Survival games have been at the forefront of gaming for the past few years. The idea of picking up materials to craft necessities to survive has been a great concept that games have incorporated masterfully. But survival games have evolved beyond a post-apocalyptic environment with crafting weapons and remaining out of sight. Newer survival games have aimed at purely keeping your player alive as the need for food, water, and sleep have become factors. Enter developer The Molasses Flood. This team is a group of individuals that come from different backgrounds working on games including BioShock, Halo 2, and Rock Band. They decided to do a rogue-like survival video game, nothing survival horror, but simply existing in the backwoods of a river basin. The game is known as The Flame In The Flood, and the results are in: it’s addictive.
Originally backed by a crowdfunding campaign, The Flame in the Flood was released on Steam back in 2015 and the game has finally made its way over to the PlayStation 4. The apocalypse stems from a flood as you awake as a young girl named Scout at the beginning of the game. She has a dog companion that can sense danger and fetch supplies. Players have a choice between Aesop and Daisy. While taking place in the river basin, the idea is to survive and get as far as you can. Scout needs energy, food, water, and warmth. She can also become sick. This all combines into micro-managing this person’s life. At some point, a bow-and-arrow can be made, but it takes a while to get to that point. You traverse different regions of the river on a raft that takes damage and can fall apart, resulting in death. The current of the river makes players have to pick their points on the map as a display will show how far away a different type of encampment can be. Some are churches, others are old camp grounds, and there are even bait shops. The fishing hook and lines are used for crafting, not fishing. In a game that requires food to survive, fishing is strangely not included.
It really seems like the team did not think through of all the details when it came to survival. First and foremost, while the game might not be a violent, there are enemies, and there should be at least some sort of stick or weapon to defend Scout. Fire’s can also be created for cooking food, though this is used more for sleeping and creating an encampment. Now, the game is difficult and the progression is addicting, so there is a possibility that having not traversed deep enough into the regions that I could am missing something. The game does come off as more linear then the other survival games that are more of sandbox. It is not open world. The design involves progressing from Point A to Point B and scavenging small islands along those points for things to craft. The menu system makes crafting really simple as it is based on what you pick up. Inventory management plays a huge part too, as you simply cannot collect everything. Your companion has room for storage along with the raft. Some items are harmful and others are useless but you will be sifting through these things as you progress.
The pace of degradation that Scout has is fairly quick. There are day-to-night transitions along with rain. Water can be collected in jars from the rain, or puddles of polluted water. Every time Scout needs to rest, depending on the amount of hours of sleep, she will lose hunger points and hydration points. Getting ill, hungry, and thirsty can quickly overburden you if you let it. However, if you do die, it shows your progression on the river. This adds an addictive element to come back and keep trying to reach different docks along the river that you missed during a previous play through. This is more tied into the campaign mode, as there is an endless mode that continues on forever. There is also a difficulty level that involves permanent death.
The Flamel in the Flood runs on the Unreal 4 Engine, but aims for a unique art style rather than trying to mimic something realistic in a first person view. The game is played in a top-down isometric view. What really ties the game together is the soundtrack and how it is designed. Chuck Ragan, former guitarist and vocalist from the band Hot Water Music, was asked to compose the music for the game. Ever since leaving the band, his solo efforts have went more towards the modern folk music direction and ends up being a perfect fit for the atmosphere in this game. Small implementations such as strumming the chords of a guitar when an option is chosen in the menu is neat, especially when you first notice when it happens. I believe that The Molasses Flood were able to achieve the look and the feel they wanted with this game.
The Flame in the Flood almost feels like a nod to the classic Oregon Trail game. Dying of dysentery is entirely possible. The fact that the game is a bit more linear than it being an open world survival game helps separate it from the other games within the genre. The focus on solely surviving as a human being (with a dog which you don’t have to feed), rather than focusing on surviving with the worry of combat, is an attractive approach. The Flame in the Flood is about the feeling of a lonely and desolate world blending with a sense of desperation as time quickly fades away and the desperation of survival as you trap animals to eat and skin them, among other things. The Complete Edition is currently on sale for $11.99 and retails for $14.99. If survival games interests you in the slightest than this title is most certainly worth a pick up.