Bound By Flame has been keeping suck a low profile that even as I write this I find it a bit surreal that I’m playing it after it being on my radar for so long. But after such a long time, I can confidently say that it was worth the wait. Bound By Flame doesn’t aspire to take the RPG world by storm, but it does deliver a solid experience That RPG fans like myself will greatly appreciate.


Set in a fantasy world overtaken by seven Ice Lords, a mercenary named Vulcan is employed to assist a resistance force, and in the process becomes the unwilling host to a power fire demon, granting otherworldly flame powers. The material found in the writing is well-worn and borderline clichéd by this point, but the writing has enough flourish to give the game some identity (expect to hear a lot of swearing). And that’s important because the story is right at the forefront of the game’s appeal. If it all feels a bit too generic for you, then there might not be enough present for you to sink your teeth into, otherwise there should be plenty to keep you invested.


Visually the game reflects its humble production. On PS4, the graphics are sharp, even if the textures are all that impressive, and performance is excellent. Where the game truly finds its stride however, is in its atmosphere; despite not being a true open world, the environment you explore are astonishingly ambient and immersive. Early in my playthrough for example, the swamp are you visit stuck out to me as being particularly moody, especially when nighttime rolled around. Even though the game has a hub structure, there’s a real sense of exploration as you travel across a wide variety of environments. And those environments are crawling with monsters ready to kill you.


This being an action RPG, your standard weapons will be swords, axes and hammers while you playing as a fighter, and knives when playing as a ranger. Each style feels unique with fighter putting an emphasis on blocking and parrying and rangers favoring stealth and dodging. And in a welcome addition, both fighting styles are freely switched, the overall combat feels very similar to Dark Souls, with careful planning and battle management taking precedent over mindless hack n’ slashing. The enemies aren’t terribly varied, but they all look distinct and threatening. Joining you in combat are a variety of partners you meet throughout the game, and they can focus on spell casting, melee damage, or ranged attacks, adding new dimensions to battle. And then there’s the flame demon, who bestows powerful fire based attacks. Being able to shoot fireballs or enhance you weapon with flame can turn the tide of battle faster than just about anything else in you arsenal, provided you want to go down that road.


All of your abilities are upgradable via three separate skill trees, and while it may take some time to see substantial differences, you’ll quickly see benefits as you start gain levels. Also aiding your prowess is a fairly deep crafting system that lets you customize your weapons for added damage, defense and interruption. But even with the added help, the best thing you can do is get familiar with the mechanics. Don’t be afraid to start on easy mode because this game is going to work you pretty hard, and mastering the blocking, interrupting and dodging will be your greatest asset against the monsters waiting for you.


But what Bound By Flame does best, and why it’s hard to stop playing, is that it makes you care. All of the characters feel alive and integral to the main struggle. And despite some weird animations and laughable lip-synching, you’ll end up getting invested in them and their plight. As well they will react to Vulcan (who is also a fully realized character) and the way he treats those around him. And it’s saying a lot that you’re able to feel the weight of your decisions. If you decide to unleash the demons power, Vulcan will begin to turn demonic himself, and depending on the relationships you’ve made, you’ll see the rest of the cast react accordingly. The simple fact that you can stay invested with such simple material is perhaps the most remarkable thing about this game.



Compared to the other RPGs slated for this year, Bound By Flame won’t set new standards. But just because it’s not the best RPG doesn’t mean it’s not worth your time, and that’s thanks in large part to how well the game can endear itself to the player in its style, writing, and especially its characters. While you could certainly be forgiven for overlooking it, if you at all interested, than Bound By Flame may just surprise you.