The Flame in the Flood was one of the games I found through GOG.com. The graphics looked interesting, and so did the game play featured in the trailer: sail your raft, craft all the necessary items, and survive the wilderness. How could I resist this game for long?
The first impression of the game was stunning: the graphics weren’t hyper-realistic, but they were simply beautiful. Not only the simplistic, a bit unrefined style, but also the color palettes used throughout the game made the visual experience great. It also fit well with the game’s atmosphere: part post-apocalyptic, part eerie and surreal. And the country music to accompany the journey only enhances the experience.
The story isn’t very complicated: something happened to the world (we can only guess what the apocalyptic event was) and a girl named Scout had been surviving on her own in a little camp. But as her resources ran out, and she finds a radio that broadcasts a message of evacuation, she needs to brave the flooded lands to get to the gathering point. On her way, she’ll meet only a few strangers, whose stories will give some insight into the world, but the interaction with them will be limited: it’s not the point of the game. The point is to survive.
The game play is divided between raft sailing down the treacherous river, and exploring the points of interest along its shores. And The Flame in the Flood is not forgiving… Crash your raft too many times, and it’ll sink. Get too close to a wolf or a boar, and you might find yourself injured or even dead. Eat uncooked meat or other food and you’ll end up with a deadly food poisoning. Wear too thin clothes and freeze to death. And the list goes on. Survival becomes tricky when you need to decide how to use the meager resources you have to ensure you’re going to make it healthy, fed, and warm to the next camp.
It takes several attempts to learn the ropes, but once you get the hang of it, the progress becomes smoother. Of course, a streak of bad luck still might end Scout’s life, but worry not! Her faithful dog, Aesop, will go and find another Scout in no time! Or, if you got to one of the checkpoints, you can restart your game from it.
Crafting, probably the most important part of the game, was done nicely. I liked the simple system, but at the same time, as I played longer and longer, I discovered the choices being quite limited. About two thirds into the game I already had everything I needed, and didn’t have much reason to either use my resources or gather new ones. The game, somewhat challenging (and at times bordering on frustrating) in the beginning, became way too easy and repetitive closer to the end.
I still enjoyed the story, and the mood of the game: a spark of hope in the hopeless world, that flame in the flood from the title. I also wanted to discover the end of the story as I felt the setting narrowed down the possible plot solutions. It’s not easy to come up with something that would both convey the hopelessness of the world-now-gone, and at the same time offer the player some satisfaction. Neither “it was all for naught” nor “it’s all good now” would work, one not providing any catharsis, the other feeling unrealistic in the setting. The Flame in the Flood didn’t disappoint me, offering a bittersweet ending that fitted perfectly with “the spark of hope for the future” mood, and raising my overall impression of the game. I also liked how it tied the beginning and the ending with Scout’s companion, Aesop (or Daisy, as you get to choose).
The Flame in the Flood might not be a ground-breaking game and the game play (including the controls) could use some improvements, but its eerily enchanting atmosphere makes it worth the 15-20 hours of gaming that would suffice to finish it. It’s also interesting food for thought, and a nice reminder that “post-apocalyptic” means scarce resources and death lurking around every corner, and not teens killing each other in cruel games, being sorted into castes, or overthrowing oppressive governments.
Even though I’ve finished the story mode of the game already, the “Endless Mode” is there, and I’m sure I’ll sneak in an hour or two of procrastination to accompany Scout in her journey through the destroyed, flooded America.
- Story: Low
- Immersion: High
- Inspiration: High
- Relaxation factor: High
- Procrastination risk: Medium
Joanna Maciejewska is a fantasy and science fiction author who enjoys all things SFF: books, movies, and video games.
Her short stories appeared in magazines and anthologies in Polish and in English.
Her epic fantasy adventure series, starting with By the Pact, is available in ebook and paperback at all major retailers.