The Flame In The Flood Review

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The Flame In The Flood comes from a sort of games industry supergroup. The Molasses Flood (for that is the company’s name) boasts Bioshock’s art director, and a bunch of other talented individuals that helped create games such as Bioshock, Halo, and (surprisingly, perhaps) Rock Band and Guitar Hero. You don’t need a toy guitar to play this, though; just a willingness to accept the fact that this is a game desperate for you to die as quickly as possible.

Like the also-recently-released (and also recently-written-about-by-me) The Solus Project, The Flame In The Flood belongs to the survival genre so beloved by many indie studios. It immediately stands out thanks to the art design, but then you’d expect nothing less with that Bioshock connection. The art is actually more reminiscent of Psychonauts, but that’s no bad thing. At all. The lass you control has a stark and angular face that’s mildly terrifying, but hey – it certainly helps the game stick in your mind.

 

Each game begins the same. A dog (apparently called Aesop) drags a backpack away from the feet of a nearby skeleton, and brings it to you by way of introduction. He then accompanies you until you die which, as previously mentioned, the game is keen to facilitate. You can die many ways, including (but not limited to) starvation, dehydration, infection, and hypothermia. The rain will chill you, wild animals will attack you, wounds can become infected, eating or drinking the wrong thing can have serious consequences; and if you get cold, you better find or light a fire pretty darn quick.

The eponymous flood means that you’re trying to survive on one huge river, with small islands of buildings or wilderness containing supplies (and dangers) dotted along its procedurally generated length. You get from place to place via your raft which, of course, can take damage if you bash into things. It can be fixed – if you have the right items, and you come across a marina. If you die somewhere along the river (and believe me, you will die, especially to begin with), you start the whole journey all over again.

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Although your starting area is always the same, the whole procedurally generated thang means that your playthroughs will vary. Interestingly, you won’t lose your best items each time if you’re careful. There’s a limit to what you can carry (of course – wouldn’t want survival to be simple!), but you can also store things in your raft and in Aesop’s bag. Aesop can’t carry much, but what he does carry persists past your death. Therefore, if you find or craft something particularly rare and/or useful, it might be a good idea to give it to your four legged friend until you’re confident in dealing with the game’s systems.

Did I mention crafting? Why yes, I did. As a rule, it’s a good idea to grab everything you can – rags, corn, dandelions, flint, everything – like the world’s least discerning kleptomaniac. While most items are useful on their own, they can often be combined with one or more other items to create something even more useful. While you start off with little more than a light on a stick, you can craft such delights as warm clothes, a bow and arrow, traps (die evil, delicious bunnies!), bandages, and even dandelion tea.

 

Not only does the game look very pretty (including some cool lightning effects), but by way of an apology for constantly trying to kill you, it sounds great too. The soundtrack is nice, vaguely hillbilly background support. Survive long enough, and you’ll even be treated to the occasional top-quality ‘proper’ song with full vocals. It’s surprising more games don’t offer full-on songs, with the only example that springs to mind being Transistor (and what a sublime soundtrack that game has).

If you played Don’t Starve to death (and death, and death, and death…) and you’ve been hankering after something similar, The Flame In The Flood is sure to float your boat. Or raft. This is a game that’s actively trying to kill you at every opportunity, but it’s been carefully crafted with twisted love.

Review by Luke Kemp

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