Simply keeping on top of the steady release of “AAA” game is challenging enough these days, with a larger market than ever before, and a massive number of devs and publishers trying to sate that demand. Unfortunately, that often means far too many good indie titles fly under the radar without the recognition they deserve. This weekly post aims to highlight some of those games we’ve got around to playing but never got around to reviewing.
The Flame in the Flood
When I heard The Molasses Flood, an indie team that featured several former Irrational Games devs, was creating a new game, The Flame in the Flood was not what I expected. Foolishly, I avoided it for over a year before it arrived on the Xbox Game Pass service and I figured it was time to give it a bash. It’s still a far cry from the narrative-heavy and choice-based game I was expecting, but it’s one of the more enjoyable survival-sims, with complex mechanics, an enjoyable gameplay loop, beautiful visuals, and amazing soundtrack.
Played from an isometric viewpoint, you take control of a young girl known only as “Scout”, who is brought a backpack by her faithful canine Aesop, containing a radio that’s broadcasting a faint signal. This provides you with your first story-driven quest in the game - finding a radio tower downstream, in a post-apocalyptic world ravaged by floods. The opening location serves as a basic tutorial on gathering supplies and crafting, before you hop onto your raft and start your journey downstream. The story is minimal, but you can discover several quirky survivors along the way, and short stories (written on quilts) that add some flavour to the world.
Mastering survival skills and managing four requirements – hunger, hydration, temperature, and sleep – provide the core gameplay loop. It’s impossible to stop at every location on your journey, so you need to guide your raft towards locations with the supplies you need. Man-made structures - like churches, farm houses, pharmacies, and workshops - will provide you with supplies for crafting tools and medicines; whereas wilderness locations offer you the chance to hunt rabbits, boars, wolves, and eventually bears for their meat and hides. Marinas are vital to keeping your raft repaired and offer the potential to upgrade it into an all-in-one sanctuary (if you prioritise right). Improving your clothing is vital as you progress, with each subsequent region dropping the temperature further at night and bringing more rain.
You’ll gather plants for food, herbal remedies, and basic crafting material; alcohol, rags, and penicillin to manage injuries and infections; hides, fishing line, and hooks to craft new clothing; and mechanical scrap and planks to upgrade your raft. You’re constantly moving downstream so you need to prioritise what you have, what you need, and what you can handle (sometimes leaving wild animals alone and moving on is the best choice). Every so often you’ll hit a unique story area and advance the plot, but the bulk of your time is spent visiting small, randomly-generated locations to scavenge and craft.
What I enjoyed most about The Flame in the Flood was the ability to play in short bursts, with each visit to a new region or location presenting its own mini-adventure - possibly offering up a safe area with rabbits to snare; a workshop with the mechanical parts you finally need to build a water purifier on your raft; or a bear cave that always hides rare supplies, assuming you have the traps and poisoned bait required to distract or fell the beast.
The last aspect to mention is the stylised visuals (just ignore the generic-looking UI) and incredible soundtrack, offering up several country-rock tracks, sometimes with vocals, that fit the mood and theme of the game perfectly. The campaign may be short if you’re looking for some narrative context, but there’s also an “endless” mode and permadeath options to provide new challenges and extend your playtime.
You can pick up The Flame in the Flood on PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One (currently part of the Game Pass subscription), and Switch.
Enjoys games with awesome stories and characters, along with new and interesting hardware. Dislikes day-one patches and driver updates.
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