The typical goal of the survival game is to go on a journey whether by choice or by way of tragedy and see how long you can keep your character alive. There are a lot of management games we can delve into. You can manage and play a sport, build up a business, or run your own restaurant. In the survival game genre you are managing a life. A living being needs fuel and rest among other things. The best survival games give you many of these tasks to keep track of. Some focus on one thing more than others, but the basic idea is that you have to do whatever you can to keep problems from getting out of control such as starving or dehydrating.
There are several things that can kill you when you’re on an adventure. What the survival game focuses on depends on the title. Personally, I consider Resident Evil to fall under the category of survival even though you don’t have to worry about food, water, or shelter from the environment. It’s heavy on combat survival and inventory management. I’m sure I could categorize all the survival titles into neat little packages to determine which type you like best. There are quite a few options out there in the survival genre and my goal is to help you determine if this one suits your gaming tastes.
While playing The Flame in the Flood I tried very hard to avoid hazards and keep my inventory stocked with things I knew I would have a hard time finding. I would say that inventory management is probably the most difficult part of most of these games and this one is no different. The user interface has to be very good and hassle free to be able to switch things out and take care of tasks like crafting. One thing that stood out to me almost immediately was the ability to press the ZL button to access an “on the fly” type menu that gives you the opportunity to use certain items quickly. In this submenu you can use medical supplies, food, or even deploy traps. It was a nice feature once I learned how to use it effectively. The rest of the UI is quite good as well. They categorized things very nicely for you to be able to do what you need to do as quickly as possible.
I really like their trap system. Animals are going to want to kill you and you’re going to want to be able to kill animals. A trap is an excellent way to do this especially when your main character a little less prepared for combat, especially early in the game. First you have to find the materials to craft the trap, make certain you have the inventory space to hold the created trap, then select a place to deploy the trap, and finally to hold the A button to actually set the trap. A bit of premeditation is required for traps and adds a cool “think on your feet” aspect to the game. Later on you can make weapons, but I really enjoyed figuring out where to place a trap and then lured the beast to the spot to capture and kill it. It’s the circle of life people.
I found their music choices to be interesting as well. When you’re floating down the river on your raft you hear an actual song with lyrics and a real singer, almost like you’re playing the intro of a movie. When you dock and are exploring the areas they chose not to play music. Almost like your raft has a stereo on it. I liked what I heard and managed to enjoy it even though it’s not my favorite style of music. It fits the mood of the game and the world you’re in, so it’s all good. They boast a full length soundtrack by Chuck Ragan featuring The Camaraderie, The Fearless Kin, and other special guests. So if you know who they are and like them then you’re in for a real treat. If you really like the soundtrack it’s available on the iTunes store.
The graphical style I found rather intriguing as well. Clearly, the human face does not look like a Picasso, but the main character kind of does. In fact, all the faces of people look really odd. I like that they chose to take a road less traveled with character design. Art is something that is difficult for me to categorize and I just take a developer’s art style at face value and appreciate it for what it is. There are titles I’ve played where the art is just garbage in my eyes and quickly grows tiresome to look at. This isn’t one of those. I didn’t get sick of the graphics and enjoyed seeing what came next and how each environment looked. Granted, they based this game in sort of a normal world so we aren’t seeing exotic alien areas like in some space explorer where every planet looks completely different from the one before. No, this is basically towns versus woods and types of areas like that.
Not all survival games I’ve played have had non-playable characters but I was happy to come across some in The Flame in the Flood, even if some of them are really messed up and strange. Clearly the elevator doesn’t go all the way to the top floor with many of them. Sometimes, after going through the “pick your own ending” type of dialog I came away from it just saying a long and confused “Ooooookay”.
There seems to be two main play styles during your adventure. You have the river rafting where you follow the procedurally-generated river and avoid obstacles and brave the rapids. While doing this you want to watch out for item caches to loot but also be careful not to run into the islands or debris or you will wreck your raft and… well, game over man! The other style is the angled view of the areas to explore on foot with no option to rotate the view at all. You don’t get to zoom in and out unless there is a predetermined spot where the game designers decided it would be a good idea to give you a little more retail space on your screen. For the most part it’s one view and the area travels along with you. You really need to pay attention in this game mode as well because you may miss something to search or that you may stumble upon an enemy or environment hazard that will hurt or kill you.
