The Flame In The Flood has been on Steam since September 2015, developed and published by The Molasses Flood (not to be confused with the Great Molasses Flood of 1919). This team features members who developed games such as Bioshock and Halo, so you can be sure it's a game that drips with atmosphere. And cold rains. Currently in Early Access, it's already shaping up already for an epic, atmospheric adventure with solid gameplay mechanics and controls, and a steady slope of difficulty. You can currently buy it on Steam for $19.99 USD.
GENRE AND OBJECTIVEThe Flame In The Flood is a single-player exploration/survival game with rogue-lite elements, where you'll have to advance through the wilderness laying behind Camp Pinewood, a run-down and isolated stretch of North American wilderness, on foot and raft. The forest is empty and there's nobody about, except crows, wolves, rabbits and who knows what else?
On the way, you'll have to stave yourself against bitter winds and rains, attacks from wolves, injuries and illness. You'll also need to make sure that Scout, your character, is well-fed, hydrated, kept warm and well rested. She can take a beating here and there, but it will show as your stamina depletes and your portrait takes scratches.
As the objective is to keep traveling and find the dog's home (named Aesop), you'll find it doesn't pay to camp in one spot for long. To do this, you'll stop at small islands and harvest resources and rest before hitting your raft and steering down the rapids till you need to stop again for supplies. As with any rogue-lite, there's the risk of deciding whether it's worth stopping. Maybe that island you'll break at has a wolf waiting to tear Scout limb from limb. Perhaps the water there is infected and you haven't crafted a water filter. It's all a chance, but you can better equip yourself to survive with... equipment and tools you craft out of resources. Unlike hardcore rogue-likes, the recipes don't change or have to be re-discovered with each run. But practice and luck will still be key to making it far.
CONTROLSOptimized for both the gamepad and mouse-and-keyboard, you can easily navigate Scout either with a tilt of the joystick or a click of the mouse. All the actions have been mapped for quick button presses and joystick use on the gamepad, and a systematized layout on the keyboard. As of this beta, the controls can't be remapped but that should change in a later release. In the meantime, this reviewer found no need to change any keys once he learned how to complete every action on both the gamepad and keyboard. Almost every interaction or action requires you to hold the "Interact" key for a few seconds, as confirmation that you wanted to do that. It seemed annoying at first, but its purpose soon became clear: In a world where resources are limited and a mis-click can ruin your entire run, it'd be a shame if one slip of the finger doomed your character. So that's a nice touch. In the vein of immersion, larger and more difficult tasks require a longer hold time before they begin; almost as though Scout has to mentally prepare herself. The raft steering is highly responsive and easy to control, but the rapids you're steering down are much stronger than your paddling. So if you just missed that outpost you wanted to stop at, it's going to be an up-creek battle trying to paddle back and reach it.
GRAPHICS AND INTERFACEThe landscape and characters are composed of quirky, angular cartoon polygons that all work together to give this world a surreal storybook feeling, appropriate for an environment grounded in the mythos of North American wilderness and pioneers. Fires cast a glow on the environment and characters and leave smoke trails. The colors blend wonderfully on the High graphics mode (featured in article), with The Flame In The Flood features individual options for shadows, lighting, textures and anti-aliasing. All can be individually set at Low, Medium, High or Epic. I didn't notice much difference between Medium and Epic since I have an old 5:4 monitor, but it all looked gorgeous, although it looked a little jagged with Low Anti-Aliasing.
The interface is hand-drawn, colorful and easy to read and plastered on what look like informational plaques and pamphlets you'd find at a national park. The in-game fonts are bright oranges and whites that contrast nicely against the dark environment, while the interface fonts are dark block letters which are easy to read and would fit right in an informational pamphlet warning you about wolf attacks.
AUDIOAcoustic guitars are aplenty for the soundtrack and interface noises. Waiting while something to craft in your inventory? Acoustic guitar riff! Consuming some yucca you just dug up? Another acoustic guitar riff! The notes in the riff progress upward, leaving each action of survival on a happy note. If this is repeated quickly such as eating lots of food in one sitting, the riffs actually go through a chord progression and it begins to sound like a song. But it repeats after about five chords and soon loses its effect. It's a nice touch and the game's still in Early Access, though, so there's certainly time to improve on this feature after the core mechanics and game have been fleshed out even more.
SYSTEM REQUIREMENTSThe Flame In The Flood can run on Windows and Mac OS X. As of now (Febuary 16, 2016) Windows computers will require the following to run this game: Windows 7 64-bit Operating System, a Dual Core Processor (2.5 GHz or higher), 4GB RAM, a DirectX11-compatible graphics card, and 2 GB of hard disk space. Mac OS X computers will require all the same, except an 10.9.2 Operating System and a Dedicated Video card (Intel integrated GPUs are not supported).As this game is still only in Beta build v 0.5.002, you can be sure these computer specs will change in the future. The game may become more optimized and require less RAM, or it may become an even larger game and require even more out of your computer. I'm personally hoping that the graphics will be optimized more in the future, be it with economic code for the dynamic lighting or toning down the textures. After all, everything is already angular and largely composed of solid colors.
SUMMARYThe Flame In The Flood probably isn't the first of its kind (wilderness-themed exploration/survival rogue-lite), and I'm sure it won't be the last. But it's a well-polished, enjoyable and immersive one with easy-to-learn controls and mechanics and a quest that anyone should be able to get into: Get the dog home.
SHOULD YOU BUY THE FLAME IN THE FLOOD?
You'll probably like The Flame In The Flood if:1. You enjoy singleplayer exploration, and looting and foraging for supplies.
2. You like endless games where it's simply about not dying rather than finishing the game (until Campaign mode is released).
3. You like cartoon graphics.
4. You like games about nature and the great outdoors.
5. You like America.
6. You like playing as a girl who looks like she had radical plastic surgery on her face. It's the art style, but it still looks like radical plastic surgery. Like... she had her eyes moved up and her face streched and-
7. You like dogs.
8. You like to make sure dogs get the love and care they deserve.
9. You like it when dogs get home safely (in the to-be-released Campaign mode).
10. You don't like animals besides dogs. Because you get to trap and kill a lot of them.
You probably won't like The Flame In The Flood if:1. You exclusively prefer multiplayer games.
2. You prefer games with a clear conditions of victory and completion.
3. You prefer realistic graphics and gritty tones.
4. You don't want to explore the virtual outdoors.
5. You think the North American wilderness is for pansies.
6. You don't want to play as a girl who blah blah blah plastic surgery blah.
7. You don't care about dogs.
8. You really don't care about dogs.
9. You think hunting and foraging for your own supplies is barbaric, and would rather simply buy everything.
10. You're the reviewer's brother, who doesn't like survival games like this.