Molasses Flood's unique survival game The Flame in the Flood tells the story of Scout and her dog Aesop. A monumental flood has created a massive river over what was once civilization resulting in few patches of dry land left to provide a haven for the two travelers. A mysterious promise of refuge lies beyond the near-infinite river and Scout is determined to find out if it exists.
Throughout much of The Flame in the Flood, you'll be navigating Scout's makeshift raft down the river. You'll regularly be swerving to avoid all sorts of hazards including newly formed landmasses, large houses, and trees (some of which are now drifting down the river along with you). Crashing into these obstacles will start to smash the raft to pieces and Scout unfortunately isn't much of a swimmer. As you float down the river, you'll also come across larger expanses of land that can be explored and scavenged for food and supplies. These explorable areas come in several different varieties and are indicated by unique icons as you're rafting. Wilderness areas are low on supplies but may have animals to hunt, churches provide a good place to rest and usually have healing supplies lying around, and campsites always have a fire where you can cook food and warm up.
Scavenging these areas mostly consists of searching crates, harvesting plants, and hunting animals. Scout has no attacking abilities on her own so to hunt wildlife, you'll need to craft things like snares, spear traps, and tainted bait if you want to eat more than dandelions and corn for the rest of your existence. As you get further down the river, you'll start encountering more dangerous animals like wolves and bears that are more than happy to make you their supper. Aside from surviving the dangerous fauna of The Flame in the Flood, you'll also need to keep an eye on four separate gauges that track your hunger, thirst, body temperature, and fatigue. As you dip below certain thresholds, alerts pop up onscreen letting you know that it's time to address it.
Hunger and thirst are satiated by eating and drinking water (of course) but be careful about what you consume because uncooked meat, certain plants, and contaminated water can all leave you worse for wear. Resting is done at campsites or makeshift shelters but keep in mind that for every hour you rest, your hunger and thirst grows. Your body temperature is affected by the weather as well as what type of clothes you're wearing so you'll have to upgrade your wardrobe and use campfires to warm up if you start to get chilly.
Inventory management plays a major role in The Flame in the Flood but perhaps a bit too much as you'll be in and out of the inventory menu constantly. Scout can carry 12 items in her inventory and an additional 6 can be carried by Aesop. Also, you can store 12 items on your raft that can only be used when you're at a dock. That may sound like a decent amount of storage space but there are dozens of food and crafting items to collect. There's a sizeable learning curve in the beginning as you start to discover which items are useful and which aren't worth occupying precious inventory slots. Fortunately, you can craft items to increase your inventory and I suggest doing so as quickly as possible to prepare you for your trip down the river.
Besides crafting clothing, there are about 40 to 50 other items to create. The game doesn't go out of its way to explain what these things do or even let you know that they exist until you've acquired all of the necessary parts for crafting them. However, you can browse the entire crafting list in the pause menu if you'd like. I'd recommend doing so early on (perhaps on your second or third run) as there are many useful items and weapons that you may not know exist. It'll take a little while to get everything down and you'll need to review it a few times in the process but it will pay off in the long run. I found out about several extremely useful items (like pouches and torches) doing this and it really helped me get up to speed much quicker than just playing through blindly.
The Flame in the Flood's calming country-rock soundtrack is music to the ears but the same can't be said for the sometimes jarring visual aesthetics. Zoomed out, most characters and objects look blocky but have a bit of an endearing quality. However, when the camera zooms in on Scout and Aesop, it reveals an unusual and grotesque character design. But hey, The Flame in the Flood is all about surviving in the wilderness. It's not a beauty pageant, right?
I enjoyed my time with The Flame in the Flood, especially after researching the crafting options and mentally creating a list of objectives that I felt would lead me to success. As survival games go, The Flame in the Flood is accessible and a good introduction to the genre. While it has several roguelike elements, it includes checkpoints on its easier "Traveler" difficulty that removes the sting of permadeath. Prepare for an enjoyable trip down-river but count on spending time learning the ins and outs before you start to find success.
- + Accessible survival gameplay that never feels overwhelming
- + Great soundtrack and ambiance
- + Rewarding sense of progression
- - Blocky graphics with bizarre character design
- - Count on spending a lot of time in the inventory and crafting menus