Many of you might not have heard of a development studio called Spiders Studios. They are relatively small compared to the army sized AAA studios out there, and you might have only played one of their more popular games, Of Orcs and Men. The French studio now wants to step into the spot light with something a little more ambitious, which is there new action RPG called Bound by Flame. Going toe to toe with other similar titles such as Dragons Dogma and Skyrim is no easy task, especially when you don’t have the dragons to back you up, but can Bound by Flame hold its own?
Bound by Flame takes you on a journey playing as a mercenary named Vulcan. Vulcan is part of a faction called The Freeborn Blades, who will provide the muscle and steel in any conflict as long as you can provide the coin. A great evil has besieged the land due to the seven Ice Lords who have plagued it with zombies that are called the deadarmy, as well as plenty of other undead creatures and monsters. Luckily though, Vulcan is well equipped for any battle thanks to his varied stances. The game lets you choose between a Warrior Stance and Ranger Stance, each with their own unique perks. The Warrior Stance enables you to wield heavy two handed weapons which is essential when you need to break through enemy shields, however you cannot move quickly and doge enemy attacks. Dodging can only be done in the Ranger stance while wielding a small blade in each hand.
The Ranger stance does less damage but is much faster, allowing you avoid many incoming attacks by dodging. The third discipline you learn is the Pyromancy ability which allows you to coat your weapons in flames and use fire ball projectiles. This ability is granted to you thanks to the fire daemon that possesses you. The daemon grants you many new ability’s but it comes at the cost of your very soul, and throughout the game you will have to make many moral choices, that will take you on a path to one of the three alternative endings. You can upgrade your three disciplines through a skill tree and you can craft and upgrade weapons on the go, no work benches or stores needed. It gets a little lonely out in the swamps and forests so luckily you have some company with you in the form of companion AI.
You are joined by several AI controlled companions who you can issues orders to, such as the sorceress who you can command to heal you during battle. Your AI partner helps take the heat off you during intense battles, and for the most part are an effective if given the correct instruction to fit the situation. Battles are relatively fun thanks to the sharp controls and nice counter attack system, but the hit detection on enemies is a little off, and often a projectile will do no damage on a distant foe. The visual style of Bound by Flame is slightly different to other action RPG’s out there, with some areas looking cell shaded and others not. The overall visuals are decent but you can see where some short cuts were taken due to budget or time constraints, such the poor lip syncing and dirty textures in some areas.
One of the strongest aspects of Bound by Flame is the audio, the music in the game is fantastic and fits the games theme perfectly. The title screen music alone will give you goose bumps and there are plenty of nice back tracks while exploring locations. The voice acting is also very good but a little on the heavy side in terms of script. Some cut scenes are very long and you might find yourself starting to skip scenes towards the end of the game.
Overall Spiders Studios have set a new benchmark for themselves in terms of quality. This is one of, if not the best title they have released, and hopefully a sequel is on the cards for the future. Bound by Flames in by no means ground breaking but offers a good few hours of fun hack and slash to keep you entertained. It lacks polish here and there, and the story is certainly nothing ground breaking, but there is some fun to be had with Bound by Flame if you don’t mind gambling with your soul.