Bound By Blades

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC
Genre: RPG/Action
Developer: Zeth
Release Date: 2022

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Switch/PC Preview - 'Bound By Blades'

by Cody Medellin on July 30, 2020 @ 1:35 a.m. PDT

Bound By Blades is a four-square, boss-hunting action/RPG where you fight alone or group up with friends to slay the Ilcyon overrunning the lands of Ashmyr.

How do you make an indie RPG stand out, especially when the term conjures up thoughts of countless titles made by RPG Maker? For starters, you give your game visuals that are cute as a button and far from the sprites that people think of for games like this. You also decide to come up with a battle system that is far different from other titles. That's what Bound By Blades has decided to do, and we took the preview build for a quick spin to see how it all comes together.

The graphics in Bound By Blades are gorgeous. The use of anthropomorphic animals and the art style make the whole thing look like a children's storybook. The wide gamut of colors and detail in the battlefields only reinforce this, while the animations are fine, if not super fluid. Whether in motion or in stills, this is a good-looking game.


The combat is where the game feels very different from other RPGs. Instead of dealing with menus, your actions are done in real time, whether it's getting in quick combos, delivering charged slashes, or ingesting healing potions. Your movement isn't freeform, though, as you're restricted to a four-corner rectangle that surrounds the monster in the middle. You're always facing your foe, so you don't have to worry about leaving yourself exposed to their attacks, and you have a block and dodge system in place, so you need some dexterity to survive the fights, which feel like boss battles instead of light skirmishes. All of the fights are challenging, so you'll need to balance when to attack, dodge, or move to a new spot. Bosses will try to limit your movements by placing hazards on the corners for a short amount of time.

Between each fight, you return to your village to do a few things. While you gather resources from each fight, you can also go to a forest clearing to gather more resources to upgrade your equipment or craft new pieces, like boots and swords. Aside from changing your gear, you can talk to your mentor and your fish friend to get advice or advance the story to engage in another fight.

The structure of Bound by Blades is simple, but it also reveals how much this game caters to mobile devices, with the PC coming along for the ride. The loop is a tight one, as trips to the village and one-on-one arena fights are all you have. The upgrade system is completely dependent on item and gold gathering, and the crafting system has a timer, although the preview build only made players wait a few seconds for each item. The user interface looks rather enlarged, no doubt to cater to a touch interface over controller buttons or keyboard keys and mouse clicks. There's nothing wrong with being a mobile game ported to the PC, and several excellent PC titles have had mobile roots, but it remains to be seen how far it'll go before some may feel that it's too far.


One thing we did note was that the sound in the game sounded muffled. The music played back fine, but every sound effect lacked oomph. From sword slashes to blocking and landing final blows, everything lacked impact, and that's one thing that the developer can improve upon before the game's release.

There's still time for Bound By Blades to change on its march to a nebulous 2022 release date, but what we've seen thus far is interesting. Even with the more mobile-oriented structure, the fighting system was fun for the brief time we had with it, and the enemies have some fun patterns to figure out. Look for more on Bound By Blades as the months roll on and more features are put into place.



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