The Flame in the Flood Impressions—A Brutal, Unpredictable River Voyage

Game: The Flame in the Flood (Complete Edition)

Developer: The Molasses Flood

Publisher: The Molasses Flood, Curve Digital

Reviewed: PlayStation 4

Chuck Ragan’s folk-rock soundtrack sets a definitive mood for The Flame in The Flood, a paradoxical survival adventure where mother nature takes its course far too frequently for a young girl and her dog to rest easy. For Scout, hope is a concept as fragile as a waterlogged sapling; Stuck in a perpetual battle with the elements, she’s forced to disembark from Camp Pinewood and set sail down a temperamental river in search of food, water and shelter, or face the dusty blades of death. An instant introduction to the crafting mechanic communicates just how dire the situation really is: Constant maintenance of key parameters like hunger, thirst and body temperature is a difficult but necessary juggling act, and with a little luck and ingenuity, Scout can concoct nutritional meals, purify contaminated water, build campfires, and continue rafting along unpredictable river rapids. In an ideal world, survival would be easy. But in the post-societal American wilderness, it’s every woman and dog for herself.

Gameplay is a comfortable split between navigating the river and occasionally anchoring your raft to procedurally generated islands that look promising. It’s a fresh journey each time, with a random spread of tools and herbs, scarce opportunities to remain hydrated, and a tempestuous weather cycle that zigzags between humid sunshowers and angry, blinding thunderstorms, which quickly leave you soaked and desperate for cover. The Flame in the Flood slowly but surely works its way up to savage levels of difficulty, even on ‘easy’ mode, often surprising with new challenges like finding the antidote to snake bites and listeria, and awakening an inner struggle to survive when the makeshift raft gets battered and bruised. Boars and wolf packs descend upon you in a primal rage, and in their own way, they’re just doing what they must to survive. Nature’s wrath in full force is almost unstoppable, almost undefeatable, but like the young sapling that lusts so badly for life, which hangs on like a flame in the flood, players can still guide Scout away from harm – and there’s immense satisfaction in doing so. Rather than enjoyment, The Flame in the Flood strikes me as a game eager to teach us a lesson where humanity is the underdog but can still ‘win’ if it plays its cards right. The PlayStation 4 version introduces an insightful developer’s commentary and a fabulous, dark and audio-infused dynamic theme for lovers of background aesthetics modification.

Still, more attention was needed (perhaps by way of a patch) to make gameplay for beginners more forgiving, not to the extent that the feeling of genuine struggle is lost, but just enough for Scout to pick herself up again in a gorgeous yet volatile world which often expresses itself without mercy. Regardless, The Flame in the Flood is a great pickup with strong replay value and a deep message that never really fades over time.

Gameranx previously reviewed The Flame in the Flood for PC, and we thought it was whimsical and powerful, despite being slightly unfair.

The Flame in the Flood is available via Steam (PC, Mac),  the PlayStation Store and the Microsoft Store.

A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.