My experiences with survival rogue-like games haven’t always been pleasurable. I love the concept of fighting for survival, collecting supplies, crafting new items and creating a safe haven to rest my head at the end of each day. I’m just not very good at it. Take Don’t Starve for example – it’s a fantastic game that offers a ton of cool stuff to do, but I seem to struggle with the concept of actually not starving. The clue is in the name of the game, but I guess I’m just not meant for survival. Who knows how I’ve managed to last so long in real life… thank god for microwave meals I guess.
The Flame In The Flood has been different though. I wouldn’t call it easier by any means, having suffered many a terrible death at the hands of starvation (my old friend), a variety of illnesses and via the wrath of an enraged charging boar. It’s certainly not dumbed down either, something evidenced in all of the crafting and necessities you need in order to survive. I’ve just found it a much more accessible experience that has hooked me in for hours and you know what? I’m actually surviving.
The Flame In The Flood puts you in a desolate environment where a flood has caused a huge river to flow throughout your surroundings. The land is split, with small islands along the river making up the safe havens where actual land is still traversable. ‘Safe haven’ may be a little too generous – they’re filled with wildlife ready to tear you apart, but at least you’re not drowning while they’re doing it.
You play as Scout, a young girl who is discovered by a small dog named Aesop. Aesop has a bag with him which Scout checks, discovering a radio with an indecipherable message playing on it. With the hope that the message on the radio might offer the solace and safety she seeks, Scout ventures out to find a high point where she’ll be able to pick up a decent reception for the radio. Thus, your river travelling adventure begins.
I actually love the concept of travelling down a river in your attempts to survive. Typically, survival games see you setting up camps and working around them, but you never stay in one place for long in The Flame In The Flood. Your method of travel is a small but effective raft. I suppose you could consider the raft a portable base – you can store items on it as well as upgrade it with the likes of a shelter, a hot stove or even a motor.
The bulk of the game will see you travelling down a procedurally generated river in the raft. It’s fairly easy to control, though you will have to be careful that you don’t cause too much damage to the raft as you travel from region to region. This is a flooded world after all and there is plenty of debris floating through the river that you’ll have to avoid – cars, buildings or even the land itself, it’s all out to get you and cut your journey short. Add to that the varying speeds of the current and you’ll find that simply sailing down the river can be a dangerous venture itself.
The Flame In The Flood is a survival game though, so you won’t just spend all your time travelling down the river. You have to look after five different attributes if you’re going to make it to the end of this journey – hunger, thirst, health, warmth and energy. The first three can be looked after with careful supply gathering. On your journey down the river you’ll stop at a wide range of different locations. These locations will home a variety of supplies, including the likes of plants, food, water, gas, alcohol or even fishing line – everything has a use. You’ll use these supplies to look after Scout. Health running low? Eat some berries and watch it fill back up. Feeling thirsty? Fill up a jar with water and feel refreshed. Injured yourself? Mix a rag with alcohol and make yourself a bandage. There’s a huge variety of supplies and a lot of different uses for them all – you’ll discover all new schematics the further you progress through the game too.
Warmth and energy can be replenished by resting at campfires. Some of the locations you visit will always have a lit campfire, but you’re also able to make one yourself from your resources. The campfires are particularly useful as you’ll often get caught in storms during your time in the game, making Scout not only feel cold but also wet. You’ll also find abandoned houses or vehicles that you’ll be able to rest in that will keep you sheltered from rain or cold, but nothing beats a warm campfire.
Of course, it’s not just your ever diminishing stats that will cause your death in The Flame In The Flood, with a host of wild beasts in the wilderness just waiting to take you down. Wild boars, wolves, bears – these animals are out for your blood. Fortunately there are methods of stopping them, with a variety of traps able to be constructed along with the ever versatile bow and arrow. Taking them down isn’t always so easy though, with one of my particularly worst moments in the game coming when a boar broke the bones in my body as I tried to construct a trap and take him out mid-charge. I got him in the end though – no-one breaks all the bones in my body and gets way with it, except maybe for the countless bears and wolves that cut my Flame In The Flood journey prematurely short…
So you’re going to die a lot in the Flame In The Flood. It’s a survival game for a reason, so when the ultimate goal is to survive you know it’s not going to be easy. Fortunately though, whilst your opening few attempts of the game will be met with failure, the game doesn’t have too steep a learning curve. You’ll quickly learn which resources you need the most, what items you’ll absolutely need to craft and the best ways to evade or even take out the wild beasts you encounter with ease. Whilst your initial few attempts will last mere days, you’ll eventually find yourself working into the weeks as Scout’s perilous journey is seen through to the very end. It was like a pure eureka moment for me – everything clicked into place and I found that I was able to deal with every danger that came my way.
Whilst it was satisfying that I was able to start to succeed with ease, some may be put off by how easy the game can become. Whilst there isn’t a lack of depth to the game, I felt that once I’d figured everything out a lot of the challenge disappeared. You can even take advantage of Aesop’s bag, with anything you give him to store in his bag being carried through to the next playthrough after death. That’s not to say that the game stopped being fun though – it was just a case of enjoying playing the game peacefully as opposed to enjoying the challenge of surviving.
I also had beef with how over-complicated the inventory system could feel. Trying to find an item to see what was needed to craft it often saw you working through constant sub-menus, or even managing your inventory itself could be cumbersome. It’s all the more daunting when you consider that the game doesn’t pause when you open the inventory – the time spent working through the menus will see your precious stats deteriorate.
The Flame In The Flood isn’t all about enjoyable gameplay though – one area it truly excels is with its visuals. The aesthetic design of the game is fantastic, offering almost Tim Burton-esque stylised visuals to represent the flooded world. No detail has been spared either, with overlays of trees and your surroundings standing out across the screen along with the silhouettes of leaves blowing around you – it’s an immersive style that makes the world all the more interesting to explore. Even the day to night transition looks great, turning all the greens and yellows of the world into blues and blacks as it sets up a darkened tone for the twilight hours.
The soundtrack is amazing too with American singer and songwriter Chuck Ragan on board bringing a mixture of acoustic based tunes that set the mood as you venture down the river. The folk inspired soundtracks fits in perfectly with the vibe of the game, the acoustic tunes a pleasure to listen to as you fight for survival. Besides the actual soundtrack there’s also a great use of ambient noise and sound effects – you’ll particularly notice it in the lunar hours when the silence is broken with the wind blowing and the constant squeals of crickets.
The Flame In The Flood is the most enjoyable rogue-lite survival game I’ve played. The premise is great, the gameplay accessible and charming, I really dig the visual style and the soundtrack is fantastic. I’ll admit that the inventory system could be a pain, but it didn’t really deter from my enjoyment of the game. On the other hand, gamers may be put off by how easy the game can become. I found it accessible – others might find it tame. Either way, the game won’t keep you challenged all the way through with the actions you need to perform to survive start to feel like second nature.
Regardless though, I’d recommend any fan of survival games give The Flame In The Flood a try. It’s a good starting point for newcomers to the genre too, offering an experience that while daunting to begin with is easy to understand and excel in. It may not be the most hardcore of survival games, but it’s a damn good one.
– Enjoyable and accessible survival gameplay
– Great visuals that immerse you into the game world
– The fantastic soundtrack from Chuck Ragan
– Some gamers may be put off the lack of depth with the difficulty
– The inventory system feels cumbersome
Developer: The Molasses Flood (www.themolassesflood.com)
Publisher: The Molasses Flood (www.themolassesflood.com)
Release Date: 24/02/2016
Format(s): Xbox One (Reviewed), PC, Mac