With survival games weighing heavy on the dread and fear factor to keep you going, did you ever just fancy a game in this genre that pushes you towards a realistic end goal? Something that sets you up with hope and releases this in bite sized chunks? Well, welcome to The Flame in the Flood. This is a procedurally generated survival game which really allows you to balance risk and reward. It was released in 2016 on multiple platforms and was developed by The Molasses Flood.
You start with the simple option of playing the game on normal or selecting endless. The starting point for most will be the normal playthrough, from here you will be able to get to grips with the basic concepts of the game. This mode allows you to work through different biomes, face different weather conditions that impact on your ability to survive, and work through the story until you reach the end goal. Endless mode is well exactly what it says. You work through the biomes and try and survive for as long as you can. This mode has permadeath, therefore I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who is just beginning their adventure.
After picking your game mode, you can select which dog (Aesop) that will accompany you on your journey. They all have exactly the same abilities, it is purely which cosmetic skin you prefer. You are now set to begin your adventure. You begin as a young girl named Scout. You find yourself in a small campsite, in close vicinity to your start point you will notice a limited number of signs, these act as a simple tutorial and give you hints and tips on how to progress. From here you are introduced to the basic crafting menus, as you progress there is an increased number of items to craft. You will soon discover that the menus can be a little clunky, but after trial and error it is pretty easy to navigate. After scavenging around the beginning area, you may be lucky enough to stumble across some good resources and components. If not, well, tough luck! You have a simple mission, find the radio signal and that is it. From this point forward you’ll find that you won’t have someone holding your hand, and you are the master of your own destiny.
Once you get to the end of the area you will be prompted to get into your boat, this is where the journey truly begins. As the game loads in you will find yourself on a strong river that is filled with debris; cars, trees, houses and general destruction lies in your path. You float with the strong current and can move left to right along the river. You must avoid the flotsam and jetsam in the river, or find that your boat will get badly damaged. If it happens to get damaged beyond repair, that is it, game over! In the distance you will start to see various icons, each unique to the type of place you can land. Do you go to the fishing shop which could have provisions to make sewing kits, the wilderness that could have animals to kill and metal to scavenge. Or the alcohol store for items to make medical supplies? This is just the start of your decision making which could either make or break your journey downstream.
Once you land in an area, you must be prepared. You could find yourself up against wolves, boars or bears, without traps or a bow and arrow you will not be able to scavenge these areas and more importantly you are likely to face your untimely demise quite quickly. If you come across a snake and get bitten, do you have the antidote to cure this? These are the problems you must plan for way in advance. To some this might sound frustrating, but this is the true genius of a brilliant survival simulator. The game puts all the decisions into the player’s hands and if you make a mistake, well you only have yourself to blame. Sure, there were times where I felt hard done by. I’ve landed at an alcohol store to find limited or no supplies. This is a level of realism that could happen and ultimately made the game more challenging and enjoyable.
As you play you must take several factors into account; food, water, health, temperature and sleep. If you try to rush down the river, you will not survive. You must start crafting clothing from basic insulated items; rabbit, boar, wolf and bear skins. Each offering better attributes than the last, but is more challenging to craft, and is even harder to obtain. You must also consider your boat, this is the heartbeat of your survival adventure, and the base for your journey. It offers you the means to cook, purify water, shelter you from the rain, and help you to navigate a better path across the torrent of water. However, which upgrade do you select first? This again is another fantastic addition that offers the player more tough decisions.
If you neglect the basic factors of surviving in this game, you will of course die. This again leads to forward planning and considering the what ifs. As you progress you will enter different biomes, which will offer you further challenges. These come in the form of weather, harsher river conditions, less resources, and more prey. This variety just keeps the game fresh and is recycled quick enough for the player not to be bored. Once you get to certain zones you will complete the main quest and this unlocks the next part, eventually leading to the end game. That however is not all there is to offer, there are side missions requiring you to do small tasks, these will reward you with various items. I didn’t get too hung up on the side quests and found most came naturally to the gameplay whilst completing the main story.
My biggest gripe is that I would have loved to have been able to defend myself with a spear or some type of basic weapon. The fact you have such limited resources and you need to either create traps, poison meat or arrows to kill the many foes waiting for you can lead to frustration. I just believe if most of us were put in a survival situation, we would be able to craft and brandish even the most rudimentary weapon to defend ourselves. That said, I still managed to progress through the game so maybe I’m just overthinking this.
The developers have installed a neat function that allows players to load up their dog with items. If you die and restart the game from the beginning the items will transfer across, so if you believe that your playthrough has run its course, then load up your hound with goodies and start the next session with a considerable head start. This allows you to have an element of forward planning for your journey ahead. Obviously, if you didn’t want to do this that is your choice, it adds an extra element of allowing the player the decision making over how they want to play out their journey.
Finally the game does have a checkpoint system so that if you were to die you can restart a distance away from your death. This can take some of the sting out of the moment and allows you to reconsider your tactics so that you don’t repeat your mistakes. You will meet a limited number of characters on your journey down the river and although they don’t add a great deal, they are a quirky addition and can offer respite from your survival escapades.
The graphics are not phenomenal, so don’t go into this expecting to receive triple A quality. However, they are crisp and colourful which defines the action perfectly. The colour pallet used adds to the environment and tragedy the developers are trying to portray. I think for the genre, and being an Indie developer they are very well done.
I loved the audio, the style and random timing of the music just fits the mood perfectly. It offers you that element of hope that you are going to survive and makes you feel like you are on an adventure. I found especially when playing the endless mode that the repertoire of songs was quite small, and just wished they added one or two more unique tunes, unfortunately it did feel a bit repetitive at times.
For completionists this game is not a hugely difficult task. It does require you to take on both game modes, getting the best items and surviving for a long time. The biggest problem is that some of the achievements are mammoth grinds and you could die of boredom before you unlock them or die in the game. However, most completionists will be aware of the arduous task that unlocking certain trophies/achievements can be, so don’t be put off by this.
Overall, I found The Flame in the Flood to be an endearing game, that took a more relaxed approach on the usually harsh and difficult survival genre. I loved the fact the developers tried to offer hope, rather than the usual bleak demise of the world. The other aspect I loved was just the sheer element of choice. If I died it was usually down to my stupidity or impatience and I learnt from this quickly. All in all, if you like survival games you will love this. If you’re not a fan or you’ve not dipped your toes into this genre, I sincerely suggest you give this a try.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox One code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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The Flame in the Flood Review
Gameplay - 7/10
Graphics - 7/10
Sound - 7/10
Replay Value - 7/10
A survival game that is light on difficulty. It is fun, filled with hope and offers the player a great level of choice. A good entry level for gamers who have not experienced this genre.
- A quaint story that refreshingly offers hope.
- The level of choice allows the player to feel in total control.
- The audio beautifully reflects the nature of the game.
- The lack of weapons will frustrate some gamers.
- Endless mode is not for everyone and might bore the less hardcore survival fans.
- Hardcore survival fans may find that it doesn’t tick all the required boxes.