The Flame in the Flood is a unique twist on a survival game, one I haven’t played before. The debut release from developer The Molasses Flood puts you in control of Scout as she travels with her dog, Aesop, down a treacherous river in an equally treacherous post-societal America. Stopping at different locations on the way, she must balance her basic survival needs—food, water, warmth and sleep. It comes as no surprise that The Flame in the Flood is both addictive and aesthetically pleasing, as the team consists of individuals who previously worked on hits like Rock Band, Halo 2 and BioShock.
The start of the game can seem frustrating (and it is) with a lack of substantial tutorial, and difficulties with the controls when using a trackpad. Unfortunately, I’m finding this is a common occurrence, and I should probably hook up a Bluetooth mouse so I don’t run into these issues anymore. The keyboard controls are your standard ASDW, space bar and the right click on your mouse or trackpad.
While on land this control scheme poses no problem because, for the most part, time is at your disposal. When on your raft, navigating the river and landing points, the navigation has more lag, making it difficult to maneuver. This might be done intentionally, since you can eventually upgrade your raft with a rudder that increases mobility. Slightly.
I wish the right click wasn’t the main method of executing interactions. These could have been easily fixed by assigning another keyboard key to that action. But I digress.
The last qualm, I promise, is the inability to pause the game when looking in your backpack, the screen you use to craft or use items. I experienced many a fatality at the hands of my backpack, and I don’t think it’s quite necessary to the gameplay to view that in “live time.” It’s enough to trigger PTSD flashbacks to the lack of pause in Bloodborne.
But now, on to the good…
The game is addictive. Deceptively so. While the gameplay mechanics aren’t too difficult—you keep Scout alive while scouting (eh? eh?) the land for things to help you survive, using anything and everything to keep your raft afloat. But despite your best efforts, you will die. My first death was by drowning, which seemed unfair. Scout hasn’t learned to swim in a world engulfed by an endless river? Seriously?
Your death in The Flame in the Flood is permanent. Kind of. Moving forward down the river you hit checkpoints which allow you to replay your game from that point, but there’s no way to pick up exactly where you left off. The challenge of that semi-permanent consequence had me hooked, even though I kept raking in the unique ways to kill Scout. And, believe you me, I don’t think I’ve killed a video game character more than I’ve killed Scout. Poor thing.
I haven’t yet beaten the game, but I have (miraculously) made it 19 miles down its procedurally generated river, and trust me, that’s a feat in it and of itself. The game does have a loose storyline for you to follow, as you search for the source of a mysterious radio signal, but the main appeal is trying to keep Scout and Aesop alive as long as possible. After a while, the different docking locations do become a bit repetitive in scenery, but the resources you find are always different. Even if you die and land in the same place, the gameplay is never identical.
Kudos to The Molasses Flood team, not just for creating a gripping game, but for providing reliable and speedy technical support. I was having Steam difficulties loading the game and sent a quick email. Bryn’s response was even quicker, replying in under an hour with a solution to my problems, so I was able to continue my addiction with little downtime.
The Flame in the Flood provides hours upon hours of entertainment as you try to keep Scout alive. It’s challenging while still providing the satisfaction of success once you get the hang of everything. Despite its cumbersome menu system and controls, it’s an absorbing take on the survival genre.