There was an era in the indie game scene when there were a lot of survival-oriented games. The player characters die easily, dehydrate rather quickly, gets hungry and such other concerns, while time seems to pass at an alarmingly fast rate. Some players like the sense of desperation, always having to scrounge for resources.
Yet, these games need to do more than this, and thus things like “crafting” came into this genre, where earlier they were more associated with sandbox games like Terraria and Minecraft.
Since then, there have been titles that try to mix up the formulae, such as imposing mandatory advancement in the playthrough. The Flame in the Flood is one such title.
The game is presumably set in the forested regions of the North American continent. These regions have been subjected to severe floods. Most people appear to be missing, presumably having left. There are people left behind, however, for reasons that would become clear later. One of the people is presumably a youth scout, though his/her gender is not entirely clear.
Anyway, the scout appears to be huddled in front of a fire in an unflooded location. The scout has made a raft, but otherwise has no idea of where to go.
A dog without a human companion soon makes an appearance, after having pried a backpack off a corpse. The dog gifts the backpack to the scout. The backpack happens to contain a radio, which is emitting a broadcast about a sanctuary some distance downstream along the floodwaters.
Having gained a friend and a destination, the scout sets off to find the sanctuary. Along the way, the player would discover things about the backstory, one of which is that the floods are not recent.
ONLY ONE SAVE-FILE:
Ever since Binding of Isaac, making games with rudimentary game-saving has been notably common in indie games, for better or worse. The Flame in the Flood is one such game. The save file only updates when the scout leaves a stretch of land, or after the scout sleeps.
Fortunately, the save files are not difficult to find. An unscrupulous player could just make back-up copies of the save-file.
If it is not apparent already, the game is a rogue-lite. If the scout dies, the playthrough is forfeit – unless of course, the player restores the save-file from a backup.
The only things that persist are any information that has been unlocked about the crafting system, and the inventory of the dog. In the latter case, the player could disable the dog’s inventory from carrying anything from playthrough to playthrough, if the player is a glutton for punishment.
CONTINUING A PLAYTHROUGH:
The player can leave the current playthrough and continue later. This is something that has become a norm in rogue-lites after complaints that playthroughs are often too long for just a single sitting.
Anyway, the player always continues when the save-file was last updated. This means that the player could restart the exploration of a stretch of land at its pier or a rafting segment at the last pier that the scout left from, if something has gone wrong but the scout is otherwise not dead yet.
TEDIOUS LOADING OF MAIN MENU:
There are problems though, mainly with how the game implement the main menu. The main menu has the scene where the dog makes off with the backpack of a long-dead human, while crows look on. Although this scene is quite interesting the first few times around, the game will have to load this scene whenever the player gets to the main menu, such as after running the game or quitting to the main menu. The loading can take a while, which can be unpleasant if the player does not have a very fast computer.
The only constant of any playthrough is the presence of the dog. The player can determine the gender of the dog, but there is no gameplay difference for choosing one over the other.
The dog apparently has been trained to help humans survive. For one, it is wearing a vest with pouches for storing stuff in. Indeed, the player will be moving stuff into the dog’s inventory, either to clear up space in the scout’s own storage, or to keep stuff for the next playthrough. (Speaking of which, the player can abandon the current run at any time by starting a new run.)
The dog follows the scout around most of the time, but it will scurry ahead of the scout to point out the locations of retrievable resources. This is helpful, though the dog also sometimes stays on a resource that the player is not interested in at the moment.
If there are hostile creatures such as boars and wolves on the stretch of land, the dog will growl and its head will clearly turn towards the general direction of the threat. If the dog barks a bit too close to these hostile animals, they will be alerted.
The dog will not fight them, however, and the boars and wolves will focus their aggression on the scout. Indeed, it might seem like the hostile animals do not even acknowledge the presence of the dog.
That said, the dog never gets hurt. The scout will be experiencing most of the harm coming their way instead. Interestingly, the dog also does not need to eat, drink or sleep. (This might give rise to speculation as to what the dog really is, but that’s not for this review to handle.)
As mentioned earlier, the dog’s inventory may be preserved from one run to the next. However, this only happens if the player character died in the previous run; only then, the next run would have the dog’s inventory available. Otherwise, it is wiped.
THE SCOUT - OVERVIEW:
The persistence of the dog’s inventory, if this feature is enabled, suggests that the scout is not the only one who was stranded. Still, the scout appears to look exactly the same, from one run to the next run.
That said, the scout is the player character. In the computer version of the game, the player character can be controlled through both the keyboard and mouse.
The scout, being the player character in a survival game, has a number of factors that the player should be concerned with. These will be described in later sections.
The scout starts at good health, but can accumulate a lot of injuries and ailments. Many of them will be long-lasting, and each inflicts an impediment on the scout. They will go away eventually, but there is always the chance that the player character would be harmed further due to the cumulative impediments.
Many of the ailments will affect the other stats too, making it even more difficult to keep the player character alive. If too many ailments get stacked, the scout dies.
Healing is expensive in terms of resources; healing items consumes rare resources that could have gone into something else. Therefore, it is in the player’s interest to avoid harm whenever possible. In particular, stretches of land that are prowled by boars and wolves are generally not worth checking out, unless the player has some means of eliminating them.
