Review: The Flame in the Flood: Complete Edition (PS4)


Formats:

  • PlayStation 4
  • Xbox One
  • PC, Mac

Format/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4 Pro
  • HDTV

Extras:

  • DualShock 4 Required (1)
  • Move None
Title: The Flame in the Flood: Complete Edition
Format: PSN (2.6 GB)
Release Date: January 17, 2017
Publisher: Curve Digital
Developer: The Molasses Flood
Original MSRP: $14.99 (US), €14.99 (EU), £11.99 (UK)
ESRB Rating: T
PEGI: 16
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

The Molasses Flood is a new development studio made up of AAA refugees with veterans from Irrational, Harmonix, and Bungie among others. The Flame in the Flood is their first title, which they describe as a rogue-lite river journey through the backwaters of a forgotten post-societal America in which you must forage, craft, and evade predators if you want to survive.

This Complete Edition also includes various gameplay enhancements and a Director’s Commentary mode. PlayStation players will also get access to free Avatars and a Dynamic Theme when they purchase The Flame in the Flood.

Gameplay:
The game is about many things, most of which can be associated with our path through life if you want to look at it in such a grandiose way. That kind of exposition is for another time though. For now, I will just write about the game.

You begin your journey with the nudge from a newly acquainted loyal companion who delivers a backpack. In this new accessory, you find a portable radio with a garbled announcement. With the new four-legged friend and a glimmer of hope, you set off down the unknown river on a rickety raft.

The randomly generated river plays a massive part in this game and starts off relatively open and calm, eventually turning into a raging torrent full of debris and winding tributaries. You can scavenge parts to upgrade your raft at the stops you make along the way. Whenever you get a chance, you moor the raft at a jetty and together with your dog, go on the hunt for supplies and shelter.

… fire keeps dangerous creatures away …
As you approach a small pier, a visual identifier will float above it letting you know what type of location it is. At times you will have to choose which ones to go for as they are often spread too far apart. Early on in the adventure, most places are quite small and sparse with only some saplings, berries, and maybe a few containers with some more useful supplies. These can be crafted into a wide variety of things and some of which have more than one use.

You can shelter from the cold and rain in an old broken-down bus or a small dilapidated shack and pick the amount of time you sleep. This tops up one of the four needs that continually drain as you play. Two others are food and water.

To stave off dehydration and starvation you will need to drink clean or filtered water and plenty of food. Berries and grubs will only help a small amount so you will need to construct some traps or weapons to go after the substantial offerings, namely rabbits and boar. Taking advantage of a fire whenever possible to cook things is a must, plus, fire keeps dangerous creatures away.

As you progress further down the turbulent river, you gain an assortment of tools and items that you can craft into everything from traps, splints, bandages, clothing, and food. You will sometimes need a fire to aid in crafting, and even dry off if you’re caught in a freezing rainstorm.

Storage quickly becomes an issue and making use of the raft and small pouch strapped to the trusty dog becomes essential. In fact, the dog becomes invaluable once you learn how persistent he is. I will leave it at that and let you get to know him yourself. The dog barks at potentially helpful things and growls at danger but isn’t strong enough to keep large animals at bay for long so you will need to learn how to protect yourself as quickly as possible.

There are some dangerous predators left roaming in this flooded wilderness. Just like you, they are desperate and starving. Their survival instincts come into full effect when you get close, so running away can often be the only chance of a continued existence. It can be unnerving and frightening, stumbling upon a scraggly old and starving wolf which regards you as some mouth-watering succulent food.

… where your crafting skills will come into effect …
Bites, scratches, and broken bones need to be looked after. If not they could become infected, slow your movement and eventually result in game-ending death. On one harrowing occasion, I was attacked by a scrawny and vicious wolf, it leapt from the darkness and knocked my character to the ground. I quickly grabbed a spike trap from the bag but couldn’t put it together in time before another brutal attack.

After several lacerations I just managed to complete the trap as the beast struck again, the trap sprung into life and killed the savage animal. My poor character just managed to painfully crawl into a nearby shack and rest after the assault.

