization ends at the levelling system. When you start the game you get to choose a name and gender for your character, then choose from a small number of preset faces and hairstyles. Sure, you’ll pick up armour, weapons and other loot from the world that will change how your character looks, but in the current gaming generation, this lack of customization to your actual character certainly brings down the overall experience, even if it doesn’t affect the game itself.

Something that does affect the game is the numerous bugs and glitches that plague it. Numerous times have walls disappeared, leaving me in odd landscapes with no details or colour. It wasn’t game-breaking, and I was quickly returned to where I was with nothing out of place, but it goes a long way in taking away from the atmosphere that the game tries so hard to create.

Bound By Flame had potential. The idea of a hero possessed by a demon, and battling with his morality in a world where humans have been all but wiped out by an undead horde is interesting, but the game itself is broken and not at all fun. It almost feels rushed, as if more time to refine the gameplay could have made for a far more enjoyable experience. As a new IP it works, however as a first outing for a new game, Bound By Flame does not deliver. I think I’ll just wait for the new Dragon Age to come out.

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