The Flame in the Flood may be another survival game, but it offers a more artistic approach, a different perspective, and a beautiful soundtrack, the river is a tough ride, but the survival elements are well thought out. Forage, stay warm, stay fed, stay hydrated, and basically just stay alive while you and Dog explore the post apocalyptic world together.
My first few moments with The Flame in the Flood were spent, as with anyone, wandering through a wonderfully drawn, deep woodlands. It felt like a fantastic fantasy period title, deep and moody like the Germaic fables. Then I hit the river, cars bobbing along it, then as I docked on the next island there was the ruined shell of a modern home. Still fantasy, dark, and moody, it had turned from a fable to a post apocalyptic setting, and it made me love it even more.
Each time you start up a game, be it your first journey, or your inevitable second one, your character is delivered a bag by your new best friend, “Dog”, You then head off together to survive. That’s the game. You share a journey with a dog and survive. And at first I thought it would just carry on as a survive-till-you-die game, but I found out there’s an ending to the game, but I can’t get there because, well, I suck at surviving it would seem.
Surviving, as to become The Flame In The Flood, is very similar to what we are now used to within the genre. You gather as much resources as your character can carry, craft various items and rations, then do the same thing again. You’ll also, critically, be spending a lot of time trying to avoid the more dangerous wildlife, rather than mercilessly slaughtering it as in other games of the sort. Although, of course, there is a little bit of slaughter, as you’re on the move, and you’ve got to eat.
Each area you visit contains different types of materials, and you have to choose carefully as the river you’re travelling down is one way as your raft rides the current. So if you come to a fork in the road, you need to decide on which route to take, knowing that you won’t be able to travel back upstream and take the other route.
The crafting does seem rather unique almost, despite being just a simple “click whatever you have the resources for to craft”, there’s quite a lot of items to craft; and not just for yourself, but for your raft, and the dog. You can create traps to catch food, weapons, and raft upgrades. Whilst seeking out supplies, your dog will run to anything helpful and bark at it until you pick it up, reminding you that you’re not unaccompanied in your adventure in this derelict new world. Most survival games pit you alone and it can become quite solitary, so I did enjoy having a dog throughout my journeys.
The main thing that sticks out to me about The Flame In The Flood is how gentle it all looks and seems, masking it’s challenge and intensity. The graphics are delightful and charming, and everything has a soft, and roughly drawn quality to them. As you buy new upgrades they bolt immediately into the game, in a fantastic modular fashion that looks lovely in this cool, polygonal style. Character art is also fantastic – abstract, and warm like Picasso’s portraits. This is all accompanied by an amazing soundtrack by Chuck Ragan, which brings a lovely melody into the decayed world and soft vocals to warm you up inside during the rain.
Talking of rain, that’s one of the biggest health issues in the game. There will be a warning pop up on the screen to indicate that there is rain coming and to get to shelter quickly. It drops your body temperature, tires you out, and is just rather unpleasant to be in. Other issues involve starving, which your character will start crawling due to becoming to weak to stand, broken bones from a fight will render your character to move slower and in agony, and crows…if you don’t shoo them away, the hungry crows will keep on crowing, alerting nearby wolves to your location…and they suck.
Also boars. I hate boars.
Let’s forget about the playable character for a second, instead, let’s draw our attention to the dog. The main menu’s background is an animation of your dog, it’s standing there next to a skeleton, as you select to start your game on the screen the dog tugs the bag free. We then watch a cutscene of the dog dragging the bag to your playable character, the survivor. I’m unsure whether it’s meant to seem like the dog is your eternal companion, no matter how many protagonists you send to their death, but I have a feeling it is… it must be traumatised based on my current success rate.
The Flame in The Flood is a fanciful and quaint little game with a lot to offer. It feels balanced, and plays out in such a way that the second your character hits the dust, you’re wanting to start up anew, and try and journey further along the river than you managed before.