The injuries were too great and after fixing up some of the wounds and trying to make it back to the raft, my character collapsed in the dirt and passed away. Keeping dry and insulated from the rain and cold is just as important as fending off animal attacks, which is where your crafting skills will come into effect. Using certain plants and hides, you can craft some nice gear, although it doesn’t change the appearance of your character which is a little disappointing.

The crafting aspect is excellent with common sense and a layer of reality. For example the Typha, or Cattail as they are more commonly known, can be used in all the ways as described in the game and even a few more besides. My only gripe is that you cannot reuse any part of a lethal trap once it has been sprung, but then it would be too easy I suppose.

That brings me to the difficulty of the game. I feel like the progression and learning curve is very good. Once you get to grips with the mechanics and dangers it becomes easier, but never easy. Although, once you master all of the basics and know what things to hoard, the journey is a lot less stressful.

What will be very difficult is claiming the Platinum Trophy. Once you have played a few hours of the game, check out the list and decide for yourself. This game will last you ages, even if you don’t bother with the digital trinkets. Once you get past the story there is an endless mode and a few options to change that can make the game much harder.

… it helps to dispel feelings of repetition …
Visuals:
Aside from a few tree outlines encroaching on the randomly generated river the graphics are very nice. Each location you visit starts off small and tame but soon you will be exploring large areas with a pack of dangerous creatures often lurking within. Some are already on the prowl but most are sleeping or chewing on a bone until they spot you and the chase is on.

Lighting is good with things like glare from the morning sun bouncing off the floodwater or fireflies illuminating a small lone tree. You will quickly see duplication with most of the assets but the layout for most areas will change so it helps to dispel feelings of repetition.

One area that you will often visit has a couple of well-maintained boats that look as if they would fare much better than any kind of raft you could cobble together, even if they were fashioned into a basic catamaran. Alas, your character ignores them and you can only walk on by.

Audio:
As you journey down the randomly generated winding river, you hear some utterly wonderful music that evokes danger, adventure, and fun with this addictive experience. The excellent soundtrack by Chuck Ragan also features The Camaraderie, The Fearless Kin, and more. It helps to capture the emotional and physical struggle of the adventure and needs to be turned all the way up (to eleven).

Each tune and track starts playing when you are on the raft and defines the mood of the journey. It also seems to shape the river as it winds through the wilderness, but that could just be a happy coincidence. You will face rapids, rocks, and a variety of debris as you struggle to control the flimsy raft in the raging water and the music fits perfectly with that.

There is not a constant bombardment of music as the raft is pulled along and there are moments of quiet that increases the knowledge that you are all alone. The eerie moments of silence are only broken by the sounds of the river and the sporadic calls of crows. In fact, it began to feel like a murder of crows were stalking my character as she made her way down the river. They can be seen everywhere and need to be shooed away as their caws and grating coos become maddening.

… wonderfully addictive and fun …
There’s also an in-game director’s commentary, accessible in the options menu. You play the game normally with floating cassette tapes – the younger folks may need to look those up. These can be found in the summer camp, which is the starting point and tutorial area and at each pier along the way. Each cassette lasts a minute or two and has subtitles if you want them.

The commentary is an excellent insight into the development of the game and adds another reason to play again once you become a seasoned player. I would suggest waiting until you have played all or most of the story mode before listening to what the developers say. While there aren’t any real spoilers, it does help with understanding what they talk about.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is singleplayer only with no online component.

Conclusion:
The Flame in the Flood: Complete Edition is wonderfully addictive and fun. Once you get a handle on the crafting mechanics and learn the basics, it becomes all too easy to lose countless hours on a few attempts.

I have played other crafting and survival games in the past but this one seems to work so much better. And with the optional story aspect, you have something to strive for, as opposed to just getting on with things. It definitely feels less daunting than others in this genre.

I really like all the care and attention that has been poured into this game, the most important being the lovely animations of the player character, Scout, and the dog, Aesop. I also really like the audio commentary and excellent soundtrack. I urge you to give this game a chance because there is something special here.

Score:

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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