Taking the crafting and survival mechanics, made popular by games like Minecraft and Don’t Starve, The Flame in the Flood has you try to endure an abandoned wilderness. Taking control of a young girl, you begin equipped with a simple staff, a backpack, a raft, and a cute canine companion.
Unlike similar titles your goal is not to build up a safe camp and simply survive, in The Flame in the Flood the focus is to travel a river and discover what has befallen the world. It’s a simple twist, but one which allows for more exploration and story as the raft becomes your base in the journey downstream.
All of which looks and sounds beautiful. The isometric art style makes all the characters and enemies feel like toys in a diorama world, reminiscent of animate movies like The Nightmare Before Christmas or Coraline. Through all of this, fantastically selected music brilliantly balances The Flame in the Flood's blend of ominous and jaunty.
The flowing water pushes and pulls your small craft everywhere, and your movement is limited by your characters stamina. A few careful shoves can shift your direction a good amount, but you can never really fight the current, frequently forcing you to choose between destinations as the river bends and forks.
With areas containing different rewards, careful selection of where to go next can be vital. Will you head to the church for its healing items, or the marina to repair your damaged craft? Once you are a few days into your journey making the right choice might be all that stand between your character and death. It’s a nice risk/reward system that proves the river is more than just a gimmick, particularly when your inventory limits how much you can take.
Danger in the shadows
On land, the world is dark and moody as you search for supplies and items, or scramble for shelter to avoid predators. It is a look that makes the warming campfires you find feel almost homely – and with good reason, as these provide a way to craft a greater range of items and warn off the things that hunt you.
These creatures are perhaps your greatest obstacle to survival. While hunger and the cold of night can leave you open to death by things like exposure, wolves and boars can instantly lacerate your skin and fracture your bones. These afflictions impede your motion, and lead to death far faster than other ailment.
Luckily, all of this is easily monitored due to the clear interface. Once you can see an ailment or injury, crafting items to heal yourself is a simple process - providing you have the right supplies - just hop into the menu and select what you want to craft. The new item can be used or equipped from your menu or the quick select, so getting a splint on your broken leg is easy. Perhaps the only issue here is that you start most attempts quite prone so, if a creature confronts you far from the safety of your raft, you may never get a chance to open a menu.
Elements in the world tell the story of what has happened. Ruined school buses and abandoned shops are everywhere, while characters like the feral twins you meet tell of a time "before". This never proves the driving force, but it adds a little focus to the Campaign – but if you want to completely ignore it there is always the Survival mode.
Still waters run deep
The Flame in the Flood is a good twist on this growing genre, with a brilliant style and a lot of care throughout every element of its design. It currently suffers from some technical issues, and could prove a little too challenging for casual players, but its perfect if you are looking for a different kind of survival challenge.