A river runs through it.
The Flame in the Flood joins the ranks of games I’ve never heard of until it landed on my doorstep for review. What is it about? I see that it has a lovely charming visual style with sweeping colors and pastel euphoria. It also has some creepy enemy designs. I was immediately captivated and enthralled in exactly what The Flame in the Flood is about, and I soon discovered it’s a survival game that is dark. Yet has a charming heart through it all.
What happens next?
Players will start off picking up their backpack and stick, traveling along with a companion dog. There is no indication of what is occurring in the story or what transpired in the world, but one thing is very clear: things are not great and the world appears to have flooded as far as players will be able to assume. After scrounging the area of supplies in the starting location, it becomes very clear that this is a serious yet involving survival game. While it has a very isometric feel to it, this is no action RPG; this is all about survival, crafting, and moving forward. Water can be toxic and filters need to be created to clean it, food must be consumed to sustain life, whether that’s berries or capturing rabbits.
Platforms: XB1, PC
Price I’d Pay: $19.99
How long to beat: 10+ hours
This all culminates over time with having to manage a thirst meter, temperature meter, lacerations, and more. It’s truly a game about survival, and it shows. It can be a bit intimidating to play as there isn’t a whole lot of ways to do these things at first. As players continue to play, gathering herbs, creating items, this leads to unlocking more schematics for items and even ways to fight back with a bow and arrow. It’s hard and it’s complicated, but only at the start. There is a period where things start to feel almost normal, and then it requires learning to do something else. So moving forward is the true key to success, and after your downfalls of death, players still retain that knowledge and it makes the systems at play easier to understand, even if it comes with frustration upon first glance.
That’s one half of the gameplay, the other comes in the form of the raft and where you decide to travel. Off on adventure with the raft and down into a long and sometimes treacherous river. This is where the second type of gameplay is introduced, the river exploration. There are various locations, broken down by types. Each type gives way to specific or implied materials. Some house fire, others more wilderness and animals, some shelter. Like a fine wine, the river runs on its own and there is only so much a person can do to guide themselves when flowing down it. Choices have to be made on whether players decide to paddle for one location that has a fairly calm segment of water or perhaps there is another type of location on the screen that takes more precedents but is also more wild and rapid.
There is a feeling of risk versus reward versus necessity, and a split second decision might have consequences. The raft can also take damage if debris like a floating house runs into it or the side of a rock wall, yes I said a floating house. These are tough times in the world, and the river can claim life just as easy as the land and wildness can. Players can even store items in the raft if they run out of room on themselves or their trust dog companion. This actually ends up being a major factor as well, since it all fills up rather quickly and one must decide what they need most at the time.
While the visuals have such a colorful look and the design of the main character, dog, and animals are striking with a tinge of oddness at times, it’s a beautiful place, even if it’s mostly surrounded by water. Night turns to day, storms come into play and lightning lights up the sky. The Flame in the Flood is not only a good survival game, it’s also extremely atmospheric and I just love the aesthetics. I haven’t even mentioned the soundtrack, which has this outside, campfire country flair to it that I absolutely fell in love with and I want the soundtrack now. It’s hopeful and cheery, which is about as completely opposite as can get with the theme here. When one song starting with actually lyrics and talking about surviving through the day, I was just in awe. It was a perfect moment and inspiring to take my character further.
Live another day.
The Flame in the Flood was a fantastic experience for me. Players can either do the story mode that sees them traveling through various regions to finally get to the end, or endless mode which just keeps going. It’s a survival game yet it reminds me in many ways of a harder and more elaborate Oregon Trail. Hell, when players die, and it will happen, the game even shows how much progress was made down the river. It’s exciting to always try and beat the prior record. It’s a harrowing game, one that has some difficulty and definitely won’t be for everyone. Yet if you like survival games or ever enjoyed something like Oregon Trail many moons ago, The Fires in the Flood is one game I wouldn’t pass up in a heartbeat. Full of heart, charm, atmosphere, and survival, it’s one river trip worth taking.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.