Healing eventually occurs over time, but the other statistics deplete instead.
Indeed, even as the player checks the inventory and has the scout craft things, these other statistics will go down anyway. That said, the player can just pause the gameplay by bringing up the main menu, if the player wants to think about what to do next.
The scout is ultimately mortal, so he/she has to sleep. The scout’s need to sleep is represented as fatigue. Unlike health, having low fatigue does not appear to impede the player character. However, if fatigue ever goes down to zero, the scout, of course, dies.
Resting is the only way to regain fatigue. Resting also results in passage of time, which means the scout regains some energy while also getting hungrier and thirstier.
However, the scout cannot just rest anywhere. The scout can only rest at where there is shelter, or at a campfire. In the latter case, rain will put out the campfire quickly, making this option a poor one.
The player can choose the amount of time that the scout would rest; the fatigue replenishment appears to be proportional to the amount of time spent resting. This is handy, if all the player wants to do is top up the fatigue meter.
Resting happens to update the game-save too, so the player could use this as a way to save one’s progress on a stretch of land.
The scout also needs to keep topped up on food. Obviously, once the meter goes down to zero, the scout starves.
Being a youth scout, the scout knows how to live off the land. For example, yucca – of the North American sort – have edible parts, though the scout gains more nutrition after cooking them in a fire. Indeed, the scout can derive nutrition from considerably many things. Death from starvation is not as common as death from injuries (or rafting accidents).
However, that assumes that the player is wise about managing food supplies, which is easier said than done. Many raw foods eventually spoil after a few in-game days. The later regions of the game world also have less sources of food.
EXPIRY OF FOOD:
Unfortunately, the time that perishable food has left is not shown to the player. That they can be stacked also complicates things further. That said, the game actually tracks the expiry time of each individual unit of food. For example, the player might find that individual units of cooked meat have gone bad, and these would be turned into items of a different kind. (This can be unpleasant, if the player is running out of inventory space.)
Conveniently, any cooked food begins with its full shelf life, regardless of how far its raw version has gone.
Just like how the scout needs to eat, the scout needs to drink too.
The floods may bring a lot of water, but much of that water would be contaminated with germs from the soil and decomposing matter in the floodwater. Therefore, water is easily obtained, but getting clean water is a different matter. Drinking unclean water makes the scout sick.
Clean water can be obtained from wells, but this is far and few in between. The other method to get clean water is to apply water filters to polluted water. (In real life, such water is potable, but it is definitely not clean since it would likely taste bad.)
One of the most important resources that the player has to manage are jars. These are the only ways to hold liquids, especially water. Jars cannot be stacked, meaning that they can take up a lot of space in any inventory. Gas bombs also need jars, but when the bombs are used, the jars are gone too.
The scout also needs to stay warm. Complete loss of warmth results in death, of course.
The game appears to start in autumn, so the temperature is otherwise balmy. There is no clear progression of seasons either, so there is no winter to worry about. Thus, the scout does not need additional protection, at least in good weather. However, cold fogs can fall on regions, thus decreasing ambient temperatures. If the scout is ill-equipped, warmth is quickly lost.
The player can improve the scout’s resistance to the cold by having the scout wear clothes made from animal hides. Obviously, the player needs to kill animals for this purpose. Incidentally, nastier animals happen to provide warmer clothes.
The floods are caused by heavy rains. Thus, there will be bouts of bad weather, namely rainstorms. The onset of rainstorms is usually heralded with the sudden darkening of the skies, even during daytime.
When rainstorms fall, the scout would be caught out in the open and soaked. Staying any further in the rain is guaranteed to cause the scout’s body temperature to plummet. Thus, it is generally in the player’s interest to look for shelter as soon as possible, and rest until the rains go away.
If the player could not find any shelter, the player might want to make the best of the situation, namely collecting water in jars. Rainwater happens to be clean.
If the scout already has good clothing, the player is better off having the scout soaked; the warmth loss would not be too significant and the rain would eventually let up.
As the player progresses through the playthrough, rain becomes more frequent. At the end stretch, it occurs virtually non-stop, so the player might want to equip the scout with the warmest clothing.
After the rains have stopped, the scout would still be soaking wet. To get dry, the scout needs to sit at a campfire; there will be no drying with a towel, much less a change of clothes.
The soaking eventually goes away on its own, but until then, it will drain the scout’s warmth.
The scout can get ill from ingesting dirty food or uncooked raw foods. This ailment would not kill the scout, but the scout will suffer penalties to various statistics until it goes away. The description of any unsafe food will mention the certainty of poisoning anyway, so it is really a slip of the fingers or great desperation if the player still somehow gets the scout afflicted.
Food poisoning causes faster loss of hydration and nutrition, but otherwise has no other effects. Still, it is in the player’s interest to avoid it if possible, or to cure it quickly if not.
Of all the status ailments, being poisoned by a venomous snake is a de-buff that will not go away. In fact, the scout dies after about 10 in-game hours. To allay this certain doom, the player must have brewed sumac or dandelion tea, which can somehow cure the poison. Sumac and dandelion are not always available though, and keeping them around for the possibility of being poisoned can mean giving up an inventory slot that could have been used for something else.
