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The Flame in the Flood Review - Wolves Ate Me Like, Six Times

H.D. Russell | 1 Mar 2016 19:10
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When on land you can either use WASD or point-and-click to control the movements of the main character. Your dog will act independently to help find food and supplies while also alerting you to threats like wolves or wild boars. After searching an island for supplies, preparing items and food, and resting, you can leave the island on the raft.

Raft transport is a major component of the game, serving as both a survival mini-game and your chance to choose which island to visit next. Upon mounting the raft, it will travel through rocks, debris, and even rapids, meaning that it's crucial you steer cautiously down the river. If you successfully navigate the river to landable islands, you can choose from farms, fisheries, forests, churches, and other landmarks to visit. These choices will determine the course of the game, as each stop will have its pluses and minuses. Farms and Churches have the most tools, like knives and string, while forests have more natural supplies, such as aloe and mulberries. The selection of these islands will be instrumental to the outcome of each playthrough.

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Crafting is another skill that is crucial to master. While exploring the islands, you will find plants, water, and man-made materials that will keep you alive. Plants can be used to craft items, feed you, or poison other animals. Wells will keep you hydrated. Certain materials, such as fishing hooks or rags, can be used to start fires, mend wounds, or even attack animals. Balancing your inventory is paramount, as you should be able to mend a wound, cure an illness, hydrate and feed yourself, and keep yourself warm at all times. This means that you should always be focused on resource discovery and management, because you can't travel far if you're too busy starving.

Despite these issues, The Flame in the Flood is a delight to look it. It has the whimsical look of Psychonauts paired with the decrepit setting of The Last of Us. The characters and settings of the game are edgy and colorful, with vibrant shades of orange, yellow, and red making up the majority of the scenery. The artstyle borders on impressionist, giving the game a certain visual charm despite its grim subject material and harsh gameplay. Even though surviving the wilderness was difficult, its world was beautiful enough to keep sucking me back in. Exploring this beautiful world is it's own reward - and it'll have to be since you'll probably die the next day from food poisoning.

Accompanying this art style is a musical score which utilizes the instruments and traditions of pre-1970s country music. It often reminded me of the hub-world soundtrack from Psychonauts, even implementing guitar string plucks as you interact with menus and items. The music also picks up during the tempestuous rafting scenes, which really builds the action when compared to the dialed-back soundtrack of the regular game.

Sadly The Flame in the Flood isn't without technical problems. The most glaring issue I had with the game was that the sound would often cut out. During playthroughs I would have to shut the game down and then reboot it so that the sound would work again. Some controls aren't especially responsive, meaning an encounter with a wolf may be the end for you if you're not already in the right location. Lastly, while the visuals are pretty to look at, some of the scenery can obstruct the gameplay, especially during the rafting sections. While these may seem like minor inconveniences, having them pop up over and over again quickly became tiresome and made me feel like I was still playing a Beta. I'll be interested to see if any of these issues are fixed in later patches of the game.

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The Flame in the Flood is a great introduction to the survival genre that never asks too much of you, but still demands your attention. Its world is bright, full of life, and dangerous, but never feels too serious. This is thanks to the vibrant art style, solid soundtrack, and gameplay that constantly tells you, "You were just unlucky, try again!"

Bottom Line: While there are some technical difficulties that need to be worked out, The Flame in the Flood is still moderately enjoyable.

Recommendation: If you're looking for an easy, forgiving game, you might want to stay away, but if you like challenging experiences, The Flame in the Flood might be for you, although there are games that do survival better.

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