The weather is just as much of a jerk as the predators, poison ivy, and army ants you come across. When it rains you get wet. When you get wet you get cold. You get too cold and you die. You have to watch your hunger, thirst, energy, temperature, dryness, and general health status. If you get to the starving phase, you may as well reset to your last checkpoint. She goes down on all fours and you aren’t going to get back up. So make sure you keep those meters filled above halfway as much as you possibly can. Each item you eat tells you how much of your 100-point value it will satisfy. Obviously if you have 90 hunger points left out of 100 you don’t want to eat a 35 point steak or you’re wasting 25 hunger points. The game alerts you quite well when things are starting to go badly, but you still need to plan ahead for possible hazards that could surprise you.
At this point you may be asking if there was anything I didn’t like about this game since I stayed positive about it this entire time. Well, I have to tell you that my gripe list is rather short. If you don’t like the art style, you’re going to see a lot of it. If you don’t like inventory management you’re going to be doing it constantly. If failure makes you hostile then your hostility will rear its beastly head and ruin your day. Survival games are designed to be challenging and they go out of their way to try to make you miserable. Embrace the challenge and you will be fine.
One of my bigger gripes came when playing on the Switch screen. The words are really small and they didn’t scale them up a bit to make it easier on the eyes. I had to move the screen a bit closer at times to make sure I was seeing the words correctly. It’s not really a deal breaker, but developers need to account for this. The control of the raft is annoying at first. Actually it’s annoying all the time because you want to go here or there and the river is basically just going to give you the middle finger and tell you to go back to the last checkpoint if you don’t like it. Even when you completely understand the mechanics you aren’t going to hit every dock you want to. Like the Mythbusters said all the time: “Failure is always an option”.
The rest of my gripes are about how god awful I was at surviving. I think I was my own worst enemy. I put stuff on my raft to get it out of my inventory. Oops, I need that so I have to go back and get it. Oh, I have to drop something because this new item doesn’t fit. Scout doesn’t have a bottomless bag? She can’t carry the equivalent weight of a small car in her pockets?! Yeah… No she can’t. Is that a flaw of the game or just my inability to adapt? Then, I stepped in a field of army ants and started to get bit. How would I know they were army ants? The game isn’t really clear about what can potentially hurt you. I do believe, without knowing for sure, that it was intentional. I know what they look like now and I avoid them. Problem solved.
Overall I would say I very much enjoy playing this game. It’s one I see myself playing from the start many times to do things differently and give myself an edge for later game moments. There is also an endless mode where you try to survive as long as you can without any ending. How far can you make it? Thankfully the regular campaign mode does offer you checkpoints to make surviving to the end easier, but clearly you don’t have to use them. You want to start from the very beginning every time you die? Start over and don’t continue. It’s actually quite nice to have the option.
How you choose to tackle the backwaters of a forgotten post-societal America is clearly up to you. That’s the beauty of this game and pretty much the point of playing it. Learn from your mistakes and try to only make new ones. The Flame in the Flood is not perfect, but no game truly is. But I will tell you that it’s fun, frustrating, interesting, and irritating all rolled into a very nicely done package of gaming goodness. The adventure will be what you make of it. How will yours go?
The Flame In The Flood: Complete Edition Review
- Graphics - 8/108/10
- Sound - 8/108/10
- Gameplay - 8/108/10
- Lasting Appeal - 9/109/10
Final Thoughts: GREAT
The Flame in the Flood is a solid and entertaining survival game set in a post-societal version of America. Your goal will be to forage, craft and evade predators. You will never get the same game twice thanks in part to the procedurally-generated river so the game is different each time you play it. Even the areas you visit do not always have the same items in them every time. If survival games are your thing then this is definitely a great addition to your Switch library.