As mentioned earlier, just about any survival rogue-lite has a crafting system of sorts by the time of this game, thanks/no thanks to the likes of Don’t Starve. In such gameplay, the player character would be gathering a whole bunch of knick-knacks, most of which are useless until they have been converted into something else. Of course, that conversion can only happen after the player character has found other knick-knacks, which may also be initially useless.
The Flame in the Flood is very much the same. There are a number of things that the scout cannot use immediately, such as flints and saplings.
Some other items can be used immediately, but they are often better off being used as ingredients for crafting. For example, corn cobs are good on their own, but they will spoil eventually, which is something to worry about if the player has more food than the scout would need in the short term. Thus, the player is better off turning some of the corn into ashcakes. These do not provide hydration as fresh corn would, and their nutrition is barely better than the cobs that went into them, but ash cakes do not spoil.
(That said, there may be some issues of believability here; ash cakes were made using flour, not fresh corn.)
Some other items will never be used in any crafting, because they are already usable on their own. These include any readily edible forage, such as mulberries and insect grubs.
CRAFTING USER INTERFACE:
The user interface (UI) for crafting has some tabs that arrange crafting options according to the overall function of the items that result from the crafting. The UI also shows the number of components or ingredients that are needed to craft or cook an item, as well as the number of components or ingredients left.
The UI will list the crafting options that already have the necessary components or ingredients before the options that do not. This is convenient.
CRAFTING BY HAND:
Some crafting jobs can be done wherever and whenever. Examples include applying water filters on polluted water, or turning cat’s tail plants into braided rope.
Other crafting jobs will require workstations or campfires, however. These are not readily available, so the player could accumulate a lot of items that are not usable until then.
CRAFTING AT WORKBENCHES:
Crafting at workbenches is a rare opportunity, because workbenches are far and few in between. They become more frequent as the playthrough progresses, but having to hoard materials for this eventuality can be daunting.
That said, crafting at workbenches yields high-end items, such as the steel knife, which is needed for high-end weapons. Workbenches never break down, so the player can craft as many things as he/she has materials for.
Some stretches of land have campfires that are already lit, presumably by other people that are ahead of the scout and left behind for anyone else to use. There is no other reasonable explanation for why no one is around and why they did not bother to put out the fire. (The presence of the floods does mitigate any chance of wild fires spreading, of course.)
Anyway, it is in the player’s interest to search for these if they are around. This is because as soon as the scout has landed on an isle with a campfire, the campfire will start a countdown towards its extinguishing. The campfire will eventually go out, and considering how useful campfires are, it is not in the player’s interest to dawdle.
Campfires can also be set up by the scout, assuming that the scout has the materials to craft them. They are items that do not stack, however.
CAMPFIRES & COOKING:
Campfires are not only places for the scout to dry soaked clothes or sleep at, but they are also sources of heat for the purpose of cooking. Quite a number of “crafting” jobs that involve cooking can only be done at fireplaces, such as cooking raw meat into cooked meat. (Cooked meat gives far more nutrition than raw meat, but it will spoil eventually.) However, cooking appears to accelerate the extinguishing of campfires.
If the player has installed a stove on the raft (somehow this can happen), campfires become a lot less precious. Still, the player might want to have campfires just to get charcoal, which is used to make water filters. (Of course, if the raft has a water purifier installed already, water filters also become a lot less precious.)
KNIVES & HAMMERS:
The scout knows how to make knives and hammers out of flint stones. If the scout has found some boar hides and nuts and bolts, the player can make steel ones at workbenches.
Stone knives are used for cutting things down to size, or to remove layers of soft material. Consequently, it is a requirement in some crafting jobs, such as skinning dead animals or cutting braided rope to make into other tools. Stone hammers are used for making items that are associated with the raft. Thus, the hammer might be rarely used.
Steel knives and hammers are needed to make advanced items, such as the bow. Steel knives and hammers are completely different items from stone ones, by the way. They are equipped in different slots too.
Knives and hammers can only be used so many times before they break down. The scout cannot seem to make replacements so readily, however; the options to do so only appear after the previous knives and hammers have completely worn out. This can be a problem in the case of steel tools, because their crafting requires workbenches.
MOVING ITEMS FROM ONE INVENTORY TO ANOTHER:
The player can move stacks of items from the scout’s inventory to the dog’s or the raft’s. If the items could stack with those that are already in the other inventories, they will stack without a problem.
However, there is a problem with moving items from the dog’s or raft’s inventories to the scout’s. The game attempts to move all of the items of the same type into the latter, instead of just the stack that the player selected.
THE RAFT – OVERVIEW:
As mentioned earlier, the scout has made a raft, apparently for navigating the floodwaters with. The raft also has some containers on one end, presumably to both weight the raft for stability and for stowing away stuff.
Thus, the raft acts as both storage space and as a means of getting from one stretch of land to another. Consequently, the raft is vital to the playthrough, and typically, it is not indestructible.
Rafting across the floodwaters is a major portion of the gameplay. The scout cannot stay in any one place for long, because it only has limited resources. Obviously, staying in place will not have the scout going anywhere nearer to the sanctuary.
Therefore, the scout and the dog must leave to find the next stretch of land. Although the player could have them raft for longer distances without stopping at piers, the player will need to have them explore stretches of land in order to gain resources and craft gear. The later parts of the playthrough can be punishing for unprepared players.
