The Flame In The Flood Switch Review
Interesting setting with hunting, gathering, and traveling concept
Soundtrack stands out
Unfair difficulty is downright frustrating and not fun
Visuals are actually pretty gross
A Fight To Survive
Originally released on PC in 2016, indie developer The Molasses Flood with publisher Curve Digital have ported their survival action game to the Nintendo Switch alongside the Xbox One and PS4. With randomly procured environments, The Flame In The Flood is essentially a new take on the Oregon Trail that uses a raft instead of a wagon.
The Flame In The Flood has a personality of its own. Created by a team composed of former Bioshock Infinite devs, the entire visual art style is actually rather grotesque and reminded me something of the Nightmare Before Christmas. The playable character’s portrait at the bottom of the screen never looks healthy even when the character has not taken any damage, is fully hydrated, and has no health aliments. As soon as the character’s heath starts to deteriorate, this avatar just looks grosser and grosser. The rest of the game mimics this visual style too as lighting is often dreary and dank, and pretty much everything that moves is out to harm you.
Gameplay is divided into two segments: the action of hunting and gathering from an overhead isometric perspective, and rafting where the player guides a poorly controlling raft down a river. The ultimate goal is to simply survive while keep moving down river. While traveling the waters, there are piers to dock the raft, get off, and explore. These small, explorable islands often contain a handful of items but rarely host the things you want or need. This is where the frustration begins – the overwhelming high difficulty factor.
Even though the game doesn’t have a tutorial, there are sign posts that often contain tips and information. For example, one sign said to make a weapon to trap rabbits. Just a few feet away were rabbit holes with rabbits popping in and out Whack-A-Mole-style. Unfortunately, the game did not give me the items I needed to craft any sort of weapon or trap to hunt anything, let alone rabbits from this tutorial board a few feet away. There is a difference between well-crafted difficulty as opposed to hoping for the best during randomly generated levels. Only on a rare occasion will you actually find the elements you need to make worthy tools, weapons, food, or drink to keep you alive for more than two in-game days. It is aggravating seeing your character slowly deteriorate, desperately looking for food to stave off hunger, only to die because the game never even gave the player chance.
Another example is rain. If the character runs around in the rain, body temp will deplete. The way to combat rain is to wait it out indoors by sleeping. While sleeps increases stamina, it increases the amount of hunger and water that is needed. Unless you are stocked up on provisions, you will be damned especially if rain starts soon after you begin your journey and have little to nothing in inventory. Making matters even worse, broken bones or other wounds can become infected, and even eating the few berries you find will often result in poison ivy. When pretty much everything, and I mean everything, negatively affects the player, it is hard to find any fun in this survival when the game just continuously kicks you while you are down.
The second element of gameplay is the rafting segments. Traveling down river to the next docking point is tedious and ultimately frustrating thanks to unresponsive steering and bumping into anything causes damage. There are ways to repair and even upgrade your vessel but finding all the right elements to make these concoctions, like making tools or even food, is near impossible. The other part of the problem is the clunky interface. Swapping inventory slots, combining items to make a bigger item, or just navigating the menus in general is cumbersome. The text is also small and difficult to read.
The southern bayou setting is a desolate, inhospitable place but has a soundtrack that at least stands out. Complete with vocal tracks, the southern setting and soundtrack is showcased with a personality all its own. But since the gameplay is so difficult and left completely up to chance, I almost feel like the soundtrack’s vocals are mocking me, adding to the frustration level.
After dying without a fighting chance from multiple play attempts, I couldn’t inflict any more pain upon myself. Some players welcome a difficult game, and I get that. But when gameplay hates you this much and doesn’t let up, this $15 digital download becomes one flame to douse in the river.
Not As Good As: Oregon Trail
On Par With: 7 Days To Die
Also Try: Toobin’