I can clearly remember the days when open world survival games were in short supply, they were something so many gamers craved, yet nobody put the time into actually releasing. That has certainly changed as we now have 372 games with the survival tag on Steam, yet it still feels like nobody is putting in the time to actually release them. Most of the big names are still in early access and have been for some time. I will be absolutely amazed when and if the Day Z standalone game that went into early access in 2013 gets the 2016 full release we were promised.
If you’re like me you’re probably getting sick of survival games with awesome concepts coming out half cooked, I totally get why the developers do it, but it isn’t good for consumers. When I came across The Flame in the Flood, which has been available on early access since September 24 2015, I resisted from buying it. The concept sounded great, but I had been stung by other similarly themed permadeath survival games before. It wasn’t until the lull of releases in January that I decided to finally give it a shot, and I’m glad I did.
Developed by The molasses Flood, a team that includes devs that worked on Halo 2 and Bioshock, The Flame in the Flood is set in a post societal America that has been wiped out by a flood, putting the player in control of a lone survivor known as Scout. Throughout her apocalyptic adventures Scout is followed by a dog called Aesop, who helps her find supplies, warns of imminent danger and looks straight up adorable. The mode available in early access has players try and stay alive as long as possible as they float down a randomly generated river in a crude raft scavenging for supplies at designated docking areas. Looking out for Scout’s hydration, hunger, temperature and energy, may seem like an easy endeavor at first, but it can turn chaotic in an instance as you struggle to stay alive.
Crafting plays a big role in The Flame in the Flood, building filters so Scout can have clean water and capturing and preserving small game such as rabbits is essential. Even when you feel fully supplied, a small crash into debris on the raft can send your most valuable supplies overboard. This happened to me on one play through when I lost my water filters after hitting driftwood, leaving me with a dehydrated Scout that had no option but to drink polluted water, which in turn made her sick, which then resulted in death.
Not only do you have to struggle with finding supplies to keep Scout alive, but the world she inhabits is very much against her. Heavy rain will make Scout wet and drop her temperature, which as you probably guessed can make her sick and die. Wildlife such as wolves and boars will also totally mess Scout up if given a chance, especially when encountered early on. Until you can craft weapons the only options is to temporarily scare these animals away and use the time that gives you to flee.
The very first time I died was due to a boar breaking Scout’s legs and goring her to death as she tried to feebly crawl away. It was heartbreaking, I had kept her alive for so long, only to have that time cruelly and brutally taken away by a glorified pig. And to add insult to injury, when the game starts up again you see Aesop taking Scout’s backpack off a skeleton, either as a default cut scene or to indicate Scout is just a moniker and this is all a warped loop of dead protagonists. Huh… that theory would totally make Aesop a questionable sidekick. Saying that he did lead me to that boar… and I thought my dog was a dick for sometimes getting in the way when I’m holding mugs of hot tea.
Currently on Steam for US$19.99, The Flame in the Flood is very much worth purchasing for fans of survival games who want a taste of what’s to come. The traveling aspect and rogue-lite nature make it one of the finest examples of the genre that I have played. Not only is the gameplay great, but the soundtrack by Chuck Ragan is beautifully bittersweet and compliments the game perfectly.
Where The Flame in the Flood differs from other early access games is the fact that it feels very near completion. I am currently hooked on the survival mode trying to beat my previous distance traveled/days survived, so I can only imagine how the campaign will be. The Flame in the Flood will be available for Windows, OS X and Xbox One upon full release, which will hopefully be on target for 2016.