Stretches of land that can be explored is indicated with icons in the distance. As the raft gets closer the player can see the piers that are seemingly at all stretches of land. The piers also happen to be highlighted with blue nimbuses.
Getting near to any of the piers brings up a button prompt, which when pressed, automatically triggers the docking cutscene.
The currents of the water happen to have particle effects that indicate how strong their currents are. For example, the parts of the water that are rapids will have very strong currents, and they happen to be foamy and turbulent.
As for control inputs, if the player is using the mouse and keyboard set-up, the player might want to consider only using the keyboard scheme or the mouse. Attempting to use both is not likely to improve the player’s performance, even if the player could handle the (needless) complexity.
Due to the currents of the floodwaters, the raft can only move downstream in the long run. However, the player can have the scout expend some stamina to thrust the raft in the direction that the player wants, possibly going against the currents.
The orientation of the raft does not matter; the scout will always push towards the direction of any control input that the player entered. This is just as well, because thrusting is needed to avoid collisions.
Due to the scout’s limited stamina, there can only be so much thrusting that can be done before the scout is worn out. The scout regains stamina after a few seconds of not doing any thrusts.
CAMERA ONLY SHOWS DOWNSTREAM PLACES:
The scout could provide enough thrust to fight the currents, sometimes even going upstream a bit; the player can use this to get to another stretch of land that is nearby but a bit upstream.
Unfortunately, the camera does not help in this endeavour. It mainly shows what is downstream of the raft. The most that the player could do is follow the icons that indicate the location of land stretches. Even so, if the raft has gone too far downstream to trigger the entry into the next region, the icons disappear.
The raft has stowage for items, preferably for items that are rarely used. This is because these items stay with the raft, and will not be available if the scout has gone further in-land, away from the pier. If the player wants to access these items, the scout has to hoof it back to the pier to do inventory management.
UPGRADING THE RAFT:
Interestingly, there is an industry of sorts in the regions that the game takes place in; this industry is oriented around modifying and upgrading make-shift rafts.
Throughout the playthrough, the player may come across marinas, which are not inhabited. However, they have working hand-cranked equipment and presumably documentation on how to apply changes to a makeshift raft. The presence of such facilities may seem unbelievable at first, but revelations about the backstory would make this quite plausible in hindsight.
To upgrade the raft, the scout needs to have the schematics for it. The schematics are implemented in-game as simple consumables, and not anything more complex. They are consumed for any upgrades, and they are only ever found as rare loot or rewards. Therefore, the player has to be careful about which upgrades to pick first. (Generally, the player might want to go for the stowage upgrade first.) If the player has obtained all of the upgrades for the raft, any further schematics are useless.
The player also needs woodworking materials like lumber and nuts and bolts. Animal hides are also needed for some high-end options. The upgrades can be very expensive in terms of resources, but the improvements are worthwhile in the long run. Still, the player might want to prioritize other things first, such as the first few nuts and bolts for the scout’s first steel knife.
Improvements include better steering, more stowage and amenities that improve efforts at survival. One of the upgrades adds a gas-fuelled motor to the raft, allowing it to fight currents. Of course, the player needs to find gasoline for the motor, and gasoline is not a common resource.
If there is any complaint about this gameplay element, it is that raft upgrades do not consume resources like lumber immediately. Rather, they require upgrade materials, which are not used for any other purpose. This is not always an issue of course, because the player can just hoard the resources that go into them until the player gets to a marina, at which the player can craft the upgrade materials.
However, the player can also find upgrade materials as loot or as rewards for completing tasks. These will be useless until the player gets to a marina.
The raft can only be repaired at marinas. Therefore, the player will still want to minimize damage to the raft where possible, even if the player has plenty of resources. That said, the same resources that go into repairs of the raft also go into the crafting of the upgrade materials.
CANNOT RETURN AFTER LEAVING:
When the scout and the dog leave a stretch of land, they cannot return to it, even if it seems that they could just dock back onto its pier. The game-save also updates upon leaving. This is important to keep in mind; it also happens to be something that the game fails to tell the new player about.
The only silver lining to this restriction is that the waters around piers are quiescent, for whatever reason. The player has some leeway to direct the raft before the currents take over.
While the player is rafting about, there are flotsam bobbing up from underneath the waters, or sinking below the surface. The appearances of flotsam and their durations of floating are random. However, if they crash into things, they are likelier to sink sooner than later.
The pieces of flotsam are of course there to mess up the player’s rafting. This can be unpleasant, because the appearance of flotsam and how fast they move are dependent on luck. Fortunately, they are also predictable to a degree, because they generally follow the currents of the waters.
LOOTING WHILE RAFTING:
There are some objects that have peculiar blue nimbuses. These are objects that the scout can snatch to get some loot, even while rafting. However, they often spawn on top of what are practically collision hazards.
Therefore, the player will have to consider the risks of grabbing them. Besides, there is nothing to indicate what items they would yield anyway, so they might not be worthwhile. (They are randomly determined, but what they are is set in stone in the save-file afterwards.)
GAS AND MOTORBOATING:
The player eventually finds sources of gasoline. Gasoline can be stored in jars, and is used to fuel the raft’s motor, if it has been upgraded with one.
The motor is activated by holding down a button. This can be difficult on a keyboard set-up, unfortunately. Anyway, having a motor will not increase the raft’s speed by much, but it does allow the raft to fight the currents a lot more easily.
