Bound by Flame Hands-on Preview – The Demon Within
Written Friday, January 31, 2014 By Richard WalkerView author's profile
Bound by Flame's demon-possessed protagonist is one-part Khal Drogo, one-part American teenager, which is weird for a guy named Vulcan. He's a mercenary hired by a faction known as the Red Scribes, a sword-wielding hulk who's been possessed by a flame demon that wants to save humanity but couldn't give a toss about people. (Huh?) Cue an internal struggle between Bound by Flame's hero and his inner demon, and a choice as to whether you embrace the evil demon within or reject his malevolent fiery ass.
From Spiders, the makers of Mars: War Logs, Bound by Flame is another stab at the RPG genre and one that seemingly cribs from big boys like Dragon Age and its ilk. It's a third-person slice 'em up that's not unlike Dragon Age: Origins in gameplay terms, consisting of a tactical radial menu that can be brought up in combat, enabling you to slow things down as you queue up your battle choices. Vulcan is an explosives expert, so he's able to lay mines that frequently come in handy, thinning ranks of undead enemies and vanquishing tough ethereal threats like liches in an instant.
Vulcan is also able to swing a broadsword with two hands and seamlessly switch into a dual dagger-wielding stealth mode, allowing for sneaky backstabbing moves or relatively weak yet nimble assaults. Obviously, there's an array of other weapons to be found of course, including axes, hammers and what not, while each of the controller's face buttons allows for quick slice attacks, heavy attacks, and a dodge move, while the right trigger enables you to block or time a careful counter deflection. You can open up shielded enemies with a push and shoot from range with a crossbow. Combat is nice, intuitive and varied.
But if that's not quite enough variety for you, then Bound by Flame has three distinct skill trees in which to spend the skill points you earn from levelling up. Initially, you're presented with just two skill trees to fiddle with; the Ranger and Warrior tracts, both of which have individual skills to master. Upon meeting the flame demon that possesses you later in the game, a further skill tree is unlocked, granting you access to a selection of Pyromancer traits. And at the top of each of Bound by Flame's skill trees, you'll find an Ultimate ability to unlock, granting Vulcan enormous power that'll prove invaluable as things gradually escalate. How you choose to level up and advance your skills and abilities is obviously entirely down to you.
The demon not only brings with it a range of fiery skills like fireballs, a fire sword, fire shield and an extremely useful area-of-effect fire attack that makes anything in the immediate vicinity nicely grilled and crispy, but Vulcan's appearance will also change to reflect the influence of the internal beast. Shown a later section in the game, Producer Walid Miled introduces us to the hero under an advanced demonic influence with his armour broken by chitinous outcrops on his body, flaming orange eyes, charred skin and gnarled horns twisting from his forehead. Incidentally, these horns mean you can no longer wear helmets, which is a shame. There's even an internal dialogue from the demon, meaning you can presumably have a nice chat with him, or more likely be subjected to constant sneering asides.
The aforementioned later section we're shown takes us to a pitch black forest, demonstrating Bound by Flame's day/night cycle, and the nights promise to be dark and full of terrors. “We wanted the nights to be really oppressive and dark,” Miled tells us. And they are, as he amply demonstrates. And like any dark fantasy worth its salt, you'll face a menagerie of creatures like dragons, liches, reanimated corpses and skeletons, ice beasts, spindly arachnids and huge bosses, like the towering skull-headed tusked monster that relentlessly chases us for the duration of our hands-on session. Expect the real nasties to lurk in the darkness.
RPG staples like crafting make it into Bound by Flame too, with a variety of recipes to concoct from ingredients dropped by enemies or hoarded from treasure chests or whatever. You can purchase missing ingredients from merchants, and use items to enhance weapons and armour, making exploration important if you want all of the best stuff equipped. In-game achievements called 'Feats' also provide tasks to complete for additional skill points to plough into your progression, and you can drag along companions on your adventure too. You can forge relationships, rivalries and romances with any companions you bring along for the ride, again a bit like Dragon Age.
Bound by Flame's concept of physical metamorphosis is an interesting one, underpinned by some promising and robust RPG mechanics. Whether the story can measure up to the game's ideas remains to be seen and the voice acting at present is a bit on the ropey side, but there's certainly plenty of potential here. If nothing else, Bound by Flame could be the perfect stop gap before Dragon Age: Inquisition comes along, since Spiders' game seems to share a great deal of its DNA with BioWare's fantasy opus. That's no bad thing, we think you'll agree.
Bound by Flame is scheduled for a Q2 2014 launch on Xbox 360, PS3 and PS4.