The Flame in the Flood Review (Switch)

Survival games come in many different varities, but they all have one thing in common; you start out with very little, if anything, and you’re forced to scavenge, hunt, craft, and think your way to survival. There is generally a story that the game is set inside as well. I’ve played a number of them and generally like the genre as a whole. The Flame and the Flood is a new take on the genre where you not only have to survive on open land, but also take to the water in order to survive, thrive, and get out alive.

Flame in the Flood 1The game takes place in a world where civilization has been decimated and many parts of the world have become flooded. You play as Scout, a young woman who wakes up alone near a fire with nothing. She’s awakened by a dog and together they must work together to scavenge for supplies, talk to locals to find out what’s going on and make sure neither of them die.

There are two different portions to this game that you have to master if you want to survive. The first is anything where you’re on land scavenging for supplies. Here you move around searching through boxes and crates, raiding the trunks of abandoned cars and finding any supplies in buildings long devoid of inhabitants. These sections play out like many other games in the survival genre. The supplies you find can be combined with other items to create new things that you use to survive.

Flame in the Flood 3The second portion of the game and one of the biggest criticisms that I have with it are the raft controls themselves. I know operating a raft on a river isn’t easy, and operating it on a fast moving river is even harder. However for a long time in this game I found it almost impossible to control the raft at all. I needed to make sure well in advance where I was going to go and I couldn’t make any last minute changes. If you pass by a dock and want to try to go back to it you can’t. There’s no way to paddle back upstream at all, even in the calmer sections of the river. Nearly all of my runs through the game resulted in my death being as a result of drowning because my raft had taken too much damage. If you’re close to hitting a piece of land that you can’t dock at you’re going to take damage. Houses floating in the river will damage your raft if you run into them. I just found the river controls mostly unresponsive when I was playing at first.

Then I realized that’s really a part of the experience. You have to manage every aspect of the game properly to be able to survive. I set aside those frustrations and learned to play with them and not against them. You won’t be able to stop at every dock. They’re spaced in a way it’s just not possible. What you need to do is figure out what you need and which ones might offer the best chance at getting those supplies. Are you running low on food? A wilderness area with berries might be the best option. Is your raft about to crumble beneath you? Maybe stop at a place where you can perform those essential repairs and get you a little further down the river. Once I learned that the game opened up more and I was able to get further and further each time I played.

Flame in the Flood 4You have to manage every bit of your inventory and learn what is needed most. Some supplies are hard to come by, such as wood needed to build a fire. If you find that you cling to it with every bit of life you have. Food is much more plentiful and if you carry it around too long it will go bad. It’s best to eat smaller meals as you go only occasionally looking for an animal to really satisfy your grumbling stomach. Going up against a charging boar with a stick will mean you’re likely to get injured and need medical supplies quickly so is it really worth risking death for that?

You’re going to fail and fail a lot in this game. You have to learn to pick and choose everything you have with you. The inventory system is clunky. It’s hard to manage your supplies and that can drag the experience down for some people. You’re very limited with the amount of space you have available to you. When you learn how to best prioritize what you need most and when you need it most you’ll be far more successful and the game becomes a much nicer experience.

Flame in the Flood 2The game’s world is procedurally generated and I found, like with many games of the type, survival can sometimes come down to being lucky. Every time you start a run the world changes so there is no way to plan ahead for the next time to get a little further. If you get a world where supplies are limited or useless then you’re going to die and you feel like there was nothing you could have done. Other times you’ll have long stretches where everything just seems to go perfectly and you make it miles down the river with no problems. That means the sense of accomplishment sometimes isn’t there and that you just got lucky with that run.

There’s a lot to like here about The Flame in the Flood. It’s a solid game that does survival pretty well. it’s got some quirks and some issues that need to be worked around to get the most out of the experience. It’s a game that can be incredibly satisfying one minute and equally frustrating the next. The soundtrack is fantastic and the visual style evokes a strange, odd, desolate sort of mood. It’s a game that rewards quick thinking and solid planning. You’re not going to have a relaxing ride down the river, but in a world like this one I wouldn’t expect you should.

Three Stars

Review copy of the game provided by Plan of Attack
Played through multiple runs.  Never made it to the end of the river.

Total Play Time: 10 hours

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