When I started up “The Flame in the Flood”, there was a short cutscene where your trusty dog, Aesop, drags a backpack in his mouth and encounters your character: A girl sitting idly by a campfire. No words are exchanged, but the girl pets the dog and accepts the pack. Then you stand up, and you guide the girl to the nearest dock, passing by a sign that says, “DO NOT IDLE”.
“Do Not Idle” are three words that encompass the entire game. You start at Pinewood, a forest somewhere on the bank of an unnamed river. You and the dog go silently through the forest, picking up useful items as you go., before reaching your raft. Then, you’re put in charge of controlling the raft, dodging obstacles and making your way to the next destination, marked by a yellow circle at the top of the screen.
“The Flame in the Flood” is a game about survival. If you’re unfamiliar with the survival genre (like myself), the goal of the game is to keep your four survival bars from depleting. The four bars are hunger, thirst, body temperature, and fatigue.
You raise the Hunger bar by eating food that you find in your travels, and you increase the Thirst bar by drinking water. Simple enough, right? The third circle, body temperature, indicates how warm you are. If you stay in the cold for too long without protection, you die. If you aren’t careful, the temperature bar can dip down surprisingly fast and lead to an unexpected death. The fourth circle, fatigue, goes down when you go too long without sleep. If you don’t give yourself a warm place to sleep for too long, you die.
If you’re completely new to the survival genre, you can expect to die a few times while you get used to doing the things you need to do to survive. When I first started, I had no idea how to create the basic tools, like the stone hammer and the stone knife. Naturally, I had a much more difficult time finding food, and if I hadn’t died unexpectedly to a wolf attack, I would have died of starvation. After you overcome the initial learning curve, the game becomes a lot more rewarding because it suddenly becomes possible to kill the dangerous wildlife, treat your infections, and even upgrade your raft.
Managing your inventory is crucial because there’s no way to pick up everything you come across in your travels.
Story / Theme
“The Flame and the Flood” takes place in post-apocalyptic America. It isn’t clear what happened, but all of the cities are gone and the wilderness is littered with abandoned cars, buses, broken down roads, and wild animals. You and your dog are in solitude, except for a few very rare NPCs.
One third of the way through the story, you climb up to the top of a hill to a radio tower. You turn on the radio and you’re instructed to head toward the “evacuation point”. The only occasions when the story moves forward is during three milestones: The first is one third through the story, the second is two thirds through the story, and the third is at the very end of the game. The fact that there are only three of these milestones in the ten-part campaign serves to make them seem much more important, and it creates so much mystery.
Whenever you depart on the raft for the next destination, some upbeat country music plays. The music makes it seem as though there’s something special at the end of the seemingly endless river. The music is, in fact, an original album from guitarist Chuck Ragan. If you haven’t already listened to it, I suggest listening to it. Because the music is amazing.
“The Flame in the Flood” is a lonely, but hopeful and upbeat, adventure into the banks of post-apocalyptic America. The more I played the game, the more I wanted to know what happened to America and what would happen to the hero. As a newcomer to survival games, the gameplay was almost as mysterious to me as the storyline. It was a little offputting that I didn’t know what I was doing, but I learned quickly how to take care of my basic needs and progress further in the game.
The only bad thing about the game that I can think of is that the items you collect and the enemies you encounter aren’t very dynamic. You’ll still be picking up rags, saplings, and cat tails, and fighting wolves and boars, whether you’ve just started the campaign or you’re at wave 100 of Endless mode.
Whether you want to jump in to the survival genre, or go on a daring adventure in post-apocalyptic America, I can tell you that you won’t be disappointed in “The Flame in the Flood”.
Verdict: Very good
- Amazing music
- Atmospheric story, even with the absence of other people
- The game is difficult when starting out, but learning to overcome obstacles is satisfying
- The late game has the same items and enemies you see at the beginning of the game