Bound By Blades And These Four Corners

Master these four corners, and you'll beat any of the Ilcyon that dare take you on. A Bound By Blades review for PC.

There’s bound to be a pun at the start of this Bound By Blades review, and – wahey! There it is. Here we have another indie RPG, this time, it’s from Zeth – a solo dev, and publisher Assemble Entertainment (Squad 51 vs the Flying Saucers and Lacuna).

But before you dust off your Link hat or style your hair like classic Cloud (FFVII, silly), this RPG isn’t a big, bold adventure or exploration and endless errands, but a boss rush focused battle instead. Interesting… a boss rush that isn’t a shmup. Does it work? Spoiler: it does. 

Set in the (presumably) fictitious world of Ashmyr, you play one of three characters that are part of an order of monster hunters known as The Bound. The order was created when an ancient force corrupted those nearby, turning them into fiends called Ilcyon. A hero saves the land, but the Ilcyon are back, and now he’s training up a trio to take his place.

Of those three characters in Bound By Blades, you can play any of them and swap them out at any time outside the battles. There’s Teo, who acts as the offensive melee character, Kota the tank, and Guren, a ranger who’s as nimble as Jack. There isn’t much difference between them, but each has their own set of gear – a default weapon and clothing – which can be purchased each time you beat a boss, upgrading and transmorphing (whatever it’s called) along the way.

Bound By Blades Review - Easy
Easy. Source: PR

Bound By Blades Review

But here’s the thing unique to Bound By Blades: you can only move in one of four corners. Your character will hug each corner with the boss centred on the screen. They’ll shoot their sharp, pointy things at you, and you’ll move to one corner at a time, dodging them, deflecting, or burying your head in the ground. As for attacks, they’re all ranged and are typically swift, but holding down attack will unleash a charged attack.

Because the game is dedicated to boss battles, obvs, they have very high hit points. Most of the time, you merely tickle them without breaking a sweat. Sure, you can dodge for a day or two and gradually chip away, but the key is to farm previous bosses (selectable when you’ve beaten them once), then upgrade your gear to something more substantial. Some planning is required as every time you beat a new, more challenging boss, better gear is unlocked, and then you have to upgrade all over again – albeit with better equipment.

This could mean that Bound By Blades is very light on content if you’re only duking it with the bosses (there are ten of them but with extreme variants – there are three standard difficulty settings), but there is a story tucked in here too, and some NPCs to friend up. They’ll mostly give you hints towards your next battle. Talking to them unlocks new bosses, and you’ll learn more about Ashmyr. 

Bound By Blades Review - Stats
Stats. Source: PR

Like A Boss

In addition to the lore, there are quite a few cinematics, all done in this sketchy guerrilla style that gives it a rough charm. As a fan of illustration, I liked this approach which gives Bound By Blades a personal touch in the realms of immersion. It’s almost like a storyboard used in film, but more polished. The UI, much clearer than the sketches, is easy to navigate, and between those fights, you can scroll through your gear and experiment with setups/upgrades.

Boss rush battles, in my experience, are typically shmups, so to have an indie RPG like Bound By Blades pull it off is refreshing. It’s not the same as your typical RPG, where it takes about 20 hours just to crack the surface. That said, with the variations of gear (for all three characters), the dialogues with NPCs, and, of course, the difficulty levels and boss variants, this is a pretty damn accessible game that gets you started nice and quick, but one you’ll likely to stick with to unlock everything. And that whole setup of moving from corner to corner really does work in its favour.