WEATHER CARRIES OVER:
The current weather carries over to the rafting gameplay from the exploration gameplay and vice versa. The player will want to consider this, especially if the player character might not be well-clad for any cold spells or heavy rain.
CACHES & TASKS:
Caches are loot containers that also act as quest-givers of sorts. The scout can receive tasks from them; the rewards from their completion is also shown to the player. Presumably, someone is leaving behind things for the scout; this person also somehow happens to know when the scout has completed the task. This will not become a significant story element, however.
Usually, the tasks are practical and will help in the player’s playthrough. For example, the first task is to obtain knives and hammers, something that the player will have to do anyway.
After completing a task, the scout can check another cache later, wherever it is found. It would somehow have the rewards from the completed tasks. However, if the player leaves them behind, they are lost forever; they will not be at the next cache. Not every stretch of land will have caches, however.
STRETCHES OF LAND:
The greatest risks that the player would come across are in the exploration of the stretches of land beyond the piers that the scout would dock the raft at.
Whether these stretches of land are on isles in the river or at the river banks, they are certain to be bounded by impassable barriers that the scout cannot move through or over. Every stretch of land will always have some resources, though the amounts can vary.
In particular, most of them have vegetation that the scout can use. Saplings are among the most common, followed by cat’s tail and ingestible plants.
Many stretches of land have crates of stuff and junk that can be salvaged for things. Presumably, they have been left behind by people who cannot take things with them when they leave.
Then there is the wild life. For gameplay purposes, they are there to be sources of meat and hides for the scout, if the scout has the means to kill them. There is some ecosystem of sorts, or to be more precise, responses of certain animals to other animals, which will be described later.
Some stretches of land have pools, which are there for plants to spawn on. The pools have unclean water, not unlike the water that the scout can collect at the pier.
However, there are some lands that have sources of clean water. Still, they can only be drawn from just once (perhaps unbelievably), so the player has to decide whether to have the scout drink from them or fill a jar with it. Incidentally, the former option always refill hydration to full, and is best taken just before the scout leaves.
The scout moves across any terrain without any issue, discounting ailments and setbacks that hobble the scout. However, there is some vegetation that can cause problems, such as briars and poison ivy. There are also ant mounds. These hazards appear later in the playthrough.
CAMERA PROBLEM DURING EXPLORATION & RAFTING:
The zoom level of the camera is adequate enough for the purpose of seeing what’s ahead. However, the camera has a fixed orientation.
This is a problem, because there are large objects that can obscure the player’s view of whatever is behind them. For example, there can be a wolf lurking behind a stranded bus. The dog may growl at the direction of the bus, which would alert the player of the presence of a hostile animal behind the bus, but the player will not be able to see what type of animal it is.
Considering that all of the game’s graphics are in 3D, it would not have been difficult to implement a rotation feature for the camera, at least for the exploration gameplay.
The same problem also occurs in the rafting segments. Trees and buildings would obscure the player’s view of what is behind them. This is most problematic if the raft has to go through a narrow pass, but trees or buildings are obscuring it.
In the story mode, the scout has to travel through ten regions. A few regions are guaranteed to appear, namely those that concern the story and backstory.
A type of region has looks that are different from those of other regions, and they have stretches of land that are predominantly of specific biomes (more on these shortly). Knowing what biomes that a region has will be important in the player’s decision to either continue rafting or make landings to search for resources.
Some regions only appear early on in the playthrough. For example, the rural regions appear early on so that the scout can have opportunities to gather food, such as meat from rabbits. Later regions happen to be closer to what remains of human civilization, so they have less food resources but more materials for raft upgrades and crafting of non-food items. Later regions also tend to have more hostile animals, especially wolves.
Whatever a region has though, it will always have floodwaters with currents of varying strength. Therefore, there will always be rafting to do from start to the end of the playthrough.
The stretches of land can be categorized according to “biomes”, a term that has been going around in games with sandbox worlds or locations that share specific themes.
When the scout lands at a stretch of land, the player is notified of the opportunities and risks that are associated with the biome. For example, the “Bait Shack” biome has no hostile animals whatsoever during the day, some plants (especially dandelions), at least one toolbox to loot for man-made materials and the shack itself, which is a shelter.
The biome type of a stretch of land is indicated by its icon, when the player is in the rafting segments. Thus, the player might want to carefully consider which stretches of land to go to, depending on the player’s current situation. For example, if the scout lacks man-made materials, the player might want to visit places like abandoned shop districts, which tend to have such loot.
The biomes do not determine the types of animals that the player will encounter. The composition of animals appears to be randomized, with the only certainty being that there are more hostile animals later in the playthrough.
As mentioned earlier, the scout needs shelters in order to sleep.
Shelters on the isles come in the form of abandoned vans, buses and buildings. In the case of the abandoned vans and buses, they are almost always devoid of anything to loot, though there are often crates near them. In the case of houses, there is always loot to be found, though the scout takes a while to search through them. The houses do not have interiors that can be explored, by the way.
The presence of these shelters is the first hint that the backstory may be more than just about the floods. They are rather dilapidated, as if they have been abandoned for quite a long while.
