Bound by Flame could have been great. Its almost deep combat system relies on two two fighting styles: Warrior & Ranger. The Warrior stance carries a heavy weapon, whilst the Ranger relies on a pair of daggers to deal damage. Add to that the Pyromancer abilities, explosive traps, and a crossbow, and you have a great deal of complexity available.
The first twenty minutes, I thought the fighting was quite good. In Warrior Stance I used Q to parry & riposte (if timed just right) enemy attacks, and used Space to break their defense. In Ranger Mode, Space turned into a jumpy dodge backwards, and normal attacks dealt more damage in short, furious bursts.
Pyromancy should play a key role in combat, allowing you to throw fireballs or fire-waves at enemies, coat the blade with flames, or summon orbs to burn everyone. That's not the case however, because of one single: the enemies evolve from walking stick-figures, at the beggining, to German tanks later into the game.
The difficulty is all over the place, and at times playing Ranger might be punishingly hard, whilst for the Warrior is a breeze to go through. After all, the game recommends to put points and progress with all three skill trees. However, a jack of all trades and master of nothing might make some encounters especially unpleasant.
If the difficulty is schizophrenic, the challenge isn't. Actually there is no challenge to speak of. Some enemies might kill you 76544389275 times until you find the right exploit, or you might just put 'em down from 4-5 hits. Often you will be forced to look for exploits, and since enemies tend to forget you're there after you got out of reach, you will kinda run back and forth, picking them up one by one.
This makes all that depth pointless. All those traps and bolts doing almost no damage, not even staggering the enemy, are there just to make things pretty, because at the end of the day, you will just parry, hit & run out when things get hairy.
There's also a companion following you, but his or her usefulness is debatable. Melee fighters are as sturdy as china facing rampaging bulls, even when they’re told to just stand still and block. On the other hand, spell-casters on defensive mode are the best tanks ever. They can draw the bulk of the enemy force and keep it one place, giving you enough time to pick ‘em up one by one.
The level up system uses skill trees to boost the Warrior, Ranger and fire abilities, whilst the Perk system adds passive bonuses, from health & mana upgrades, to special alarms around unopened chests. There's also a crafting system, which allows the player to create consumables or upgrade weapons and armour (with visual upgrades to each item). There are also a lot of new weapons and armor pieces in chests and corpses, sprinkled around by the Action RPG Fairy. This is probably the only solid part of the game, and if the rest was just like this, I would have recommended the hell out of Bound by Flame.
The Pyromancy portion also offers some life-saving abilities, but also has plenty of skills that are effective only in theory. Oddly enough, it's the higher level ones that feel most useless. They just deal too little damage towards opponents that do not even waver whilst chasing you around.
Bound by Flame plays like a game that has not been playtested, ever. Alongside the unbalanced elements, there are also many, many minor irritations. Vulcan moves like a small van, and often struggles veering left and right while sprinting. Of course, as it's expected with such a title, camera glitches and physics bugs are common, and might just screw you over right in the thick of it.