Reviewed on: PC, also available for Xbox One.
A calming harmonica plays folk music as I stroll around an island with my dog. This is the first haven I’ve discovered in the flooded ruins of America, I’m excited and optimistic to find what goodies it has to offer. Is that a pig I see? How delightful! Oh, wait… is it charging at me? It’s totally charging at me. Okay well there goes one of my legs, snapped like a bread stick. Time to get up and crawl to safety. Oh, it’s charging again, really? Okay well there goes my other leg, snapped in two like a cheap Christmas cracker. I best get back to my raft, there’s another island I can reach close by. Maybe I can scavenge something that will help, this was the first place I went to and all it had was crippling leg pain. Oh, the tide is pushing me away from that island. No bother there’s another one further down. Ah, some rapids are pulling me away from it. Guess I better lie on my raft with badly broken legs and reconsider my life choices.
We’ve previously discussed The Flame in the Flood in an article outlining it as an early access survival game that doesn’t suck. Since then it has gone on to do the unthinkable, and actually be released. This is mainly due to devs The Molasses Flood knowing their shit, the team is comprised of members that have previously worked on Halo 2 and Bioshock, adding some weight behind this indie title.
The game is set in a post-societal America follow a catastrophic flood, leaving the female protagonist Scout, and her dog Aesop, to fight for survival and track the source of a radio transmission. The loose plot in the campaign mode takes a back seat to the actual meat of this game, which is not dying horribly. As the intro paragraph outlines, things go from fine and relaxing to “oh my god I can see the bone sticking out of my leg” pretty fast. For those seeking a story free survival spree there is also an endless mode, which is pretty much what it says on the tin.
It turns out flooded America is not a friendly place at all. Aside from the dangers of rafting amongst debris, there are wolves, boars, bears, snakes and the general wrath of nature to contend with. Unless you’re very unlucky in The Flame in the Flood, most things won’t outright kill you, but fixing the issues is another thing entirely. Let’s take being wounded for example, a broken leg from a boar attack will slow you down a lot and lower Scout’s general wellbeing, however you can remedy this by setting the bone back with a splint. However finding all the pieces to craft a splint is another matter entirely. Naturally there is a lot of water in the land, considering it’s a straight up Noah paradise, however filters are somewhat rarer and the components to craft one aren’t common. If you drink dirty water you will get sick, and that could kill you, naturally the same goes for eating uncooked food.
Looting in The Flame in the Flood is like playing Russian Roulette with nature. Just because an item is likely to spawn in certain locations doesn’t mean it will. In fact you can almost guarantee that if you really need it, it won’t appear. To do well in this game you need to be smart, reserved, but also time conscious. You can play things as safe as you want, but that’s not going to help if you’re starving or bleeding to death and need supplies urgently. There is a constant sense of fear when you land your raft that the island you’re on could contain a wolf or a bear, or even a wolf and a bear. Saying that, this situation is probably preferable because if you’re bold enough you can totally kite the wolf to the bear and make it go all Far Cry Primal on that sucker.
The mechanics of the game are relatively simple, loot craft, hunt and raft your way to survival. There are certain elements that you’ll need to keep an eye on to not Oregon Trail yourself, such as Scout’s hunger level, thirst, how cold she is and how rested. Again the game provides solutions to get all of these in check, it’s making that work for you that’s the real issue. It can become a bit of a grind staying alive, but it’s one that is worthwhile. The further downriver you get things change, and uncertainty will kick in as you find new landscapes and different threats. It’s enough to keep you on your toes and make the grind worthwhile.
Throughout your travels Aesop will be a constant asset, he barks when near supplies, growls when enemies approach and is straight up adorable. The bond with Aesop, usually shown through animations, adds an emotional edge to the game, which certainly make things hit harder when events begin to go south. As a dog lover I should probably put a disclaimer in here for those who are concerned, Aesop can’t die, so enjoy knowing that the pupper has full on god mode.
Another major aspect of The Flame in the Flood is the raft, this acts as your main source of transport and a makeshift home. You can upgrade it and repair it when it gets damaged, which is extremely important to do because if it deteriorates too much, you will sink. You can also use your raft to store loot, which comes in handy when you find both Scout’s and Aesop’s packs are full.
Visually the game has a distinct art style that suits the gameplay extraordinarily well, whilst the soundtrack by Chuck Ragan is one of the best I’ve heard in a game in a while. This is pure Americana, and it really works.
Despite having a full release there are still a few bugs, glitches and crashes in The Flame in the Flood. I’ve found one audio bug where after sleeping you can still hear the rain from the night before, even though it is clear and, I have had a crash, but the game did save my progress, so although it was annoying, it didn’t mess me up too bad. So far these are all minor issues and are something that I ‘m sure will be fixed in a later patch.
The Flame in the Flood is survival gaming done right. It’s brutal, emotional, pretty and most of all fun. The gameplay is some of the most addictive I’ve played and the modes provide you with enough to keep entertained well into the future.
Pros: Visually great. Amazing soundtrack. Addictive gameplay. Adorable dog.
Cons: Some minor bugs. It can be unforgivably hard.