Resting at a shelter will update the game-save, and continuing the playthrough later will have the scout and dog appear outside of the shelter.
Getting into a shelter also ends any encounter with hostile animals, but it takes a while to activate this script, during which the scout may be attacked.
CONTINUING A GAME-SAVE RANDOMIZES LOCATIONS OF ANIMALS:
If the player continues a playthrough using a game-save that has been made on a procedurally generated stretch of land, the locations of most animals are changed. This is definitely the case for crows, and it can happen for boars and wolves too.
Only bears and rabbits remain at the same places, because their spawn points are tied to the bears’ caves and the rabbits’ boltholes. Both of these are map objects, the locations of which will not be randomized.
Crows are apparently the only birds left, and they are almost always around. Chasing them away with swings of the scout’s staff causes them to lose a feather. The crows cannot be killed, by the way. A crow that has been driven away generally does not return.
The significance of the feathers becomes apparent after the scout has obtained a bow, which is the only way to actively and directly attack enemies. An arrow can only be crafted if the scout has feathers for them.
The main problem with the collection of feathers is that the feathers take a while to float down. They will oscillate their location while they do so, so they might end up landing somewhere that the scout cannot reach.
The crows caw whenever the scout draws near. The danger that the crows’ caws pose becomes clear when the scout begins to encounter wolves and boars. The crows’ caws will alert other animals to the presence of the scout; wolves, in particular, will home in on the scout’s location.
Amusingly, killing any other animal causes crows to fly to and land on their corpses; they do not appear to eat the corpses though. This can be used to lure crows on high buildings to places that are more accessible.
Rabbits are common critters. They are skittish, always running away whenever the scout draws near. That said, their fear is well-founded; the scout’s only interaction with them is to catch them and expend their lives for the scout’s benefit.
There are a few ways to catch rabbits. One is the box trap, which captures them alive. Another one is the snare, which kills them through a painfully obvious manner. Yet another way is the gas bomb, which actually kills them when they inhale the vapours. In the case of the gas bomb, they die shortly after inhaling the vapours, even if they managed to get into their boltholes.
Live rabbits can be released to distract wolves, who apparently forget about the human and chase after the live rabbits. If a wolf kills a rabbit, it will proceed to feed, during which it ignores the human unless the scout gets too close. Live rabbits can, of course, be killed to make them dead.
Dead rabbits can be skinned for their meat and hides. However, their corpses last longer than the raw meat that would be yielded, so the player might want to hold back on skinning them until needed. However, if their corpses go bad, nothing can be obtained from them.
Boars are highly territorial creatures. If a boar is alerted to the human’s presence, it becomes hostile. Every several seconds, it will telegraph its intent to attack, and then makes a straight linear charge afterwards in the scout’s direction. This behaviour can be exploited to get them into spear traps, which kill them outright. Alternatively, if the player is skilled enough, they can be shot with arrows before their charge lands.
Of course, the player could just give them a wide berth. After getting far enough away from their original spots, the boars usually turn around and go back. More daring players can try dodging their charges while going around looting things, though searching containers can be risky if angry boars are around.
Boars will not respond to any swings of the staff. They do not care much for such intimidation attempts.
The actual territory of a boar is not clear, however. The scout may be able to get up close in front of a boar and not trigger its hostility. On the other extreme end, the scout may be far away from the boar but close to some loot containers, yet it would come running up.
Wolves are hungry creatures. If there are rabbits about on the same isle (which is not likely), they generally go after these first; they are weaker prey after all. Wolves also go after boars, who will fight back; they might even kill each other.
However, the wolves are indeed hostile to humans, and will attack the scout if there is not anything else that catches their attention. They will stalk the scout unceasingly, circling around to attack the scout from behind or from the sides. They will respond to swings of the staff, typically with leaps backwards, which can put a little distance between them and the scout.
As mentioned earlier, the scout can release a live rabbit to distract them. Alternatively, they can be distracted with tainted meat. The wolf who eats it would be none the wiser.
Wolves either come in ones or threes; the latter case becomes more frequent as the playthrough progresses.
When night comes, wolves will become aware of the scout’s presence automatically. This is usually indicated with wolf howls, so the player has some time to get the scout to safety before they come over.
WOLVES KEEPING AN EAR OUT FOR NOISE:
When the scout searches loot containers, noise is made. This can alert nearby wolves to the presence of the scout. Crows’ caws also alert them, perhaps even more so than any other noise because these can alert even far-away wolves.
The dog generally keeps quiet when the scout is near wolves that have not detected the scout. However, mishaps can happen. For example, if wolves had yet to be seen by the player, the dog may run towards some loot object near them and barks, thus alerting the wolves.
Bears are late-game animals. They always spawn at their caves, resting but otherwise keeping their eyes open for interlopers. If the scout comes near a bear, it becomes agitated but otherwise will not become hostile as long as the scout does not get too close.
A bear announces its hostility with roaring. The player should already have preparations ready; otherwise, the scout is likely doomed. The bear is the fastest animal in the game, and its swipes have considerable range. Furthermore, after it has been provoked, it will go after whatever earned its ire until it is dead. This also applies to boars or wolves that get too close.
Bears are also much tougher than other animals. They can take three spear traps without being weakened much, though afterwards, another trap or an arrow would kill them. Of course, having four spear traps or arrows inflicted on them is easier said than done; the resources needed for these can be considerable, if the player has not been exactingly efficient.
