The Flame in the Flood Review: Smoke on the Water

The Flame in the Flood is a survival and river rafting game released by The Molasses Flood, an indie studio made up of ex-AAA studio "refugees." The Flame in the Flood follows Scout and her faithful canine companion Aesop as they journey down a raging river in post-societal America. It's been in Early Access for a while now after a successful Kickstarter, but this week the full release is out on Steam and Xbox One. Read on to find out more in my Flame in the Flood review!

We met the folks from Molasses Flood at SxGaming 2015, and we're connected to their PR group, Evolve. Evolve provided me with a press key and advance access to the final build of the game.

The Flame in the Flood is the story of Scout, a lone girl trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic wilderness. She's approached by a dog named Aesop, who presents her with a backpack and nudges her towards the raging river. Aesop becomes Scout's companion for her perilous downriver journey, in search of some sort of refuge from these end times.

The Flame in the Flood's gameplay is comprised of two major sections. In one, you navigate Scout and Aesop's raft down the river, while seeking out safe places to stop, rest, and search for supplies. Various obstacles and the swift current of the river conspire to damage your raft. If the raft becomes too damaged, it's game over.

Meanwhile, Scout has various needs she needs to tend to in order to survive. Stopping to seek supplies and tend to Scout makes up the second half of the game. There are various locations to dock your raft, and each has its own potential resources. Camps afford you a place to rest by the fire, while churches often have medical supplies. Stop at a hardware store, and you're likely to find repair supplies for your raft.

Scout has four main survival stats - food, water, sleep, and temperature. Food is generally the easiest to come by, as Scout can scavenge food from almost any source. Water is a bit trickier, as most sources of water (including the mighty river) are polluted and must be filtered. Various shelters can be sought out to sleep in - these vary from abandoned shopfronts to rusted out buses. As the game progresses, the temperature drops, so maintaining proper clothing is a must to keep Scout warm.

Compounding the fact that you're just constantly stepping closer to death's door, there are also various afflictions as well as animal and plant life that seek to accelerate the process. Eat raw food and you might end up with food poisoning or worse. Boars, wolves, bears, and even snakes and ants want to chow down on your juicy, meaty bones.

Scout relies on her finely-honed survival skills to craft the things she needs from the remnants society left behind. Some items can be crafted by hand, but most cooking requires a fire. It's possible to craft some improvised tools to McGyver your way to even better gear.

The Flame in the Flood's story is rather sparse, and I won't spoil it here. There's a fairly meaty story mode that took me around 8 hours to clear. Most of the story is told through the description of items and landmarks, although there's also a few people you bump into along the journey. Suffice it to say that the story paints a somewhat realistic picture of the future of Earth, and how its residents may react to the planet it becomes.

The default difficulty level isn't nearly as bad as some survival games tend to be. I get my butt kicked on a regular basis in Don't Starve and games like it, but once I got on a roll in The Flame in the Flood, I generally had little to no trouble dealing with my situation. New adversaries tended to cause a little bit of trouble as I fumbled my way through them, but I feel pretty confident in my flood-surviving skills now that I've cleared the game once.

The Chuck Ragan soundtrack is really quite phenominal. It's probably in my top 5 game soundtracks, along with Transistor and Rebel Galaxy. Given the somewhat minimal storytelling, the soundtrack really helps to set the mood and establish the Mississippi river-esque setting.