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The Flame in the Flood

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action/Adventure
Developer: The Molasses Flood
Release Date: Feb. 24, 2016


PC Preview - 'The Flame in the Flood'

by Thomas Wilde on June 19, 2015 @ 1:00 a.m. PDT

The Flame in the Flood is a rogue-lite river journey through the backwaters of a forgotten post-societal America where you forage, craft, and evade predators.

I died of dehydration on the E3 show floor, maybe five minutes into the game, surrounded on all sides by water but with no way to drink any of it. This was apparently an ongoing problem with the show's build of the game, and I was not the first person to whom this happened.

The Flame in the Flood is an independently made game by a team that includes several veterans of Irrational Games, and of the BioShock Infinite project in particular. It was described to me as a "roguelike survival" game, where you must craft, scrounge, and explore in order to survive for several days in a landscape that's been destroyed by a torrential flood.

You play as Scout, a young girl who's accompanied by her faithful dog, and who's rendered in an art style that reminds me of nothing so much as Picasso's work. Scout starts the game with a backpack, sitting by a lit campfire, and with the knowledge of how to make a few dozen useful items: better clothes, dry tinder, cooked food, and so on. It's up to you to find the materials you need to make those items, which will require you to venture out onto the open water.

The first island you begin on will always be the same, featuring a cabin that's long since been picked clean, some dubious water, and a handful of wild plants. To get anywhere else, you need to take a ramshackle, makeshift boat across the river, which has been turned into an obstacle course by the floods, and find other surviving islands in the deluge. There, you can hopefully find the food, water, and supplies you need to survive.

The roguelike aspect of The Flame in the Flood comes into play with the islands, which are procedurally generated and will never be the same twice. If Scout dies, that's a permanent game over for that version of the character, and you have no choice but to try again from square one.

The win condition, which remains slightly mysterious, is simply to remain alive for several days (about three hours in real time, reportedly), at which point I'm told the story progresses. Doing that requires you to keep track of Scout's health, energy, hydration, and hunger, which can be remedied in obvious ways: finding places to sleep, food to eat, and water to drink. If you blunder into a campfire, which I might have done three seconds into my initial play time, Scout ends up with a mild burn, which persists until you have the chance to cure it with a bandage and some aloe. If you can't find either, the burn may fester and turn into a much bigger problem.

The Flame in the Flood is a grueling, often difficult game, and it's genuinely unnerving when Scout, weak from thirst, is forced to crawl around for a last few steps before collapsing. I don't often find myself eager to play a game in which I am likely to die this often, for often stupid reasons (it turns out the only reason I died was because I missed a source of water that was all of 10 steps from your initial spawn point in-game; go me), but now I'm curious where the game's plot is going to go.

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