FIRE & HOSTILE ANIMALS:
None of the hostile animals, not even bears, want to have anything to do with fire.
Lit campfires make for a temporarily safe place to retreat to. The hostile animals will linger outside the campfire’s range (which is shown to the player whenever there are hostile animals close by), and will continue the attack if the campfire goes out. Until then, the scout can perhaps fire arrows at them, since they do not move while they wait. Alternatively, the scout can make a torch and light it. Torches go out faster than lit campfires, however.
Neither source of fire can be used during the rain, so the player will want to look out for the onset of storms.
Snakes bite anything that comes too close. In the case of the scout, they inflict a venomous de-buff that guarantees death unless it is cured. They do not inflict the same de-buff on animals when they bite the latter, but this programming gap is compensated with a considerable damage output. For example, four snake-bites are enough to kill bears from full health.
Snakes will move whenever the scout is wielding a torch; they are the only animals that will not be driven away with fire. If the snakes come too close to the scout, they will bite. Furthermore, when they are moving, they ignore any other animal that comes too close. This makes torches hazardous to use in places where there are a lot of snakes.
Snakes that have bitten the scout or animals that are larger than them will slither away and de-spawn; they do not reappear.
HOSTILE ANIMALS FIGHTING EACH OTHER:
Hostile animals happen to be hostile towards each other too, if they are of different species. Theoretically, the player could lure them into each other so that they fight. However, they can take a long while to kill each other, mainly because they use the same attack patterns that they use on the scout. They may not even hit each other, because all hostile animals are always moving about all the time. Thus, the player might want to consider other more efficient means of eliminating them.
The exception to this is having snakes bite other animals. The player can indeed lure hostile animals into snakes; the former is none the wiser, despite the snakes’ warning hisses. There tend to be more snakes around where there is one, so it is possible for the player to lure hostile animals into multiple consecutive snakes.
Late into a playthrough, the player may obtain tasks about hunting down more powerful variants of animals. These tasks appear whenever the stretches of land that the player is on happen to have these aberrations.
These variants are superior to their regular variants, usually being tougher, faster or harder-hitting. In the case of special wolves, they run away off screen and de-spawn if they have taken considerable damage. They reappear on other stretches of land with full health, which can be unpleasant.
These special variants of animals happen to be quite aggressive and thus will chase the scout around. However, they are also subject to the same limitation as the regular ones; this limitation will be described shortly.
ANIMALS AVOID PIERS & EXPLOITS:
All animals will never chase the scout to the pier, or the steps close to the pier for that matter. Most animals would turn and go back to where they were before they were alerted to the player’s presence. The more aggressive ones might stay close to the pier, waiting for the scout to go further in-land before their aggression scripts activate again.
However, their attack scripts are disabled when they are near the pier, but they will continue moving anyway if the scout moves. This behaviour can be exploited against them, such as placing spear traps right in front of them. This and its results can be seen in two of the screenshots of this article. Alternatively, the scout can also shoot arrows at them; they will not move as long as the scout does not move.
TRIP ROPES OF SNARES & SPEAR TRAPS:
Snares and spear traps are among the main means of inflicting lethal harm on animals. These two devices make use of trip ropes, which animals are somehow oblivious to. (They are also oblivious to the rest of the traps, including even the ominous spikes on the spear trap.)
The animals must come into contact with the taut ropes in order to trigger the trap. This is easier with the spear trap, mainly because the player would be using it against animals that are going after the scout instead of running away. Snares are meant to be used against rabbits, which might not run into the ropes – unless of course, the player places the trap such that the rope is exactly over their boltholes.
As mentioned earlier, tainted bait can be made from meat and a certain poisonous plant, namely the Devil’s Trumpet. This preserves the meat indefinitely, for whatever reason. (This is likely due to the script that turns the perishable items into a tool-type item.) The player can also make tainted bait out of cooked meat, but the player is better off using raw meat instead in order to save cooking resources.
Tainted meat can be tossed at wolves to distract them. The wolves would eat them, none the wiser – even if there are more than one of them and the others saw their pack-mates die from eating the bait. Furthermore, there is a chance that the wolf that took a bite from tainted bait would not consume the bait completely, allowing the player to retrieve the bait and use it again later.
All these advantages mean that tainted bait is the best means of eliminating wolves. Having an entire pack poisoned can be entertaining.
There are a few things about tainted bait that the game does not exactly inform the player about. Firstly, tainted bait only ever works on regular wolves. It is understandable that boars (and rabbits) would ignore them, but they do not work on special wolves and bears care little about anything that the scout would toss out.
BOW & ARROWS:
After the scout obtains a steel knife, the scout can craft a bow and arrows for it. This is the scout’s only means of direct offense, but it is not so readily usable such that skilled players can just shoot the hell out of any animal.
Firstly, most hostile animals that are bigger than snakes take more than one arrow before they can be killed. Most of them do not respond to injury with heightened aggression, but they will not wait for the scout to fire another arrow at them either.
Secondly, any arrow after the first one has to be nocked in order to achieve reliable accuracy. Otherwise, there is a chance of it going wide, as depicted by an arc that becomes tighter over time. The scout cannot retrieve any arrows that have been used, by the way, whether they hit or miss.
