solarco's Bound By Flame (Xbox 360) review

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Bound by Flame (or) What Happens When You Bite Off More than You Can Chew

Let's just start by saying that while ambition is very important that it can kill your project if left unchecked and Bound By Flame is pretty dang ambitious. You can tell that the makers of this game wanted it to be huge and sprawling and at the beginning of its tale, does indeed seem to have those things. But do they pay off? In short, no. In long, also no (but a no with potential?)

Bound By Flame has a lot of goals to accomplish and, while admirable, very obviously has taken on too many things at once. Does it have a huge, world ending story that the hero is magically swept into? Check! Does it feature a robust cast with multiple companions, romances, and even a fully voiced protagonist? Check! Does it have choices? Check! Do they actually change the plot? Check? What about a wide variety of environments? Sure! Everything else you'd expect to see in a AAA developed RPG title? Probably! But does it actually come together in a meaningful way? Nope.

Look, I love that a studio on the smaller side has taken so much care into making their next title something that has all the ingredients of a big blockbuster hit but their plan just doesn't really work and ends up feeling like a jumbled up mess that's trying to be a ground-breaking RPG but doesn't have the time or the funding to do all the crazy and beautiful things that they had originally intended to include.

Ultimately, I can't care about having companions if they only have 4 shallow questions for you to ask in each of the three small acts that make up the campaign. I can't care about a romance if the dialogue responses from a character doesn't even reveal any general romantic interest until the last hour or two of the game. I can't care about my choices if the narrative finds a way to shoehorn me into a path that has already been written out. I can't care about combat if the levelling for enemies is total trash. BUT, I definitely do care about how much it feels like these developers put into this weirdly misshapen piece of gaming history.

On the bright side, the demon/human host dynamic is one of the best things about Bound by Flame and your protagonists changing appearance (as you become more or less possessed) does more to add weight to your decisions than anything else. Also, the companion Mathras is a shining star amongst the otherwise bland character set but even then, they are a late game add-on with not a ton of screen-time. There's no denying that this game has potential and, if you stick with it, can actually yield some enjoyment and genuine interest but can I recommend it? No, Not really.

That being said, did I play it over the past 5 days nonstop and actually, weirdly come away feeling like I didn't waste my time and maybe enjoyed the, albeit flawed, experience? Surprisingly...Yes.

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