#1 Dialogue and Lore
While the lore of games like Dark Souls is deep and omnipresent, it’s also hidden in the seams of the games world. It’s not obvious and those who have no interest in lore need not pay attention to it. That’s not the case in Bound by Flame. The game kicks off with a skirmish between your character’s mercenary group and the evil Ice Lord's army of undead soldiers. This story progresses at a snail’s pace until it comes to an abrupt end that feels very rushed. There’s no lack of exposition in Bound by Flame, but the more interesting story here is that of the demon which possesses your character. At a few points throughout the game, you are given a choice between allowing the demon to further possess you so that you can gain new powers and maintaining your humanity at the cost of this power. These decisions change your appearance and affect how the people of the world treat you. It creates an interesting push and pull of giving up power for approval or vice versa and it will eventually decide which endings are available to you.
#2 Companion Characters
Throughout the game, you will come across a handful of characters that can fight alongside you. Most of the characters are useless in combat though since they do almost no damage compared to your character. I stuck to using the one character with a healing spell, since she could freely heal me after every battle, saving me health potions. Romantic relationships can be formed with some of the characters, but like most video games, the relationship culminates in an awkward sex scene, and in Bound By Flame, the scene comes at an incredibly odd and inappropriate time. The companion system seemed promising, but never formed into anything meaningful.
#3 Small World
Bound by Flame’s world is more linear than those in most other games in its genre. However, there are merits to its small world. Loot in the game is limited, so exploring every crevice of the world already yields few rewards. Those few rewards ended up being just enough to get me through the game though. Crafting materials and experience from killing all the enemies in every crevice of the world made me just strong enough to beat the final boss of the game. The pacing is deliberate and as long as you aren’t wasting resources needlessly along the way, you should end up with enough to finish the game, even without an open world to explore. A larger world would only provide unnecessary distractions. Linearity doesn’t have to be a bad word, and Bound by Flame proves it.
#4 Fast-Paced Combat
Bound by Flame’s Combat is by far its best feature. It’s also the feature which borrows the least from Dark Souls. The only similarity is that you can easily die within seconds if you make a mistake. Combat is fast-paced and focused around dodging or blocking at the right time and getting in blows during the interim. Enemies take a ton of hits to kill, which sometimes causes battles to be extended a little bit too long, but those looking for a challenge will appreciate that there are plenty of opportunities to make mistakes. Expect to have some difficulty each time you come up against a new enemy. However, after you learn an enemy’s patterns, battling the same enemy again becomes tedious due to how many hits they take. I played through the game on the normal difficulty, but if hitting meaty enemies for what can feel like ages doesn’t sound fun to you, the easy difficulty offers shorter encounters and may be more your pace, although it does take away some of the difficulty.
#5 Skill/Feat System
The skill trees in Bound by Flame are exciting at the start of the game, but it doesn’t take long to realize how disjointed they are. There are 2 combat styles (slow & durable and fast & fragile) in addition to magical abilities all of which can be used together in combat. During early encounters I switched between combat styles and used magic whenever possible, but the skill trees for each style are separated and there aren’t enough points to go around. You’re forced to focus on a single style and mostly ignore the other 2 skill trees until very late in the game, which undermines the versatility of the combat. On the other hand, the feat system is very well done, albeit very simple. Points earn you basic things like more crafting materials when looting or more experience from killing enemies. There’s nothing truly special here, but RPG skill trees scratch an itch that never stops itching for me, so I found it enjoyable. That idea kind of summaraizes the whole game: an enjoyable experience, but not a special one.