Game: The Flame in the Flood
Platform: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC and Mac
Rating: T for Teen
Survival, it’s the most basic of human instincts—a fire lit within us since birth. It’s the reason we are afraid of the dark and why we automatically abide our parents’ orders when we are young. This significant evolutionary trait is in all of us, and, consequently, has become a staple for subject matter in entertainment, whether it is books, television, or video games.
Follow The Signal
If a video game centers on survival, that usually means we are getting a gritty, action adventure title in which one must run and gun down all manner of monstrous enemies. This kind of genre has over-saturated the market in the past few years, leaving many gamers rolling their eyes at the the mere mention of the term “post-apocalyptic.” Thankfully and rather refreshingly, The Flame in the Flood is nothing of the kind, despite sharing the namesake. We follow a young girl and her K9 companion as they attempt to follow a radio signal down a furious river. This gushing canal has consumed the land, leaving only pockets of tiny islands to dock at and explore. The narrative is fairly minimalistic. However, that is in the game’s favor. The plot is less about why you are traveling and more about what you discover and uncover.
Scout, our young heroin, is seemingly alone in a dilapidated world when a strange dog appears with a knapsack in its mouth. Inside she discovers a radio emitting a signal, and off she sets, to discover the source of the wave and what lies with it. Like the story, The Flame in the Flood’s gameplay is simple. That does not make it easy, though. Our objective is to ride downstream on a rickety raft, exploring the many islands you pass by. We control scout from a bird’s eye view, helping her dodge incoming obstacles crashing toward her raft and forage for food on the many, many islands. Finding sustenance is imperative; a race against a ticking clock, for the game employs various gauges that deplete over time: food, water, sleep, and warmth. Each one of these must be topped up otherwise Scout will perish, although her untimely demise is not solely limited to a lack of human needs. She can suffer broken bones, lacerations, poisons, and become food herself for more vicious animals. The trick to staying alive is found in the game’s easy to use crafting system, wherein the player can create helpful tools, such as a campfire from which to keep warm and the capacity to manufacture crude weapons such as bows and knifes for hunting purposes. Your creations can be made up of plants plucked from the earth or hooks found at an abandoned fishing spot—every object has its use. Scout can also upgrade her raft, making it sturdier or adding an engine to aid you against the powerful current. Jumping onto your raft, sailing down the river, docking at passing berths in hopes of finding supplies is both an addicting and tiresome form of gameplay. While playing I became fatigued by the lack of inventory slots the game provided me with, yet pleasantly surprised when I died and learned that certain items I had scavenged could be transferred over to a new game. I found myself growing weary of the monotony only to feel the game’s tug pulling me back after hours staying away.
The art style truly sets The Flame and the Flood apart from any other survival titles. The characters and environments pop with vibrant and stylish cell shaded animation. Leaves skate on the wind, decrepit automobiles bob amongst the raging water as Scout and her dog desperately struggle to avoid a collision. The day/night cycles will lavish your screen with magnificent shades of gold and deep blues. The tone is set even further still with an excellent soundtrack, putting you in the hunting and gathering mood—a lonely duo versus the world.
The Flame in the Flood is a beautiful looking title best enjoyed in spurts rather than long, uninterrupted slogs. This game wants you to come back again and again yet, this is where it both hits and misses its goal. Completionists will adore spending hours trying to survive the long nights down river while others will simple disembark after only a few trips.