The Flame in the Flood (Switch) Review – A Beautiful Ride
Platforms: PC, Nintendo Switch (reviewed), PS4, Xbox One
Developer: The Molasses Flood
Publisher: Curve Digital
Release: 12th October 2017
The Flame in the Flood is a survival game from a small indie studio founded by past Irrational Games members. Released quite some time ago on other platforms, The Molasses Flood finally ported their little game to the indie packed Nintendo Switch, now featuring more than a hundred of those. After spending more time than necessary, I´m still unsure how this little survival game should be rated.
Set in an America retaken by nature and dominated by a giant river, we play as a young girl named Scout. Accompanied by her dog, she embarks on a journey through this apocalyptic world, to escape and survive.
As every roguelike, even though permadeath can be disabled, The Flame in the Flood doesn´t follow a giant storyline but concentrates more on encounters on the way. Traveling from island to island on the raft is a lonely experience, being completely isolated and in the hands of nature before searching for supplies in a new area. Naturally, there are other humans as well, which can be met depending on the chosen island and generated world. While they´re certainly interesting on first glance and it´s a great feeling to not be alone, there just isn´t much to them than a few lines and a very basic, flat personality. Every encounter feels so promising but ends up at being a rudimentary exchange of words. Considering how few we learn about this very interesting world and its history, it´s kinda sad to see such huge unused chances. Especially because most of them tend to repeat themselves after a few tries or playthroughs making the optional permadeath a feature to be avoided in the beginning, to not be put off by all the repetitive dialogues.
On the other hand, The Flame in the Flood is a simply beautiful game. Surely there are some cut corners like the overall AA or more dynamic lighting but as soon as Scout gets on her raft and travels down the river, most of it is quickly forgotten. The river, the raft, the artstyle, everything comes together in those lonely passages for a stunning experience. Where the islands or different biotopes look pretty familiar compared to other survival games of this sort, the river is the only but most important unique aspect of the game, building a believable world without words. Underlined by a beautiful soundtrack and the very artistic interface I was truly blown away by the beauty of this game. The Switch may lack some visual fidelity compared to the PC or console versions but can still offer a more than good-looking experience.
Playing it can probably best be described as a very simple Don´t Starve, taking place in little hubs. From building traps, to crafting or campfires, everything a basic survival game needs is here but nothing more. Once arrived on an island, the typical procedure is to loot nearby houses, make a campfire and potentially catch some rabbits. Since most of the food is easily rotten and can´t be carried that long, finding new supplies is pretty much essential on every visit.
However the biggest part of The Flame in the Flood´s gameplay consists of efficient inventory and resource management. Due to the very limited space in Scout´s backpack, storing items for a longer time, to collect enough crafting materials or to be on the safe side, becomes nearly impossible. Moments where the decision between firestones or valuable raft upgrade materials has to be made are not rare and add a great feeling of desperate survival to the mix. The ability to actually upgrade the raft is also a neat addition, since the visual and gameplay changes convey such a great feeling of progression while traveling on the river.
The Flame in the Flood is maybe not a revolutionary survival game, doing pretty much nothing new during the exploration phases, offering a solid but unsurprising gameplay. Mixed with the interesting but repetitive encounters it would be just another alright game. Yet, the addition of the giant river, the main point of the game, is able to catapult it into new heights along the lovely visuals. All in all, it may not be an outstanding game but a truly beautiful experience worth checking out, at least this time.
[A Review Code was provided by Curve Digita]