There’s Nothing to Fear but Fear Itself
Oh desperation, chasing horizons, in the flame and the flood… Okay, I’m just quoting the trailer. What is it about the post-apocalyptic that sends a shiver down my spine? What’s the fascination? I think it’s the belief that we’re heading that way anyway so why not prepare, right? Well, consider The Flame in the Flood my preparation! You play as Scout along with your pup Aesop and your buddy Chuck Ragan, venturing through the American country by handmade raft. The world is a giant flood and you’re just a drop in it.
Calling themselves a “company of AAA refugees” from developers like Bungie, Irrational and Harmonix, The Molasses Flood brings us their first title The Flame in the Flood; a post-apocalyptic survival and resource management game. This title has been in early access on Steam for quite a while but their release on Xbox One has brought in a whole boatload of new fans, including myself.
You’ve only got three things to rely on for survival: your raft, your dog, and yourself. The world has turned aquatic and in order to survive, you’ve got to course down the procedurally generated flood on your rickety raft in order to find what others have left behind. Throughout the world, there are many different types of islands you can dock at to support survival: ones to find supplies and wildlife; ones to fix your raft or find the supplies to fix yourself; some have shelter or campfires to help you survive the elements; and all will have something that could kill you.
“… As you progress, you begin to realise that this whole place used to be civilised…”
With all this darkness and sadness, it’s nice to hear at certain times the wonderful acoustic music of Chuck Ragan in the background. It is not only instrumental music, but vocal pieces with his gravely tone as well. And before you ask, no it doesn’t get repetitive, especially as you play a lot of the game without music at all, only for it to suddenly come back and remind you it exists.
The inventory management is difficult to deal with if you’re disorgansied, and your survival in this world is truly based on luck (like any survival situation, I guess). You’ve got your pack, already filled with some stuff, your dog’s pack; small but with you always, and your raft’s storage which you can only access when docked. I’m a… uh… bit of a hoarder when it comes to this stuff. There’s so much to collect and so little space to hold it all. You need to make space for the essential crafting items like saplings and cattails, food like plants and meat if you can catch it, and just the small things you might need, you know, just in case. Believe me, those ‘just-in-case’ items take up a lot of space. Luckily most of your items stack, so there’s that.
“The style in which The Molasses Flood have created this game is amazing, not just the art but the way the people talk too.”
Your crafting menu is quite diverse with what you can make, and it’s surprisingly sparse with weaponry. Everything needed for your survival is in your survival handbook, including what you need to stay warm, and your afflictions and how to cure them, if you need to cure them at all. Your afflictions can be endless, with tiny things and major things that cut your survival time down to minutes. This is there the ‘just-in-case’ items come in handy. For example, I was stupidly bitten by a snake, and death was imminent unless I could find some dandelion or sumac to make tea from. Dandelions and sumac aren’t rare by any means but when you’ve got minutes to find some on another island down the river: game over. Hence why when I found dandelion tea someone made and left behind the next playthrough, I held on to it. Did I ever need it? Nope.
As for the story itself, there really isn’t one until you find it. There are quests along the way you can collect via cache boxes on certain islands, but they’re not story so much as objectives. As for the world being the way it is, I didn’t find an answer. You flow down into different regions and as you progress, you begin to realise that this whole place used to be civilised; a littering of shambled shacks and bits of debris turn into broken highways, abandoned townhouses and industrial areas that used to thrive with people. If you get far enough, some questions begin to get answered but that’s only if you can make it that far.
Occasionally you find other humans who like to help you on your way by giving you needed items, heal you or just give you a feeling that there may be civilisation out there somewhere. The style in which The Molasses Flood have created this game is amazing, not just the art but the way the people talk too. It’s kind of with a broken style of English and slang (especially the feral children), almost like the English language is decaying after all this time.