The Flame in the Flood is a roguelike survival game that places a female heroine called Scout and her companion dog Aesop in what appears to be a post-apocalyptic world that has been ravaged by a flood, leaving small pockets of islands standing. After Aesop brings you a backpack with a radio transmission, Scout sets off down river to reach the radio signal.
The Flame and the Flood‘s narrative doesn’t really expand much beyond that, but as you play through the game you encounter other survivors of the flood who tell you their stories and sometimes provide tools and materials to help you on your way. Though it’s fun meeting many of these characters, who can be quite unique and creepy, it would have been nice if they appeared more than once and played a bigger role in the story.
The Flame in the Flood has a very unique and distinctive art style. Scout, along with the other survivors you encounter, boast a kind of papercraft look to them. It’s creepy-looking but fits perfectly within the rest of the world. I guess the best way to describe it is to compare it with the movie Coraline. What helps bring the world to life is the game’s fantastic soundtrack. From the opening to the final credits, the folky soundtrack was not only emotional but played perfectly to the journey I embarked upon. The only real downside is that scenery can become repetitive. Each piece of land and building uses the exact same models and textures, so a little more variety would have been nice.
The Flame in the Flood is split into two different gameplay mechanics. The first sees you moving down river on your makeshift raft. I really enjoyed this part of the game – moving down the river you see houses and the destruction the flood has brought to the more residential areas. Avoid debris and rocks while moving down some tough rapids is a challenge early on in the game as your raft doesn’t have much control, and the fact that is has a health bar means that taking too much damage ends your game pretty fast. Thankfully you can repair your raft at specific docking stations providing he right materials to do so. You can also upgrade your raft to store more items, building a rotor for it, or building a protective tent to keep yourself warm and dry from the harsh cold and rain.
One of the best things about a game as hard as The Flame in the Flood is it actually has checkpoints. The river is broken up into ten regions. When you reach the next region a checkpoint is created allowing you to start back up from any of the checkpoints you make it to, or you can chose to simply start over.
The other part of the game is one most players of survival games will be more accustomed too. Scout must scavenge for supplies to keep herself alive. In order to scavenge you must get your raft to islands indicated by yellow circles on the river. You won’t be able to make it to all of them so you have to choose which one is more important as each island provides different benefits.
There are a lot of things that you have to worry about in The Flame in the Flood — food, water, temperature, and how tired you are. Each one plays a significant role in the game and quite honestly I found it a bit too much to have to worry about. A lot of people will enjoy the extra challenge this brings but for me I found it quite annoying simply because of the games randomization. Every time I died and respawned I found out that a lot of the materials I found and gathered changed in the same regions. My first playthrough saw me collecting plenty of water but finding anything worthwhile to eat was almost impossible. On my second playthrough it was the complete opposite, plenty of food but no water. It was really hard to find a good balance, and quite honestly I never really did.
As you progress through the game you learn to craft some helpful equipment, and the longer you stay alive the better tools you learn to make. You can build traps to capture game or subdue wolves who see you as easy pickings. There are plenty of things you need to craft and just like the real world everything serves a purpose. The problem that arises, and it’s a big problem, is inventory space. Inventory space is absolutely terrible. Scout can carry twelve items. You can pass along some items to your dog and even store some on your raft, but with so many items to find and gather it’s never enough space. You can increase your inventory capacity but the materials are hard to come by and some people will want to use those materials to build something else. Even if you do increase your inventory capacity it just means it fills up that much faster with even more items you need.
There is a lot to learn in The Flame in the Flood, and unfortunately there isn’t any real tutorial to teach you. Its simple enough to learn how to craft something as the ingredients are laid out before you, but the purpose of some items is never really explained and some are vague references. More tutorials would have been helpful especially with everything Scout can craft later in the game.
A tough and sometimes harsh survival game, The Flame in the Flood impresses with its unique art style and amazing soundtrack. The further I progressed the more I enjoyed its challenge too, learning from my mistakes and feeling a sense of achievement each time I pushed forward. Though far from being perfect, The Flame in the Flood is well worth a look for fans of the survival genre.