Thirdly, arrows dig into reserves of saplings and flints. Saplings are needed for spear traps, which inflict more damage than arrows. Flints have less uses than saplings, but they are rarer. Arrows also need feathers, which are not used for any other crafting.
Wolves will run away when they take too much damage from arrows. They will return, however – something that can be unpleasant to learn the hard way.
An empty jar, some sumac and a source of heat results in a gas “bomb”. Throwing the bomb forfeits any recovery of the jar. The vapours that are released do not cover a large area either, so the player will want to be precise with the use of the bomb.
The vapours cause most animals to gag uncontrollably, rendering them vulnerable to arrows. In the case of rabbits, they die outright from inhaling the gases, making the bomb very useful to massacre rabbits with boltholes that are too close to each other. (If the player releases the gases over their boltholes, the rabbits will not inhale the gases when they are underground, but they will inhale them when they reach their boltholes while attempting to get to safety.)
There are other humans in the world, but they are far and few in between. The player might find one early in the playthrough, or much later.
The first thing that the player might notice about them is that they had been around for a while; they certainly do not look like traumatized or distressed survivors of floods. To elaborate more on this would be to include spoilers in this review, of course.
Interestingly, the player has the option of having the scout be polite and accommodating, or terse and cynical. The player is usually better off with the former option, because these NPCs are likely to reward the player with something. The latter option ends the conversation much earlier; this might be important, since time appears to pass during conversations. (Hostile animals will not attack, however.) On the other hand, if the player intends to save time, the player should not have bothered talking to them in the first place.
If the scout is nice to them, they usually have some advice to give the scout. This may be something that the player already knows, so the usefulness of the advice can vary considerably.
They may also give stuff to the scout, or restore one of the scout’s statistics. For example, there is an old woman that gives the impression that she is a witch. She will talk about remedies for ailments and also offers rabbit stew (which restores nutrition completely), if the scout is polite.
Hostile animals will not attack these NPCs, likely due to limitations in programming. Indeed, the NPCs appear to be completely impervious to attacks, if the player is thinking about whether the game would accommodate murderous thoughts or not.
There are also quilts around. The scout can somehow examine these quilts and interpret a message from them. The quilts are generally meant for world-building and flavour text, because the messages from them are the only exposition on the backstory of the game.
The developers appear to be trying for both artstyle points and graphics fidelity.
Every object and character has a peculiar look to them. They are oddly proportioned, like characters and objects in cartoons. On the other hand, they also look disturbing. For example, everyone has black eyes and pupils with contrasting colours, if their eyes are even visible in the first place. Every human also looks dishevelled. As the scout or hostile animals get injured, they bleed and wound decals appear on them.
The animals have been given considerable animations. In the case of hostile animals, believability has been sacrificed in return for making them seem more menacing. For examples, real wolves do not move around in thudding lopes, but the ones in this game do in order to make their approach more noticeable and worrisome.
The dilapidation of buildings and other man-made objects set back any impression of whimsicality in the setting of the game. Indeed, the dire state of the world would quickly dispel any notion that the cartoonish looks of things in the game are anything but cheery.
Interestingly, the game does make use of high-end graphical effects, such as post-processing and complex lighting. Furthermore, there are considerable amounts of animation. Trees and lanky plants sway in the strong winds that blow through the regions. All characters, human and animal, have idle and breathing animations that make them stand out from the environment.
Most of the things that the scout can search do not have high visual contrast, so they have been highlighted with waves radiating outwards from them along the ground. The dog will also run up to them and bark, just in case the player needs any more help finding things.
The waters during the rafting segments are perhaps the most visually appealing, and the most significant to the gameplay. The rapids are particularly ominous to look at, and they are indeed unpleasant. The currents of the waters appear to swirl in convincing directions, especially where rapid sections appear alongside calmer waters. Flotsam also have convincing wakes around them.
However, the inundated buildings that appear much later in a regular playthrough do not look convincing, due to the lack of any visual effects that show water moving against their surfaces.
The aural ambience is the most significant portion of the game’s sounds. The player will hear leaves rustling in the wind. Speaking of the winds, they vary from a whisper to howls during storms.
The dog is the second-most significant source of sounds. The player should keep an ear out for its barks, because it would indicate when it has found something useful. The growls are even more important, since it would indicate the presence of hostile animals. The dog also continues to bark and growl as long as hostile animals are chasing the scout.
There does not appear to be any voice-over whatsoever. Human characters, including the scout, only ever converse in text. The scout does not even say a thing when injured.
The best sound designs are the music tracks. Many of them are southern USA music, some of which have lyrics. Amusingly, most of them are rather cheery songs and some are even upbeat, which contrast against the rather depressing backstory and setting.
The game does not have thorough in-game documentation. It has a rigid camera that causes large objects to obscure anything behind them. Inventory management remains a chore, despite updates to the system since release. When compared to certain other indie survival games, the content in The Flame in the Flood can seem relatively little. For a game that is trying to tell a story, it has zero voice-overs even though it has music tracks with lyrics.
Yet, players who can persevere through all of its shortfalls would find that the game rewards wise resource management. The combination of rafting and running about makes for a combination of gameplay designs that can seem sophisticated, despite there not being many things to whatever passes for the game’s progression system.