Now with hands-on access to the Mars: War Logs developer’s new title, we’re finally convinced that the Spiders know how to take feedback to heart, and work iteratively to make real, meaningful improvements.

We caught up with Walid Miled back at GamesCom 2013 to discuss the newly revealed title. Their high-fantasy epic takes place as an aRPG with a similarly European aesthetic as Mars, featuring some of the strongest mechanics from that title. For instance, crafting remains and has been expanded, although in Bound by Flame you can craft different parts of your weapons to make visual and actual differences.

This was shown to me a few weeks ago in the form of a two sided axe, whose blade could be switched out for another lethal component on one side, and something else on the other. Miled assures me that those who look for parts for crafting will be hugely rewarded, although you can still upgrade and progress without it. However, Bound by Flame is designed with crafting in mind, so sticking to vendors and merchants may leave you at a slight disadvantage. Of course, armour and items can all be crafted too.

I’ve since played Bound by Flame, and one of the things that struck me as the most impressive was combat similar to The Witcher 2, but with more finesse for an aRPG. The animations were equally eloquent and composed, but everything sort of tied together a little nicer. It didn’t feel remotely as clunky as Mars did – although to be fair it sort of fit the context in that game – and I was impressed that both the female and male characters for the players had their own intricate and interesting combat animations. Bound by Flame has the sword-play of a highly polished AAA title, and some interesting combat thrown into the mix, too:

There’s a little bit of Dark Souls here

There’s a little bit of Dark Souls here, but by no means do I mean it’s almost nearly as difficult. Each enemy type has a specialty, and each specialty requires a tactic that needs a little thought. For instance, if I’m playing with two daggers as a rogue it’s best to sneak up behind an enemy with a shield and one-shot him before taking on everyone else, because two daggers cannot bash a shield down to break it very easily. Spiders have made combat dynamic since you can essentially change spec in the middle of combat, putting one weapon away and drawing another with quick use of the weapon-wheel. This meant that attacking multiple enemy types in one battle means changing specs a few times – which is the sign of a good third person spectacle fighter, although Bound by Flame is a lot slower-paced than something like God of War, etc.

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Spiders have a few trademark features and mechanics they’re retaining this time around, including a similar and streamlined GUI, and more gameplay-centric elements. For instance, there are companions and NPCs you meet throughout the game who will react dynamically to your choices. They can also die, which changes the game (at least, their role in the story) and may either lock you out of, or unlock, different features. What’s more, you can only interact with certain NPCs under certain conditions, such as if you’re lucky enough to become a demon, something I’m told you can switch in and out of (you also get some badass horns, but you can’t wear a helmet.)

Something I noticed whilst playing hands on was that Bound by Flame is an exceptionally beautiful game for the price range, and although this is slightly more expensive than Mars: War Logs, and is coming to retail this time, it’s still not going to be a $60 game. It looks like one. I can’t speak for the scope of things, but visually Bound by Flame is a triumph, and even things like shields splintering apart as you smash them, and blood splatter look finely polished, as though they’re passionately upping their game this time. I believe it’s still using the in-house engine, which is a modified Unreal3 engine (if I remember rightly), but on PC Bound by Flame looks like a proper PC game, not just a console port. That’s refreshing.

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So although this might be closer to something like Lord of the Rings: War in the North meets Divinity 2, rather than The Witcher 3, Bound by Flame promises to be a mechanically interesting and story rich aRPG experience that shouldn’t be missed by fans of the genre. They know what they’re building, and from what I’ve played, they’ve convinced me that Mars: War Logs taught them a lot of lessons, and that’s great because Bound by Flame is better for it. As I fought, I thought to myself: I genuinely can’t wait to play this one.