An Epic Roadtrip, Minus the Road
By Richard Jewell
Reviewed on Xbox One
Released February 24th, 2016 on Xbox One and Steam
Developer: The Molasses Flood Publisher: The Molasses Flood
On October 7, 2014, a game by the name of The Flame in the Flood made its debut on Kickstarter marketed as a “rogue-light river journey through the backwaters of a forgotten post-societal America.” The developers, a newly founded company going by the name of The Molasses Flood, were asking for a modest fund of $150,000 to get the game made. By the end of the funding period, they managed to smash that goal, raking in a total of $251,647. After reading the developers bio, their success does not come as a surprise to me. The Molasses Flood describes themselves as “a company made up of AAA refugees.”Their members have previously worked on HUGELY successful game series, such as Bioshock, Rock Band, Guitar Hero, and Halo.
The player takes on the role of a young girl named Scout, who with her only companion, a dog named Aesop, braves a dangerous journey down a procedurally generated river with one simple goal of survival. However, survival does not come easy. When journeying downriver, players take control of Scout’s makeshift raft and must navigate it through dangerous waters. There are plenty of obstacles to deal with, such as rocks, submerged houses, and other floating debris. The raft has an HP bar, and once it reaches zero, kersplash! Game over. Luckily you can find materials to make repairs and upgrades, but you need to be docked at a marina to do so. Some of the handier upgrades include a rudder so your raft can make much faster turns, a water purifier so you always have the option to make safe drinkable water without needing any special items, and even a gas-powered motor! Scout does not have enough supplies to make it all the way downriver, though. Eventually, you will have to make landfall and start scavenging.
Throughout the game, players will have to keep Scout fed, hydrated, warm, and rested. These stats are represented by four separate gauges on your HUD and if any of them drop to zero, it means certain death and the end of Scout’s journey. And that’s not all, folks! Scout will also have to watch out for wolves, bears, and other dangerous wildlife. As if that weren’t enough, there are also a whole slew of afflictions to worry about. The status ailments range from minor annoyances, such as having an itchy rash due to stepping in a patch of poison ivy, to extremely life-threatening, like a poisonous snake bite.
But don’t count on Scout going down too easily because she’s got a few tricks up her sleeve. She’s very crafty (I know, bad pun). Scout has access to over 50 different recipes that can help her stay alive. You can create yourself some traps to hunt wildlife for meat and animal hides used in creating warmer clothing. You can make a bow and some arrows to help defend yourself from hungry predators or you can forage around for plants needed to make useful healing teas, which are good for curing certain illnesses. It’s up to you to make smart use of your limited resources. Scout’s little doggy companion Aesop comes in handy when hunting for supplies. He alerts you to collectible items by barking at them, and he has a backpack in which you can store extra items.
The Flame in the Flood offers two different game modes. The first is Campaign Mode. Campaign mode offers players a finite, story driven experience. It also comes with a choice of difficulties. Traveler is the setting recommended for new players. There are checkpoints and a normal amount of supplies to be scavenged from the world. Survivalist is the setting for people who want a real challenge. It features permadeath (no retries!), fewer supplies, and Scout’s stats diminish at an increased rate. The second game mode is the aptly titled Endless Mode. As the name implies, you embark on an endless journey down the river to see how long you can survive before succumbing to Mother Nature.
The graphics have a nice, dark aesthetic to them, which should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the work of Scott Sinclair. Scott Sinclair was the Art Director and Principal Artist on Bioshock and Bioshock Infinite. The game itself runs very smoothly but can sometimes suffer from the occasional technical glitch, but nothing severe enough to detract from the overall wonderful experience that I had with this game.
I’d be quite remiss if I did not mention the fantastic music that can be heard in this game. The soundtrack was composed by American singer and songwriter Chuck Ragan. Made up of a mix of vocal and instrumental tracks, it’s a perfect example of how a great soundtrack can really improve the entire experience. I doubt I’ll ever forget the first time I jumped onto Scout’s makeshift raft. As I cast off from the safety of the shore, unsure about what to expect as I started the long journey downriver, the game’s titular theme began to play. First, an acoustic guitar strums to life. A couple of notes later, Chuck’s voice kicks in and he croons, “In the backwaters beyond fables and years, is freedom in moving on”. All I could say was man, what an appropriate song! The music helps to give this game much more of an adventure feeling.
So to sum it all up, The Flame in the Flood is definitely worth a look, especially if you are a fan of the survival genre. The beautiful art direction and music really help elevate this game above the competition. I had a pretty good experience with it that I won’t be forgetting anytime soon.
Final Score: 8/10
Hello everyone, I’ll keep this short and sweet. My name is Richard Jewell but online and in-game you’ll find me under the pseudonym Sric360. I’ve been a gamer most of my life, ever since my older brother got me into it by letting me play his games when I was around 8 years old. I also inherited his love for Final Fantasy and Resident Evil. My favorite genres are Role Playing, Survival Horror, and First Person Shooters, but the truth is I’m down to play just about any game I can get my mitts on. My Gamertag is Sric360, my PSN ID is Sric360, and if you haven’t guessed yet, my Twitter handle is @Sric360. Feel free to add/follow me.
See y’all online.
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