Technical foibles can't extinguish this game's soul.

User Rating: 7 | The Flame in the Flood PC


The Flame in the Flood is a survival game that commits to its enticing concept and doesn't try to do too much with it. You're thrown straight into a focused survival experience that has you rafting your way through a world blanketed in biblical floods. Your only steady companions are your dog, your raft, the long water, and Chuck Ragan's game defining soundtrack. Unfortunately some minor bugs regularly sully the immersion. With its stylistically limited scope, this game weighs in on the shorter end of the spectrum for the survival genre, but it is still a good value.

Full review:

Death will likely come for you early and in numerous ways as you find grounding in The Flame in the Flood. There are four wellness parameters for you to keep on top of: Food, Water, Temperature and Fatigue. The game gives you more than enough resources to survive, as long as you know how to use them. Things become more sparse as you progress in order to keep some measure of pressure on. It also adds variety by having regions that are replete with some goods and devoid of others.

Plant life and scavenged items will be your targets at the outset. There's a good balance between having enough different things to collect and having too many to keep track of. That being said, inventory management will always be a required annoyance. You can start to expand your storage pretty quickly as you graduate to hunting rabbits and crafting their pelts.

Animals are both your best friend and worst enemy in this game. Your dog will keep you company, store items and does a good job of pointing out collectables and dangers. Some may dislike his frequent barking but I never found it to be grating. Boars, wolves and bears can kill you if you aren't prepared. Learning their behavior patterns and how to hunt them is one of the primary sources of progression. As with other things in this game, you will become comfortable with them after seeing them as often as you do.

There are other, less mobile dangers too. Snakes, biting ants and sticker bushes all take constant vigilance to avoid. This is one area where an immovable camera is problematic. While it's uncommon for these dangers to be hidden in visually occluded places, it also isn't impossible. It's irksome to run behind a building, somewhere your character could clearly see but you can't, only to be bitten by ants or worse. It feels cheap being punished for something that you couldn't reasonably have known was there.

These minor annoyances from bad design or game bugs add up elsewhere too. Plants will occasionally be placed inside the terrain, remaining forever out of reach. Animals will become stuck, or they can also spawn out of bounds. Feathers are one of the worst offenders since it's a crapshoot whether they'll fall somewhere you can get to or not. A similarly lazy immersion breaker is how you can change your dog's appearance and name from Aesop to Daisy, yet all in game references will continue to call him/her Aesop.

The lyrics and general style of the soundtrack add greatly to the sense of place this game has. I'm not usually a fan of country music, but I still consider this soundtrack to be among the best you'll find in gaming. The artwork, while not as great, do a fine job of drawing you into this world. It manages to communicate a lot through the visuals, and that's a sign of good design in my book. The audio similarly does a good job of imparting information, all while bringing you closer to this world with its wind, rain and rushing rapids.

The Flame in the Flood's minimalistic story is mostly conveyed through its setting. Campaign Mode combines procedurally generated maps with a few guaranteed story locations, including an ending. You'll run into a handful of the denizens of this waterlogged land that can offer conversation and small insights into what happened.

Endless Mode, as its name suggests, will let you keep on rafting to your heart's content; or to your demise. This is where you'll do most your achievement hunting if that's your thing. It's also where the game's limits become most obvious. There are only so many recipes and once you've got all the best gear the best reason to keep playing came from achievements. You can upgrade your raft, but there is otherwise no base building.

When going for the 200 mile achievement I eventually died more from negligence and boredom than any hardship. This story also illustrates why I'm not a fan of how damage is handled. Instead of a health bar, injuries impose penalties on your other stats until they are cured or kill you. It's their immediate impact on Fatigue that is most frustrating. If you are short on sleep and happen to get hurt, you run the risk of collapsing on the spot with no real recourse but to die unless you are carrying a cure for every ailment on your person. In this story's case, I stepped on a snake while tired, passed out from exhaustion only to wake up and immediately die from snake venom. All while I had a cure for snake venom stashed not far away on my raft.

In the end I did wish for a little more out of The Flame in the Flood, but its price is low enough and its strong points are enthralling enough to garner my recommendation.