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Bound By Flame Review - Mild Fire

Jim Sterling | 9 May 2014 01:48
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All of this is good stuff, and there's a lot to like throughout the campaign. The basics are in place for a rock solid action-RPG and, in many respects, a solid action-RPG is what we have. Sadly, however, the game is a hot mess when it comes to balance, with almost nothing feeling scaled or weighted in the correct way. It's like Spiders made everything correctly, and then skewed everything by just enough degrees to feel utterly wrong.

First of all, the difficulty spikes are absolutely bonkers. There's no sense of gradual progression in the game, with some areas feeling insultingly easy, and other areas crammed full of near-impossible mixes of ranged and close-combat enemies that can take you down in a handful of hits. Enemies are prone to crowd the player to such a degree that sometimes you're too busy dodging or blocking to get even a single attack off, and CPU-controlled allies are so useless, you'd be better off fighting alongside a styrofoam cup with a face drawn on it.

It's almost impossible to ever get a handle on how the game plays, because combat is all over the bloody place. Enemies are hard to predict, a problem exacerbated by a camera that frequently obscures Deadwalkers before they make their moves, and janky animations that sometimes close gaps a little unfairly.

The loot and crafting systems are cool, but feel underused thanks to how hard it is to take advantage of them. No matter how much I loot, I rarely seem to have enough to craft enough items, and with both consumables and weapon/armor attachments often requiring the same components, the inventory is always spread thin. Even worse, outright buying new weapons and armor is practically impossible, since it's a woeful grind to acquire gold, and equipment that could be sold is more regularly scrapped to acquire precious components. Again, like everything in this game, there's just no sense of real balance.

Compounding this imbalance are all the minor irritations. The twitchiness of action prompts that makes even the simplest command, such as picking up a loot drop, a random hassle. The weird, car-like nature of the Vulcan's movements, in which sprinting can make him/her veer wildly off course. The lack of appreciable AI, especially for one's suicidal party members. And of course, all the random little physics and camera glitches that accompany your usual Spiders experience.

Of Orcs and Men was a truly great game, in spite of its flaws. Mars: War Logs was a truly rubbish game, in spite of its promise. Spiders' latest lies somewhere in the middle the studio's last two efforts. Bound By Flame isn't awful, but it's too sloppy a thing to ever live up to its potential. It frustrates me greatly, because I can so clearly see the sincerity this game has, an honest shamelessness that I cannot help but respect. I also appreciate how genuinely well put together its combat and world is.

It's just a shame that there are all these great components that have just been mashed together in a completely haphazard way.

Bottom Line: Bound By Flame would be an immensely likable game, were it not for just how slipshod it ultimately feels. Its individual components are well crafted, but when brought together, the result is something that just isn't quite right.

Recommendation: There is enough quality to make this title worth picking up in a sale. It does that much right. For what it is, however, I wouldn't rush out and buy it immediately.

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