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The Flame in the Flood review

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need to know

What is it? A survival roguelike where you travel down a river scrounging for supplies.
Expect to pay: $20/£16
Developer: The Molasses Flood
Publisher: The Molasses Flood
Reviewed on: Intel i7 x980 3.33 GHz, 9 GB RAM, Nvidia GeForce GTX 960
Multiplayer: No
Link: Official Site

The spear trap, given to me by a couple of helpful feral children, works perfectly, impaling the lunging wolf just as it’s about to tear me to ribbons. I prepare to disassemble the carcass, gleefully—wolves have been a frequent cause of death in games past—when two more wolves suddenly appear. It’s about the most fleeting victory in video games history, I wind up torn to ribbons yet again, and my dreams of spitefully dining on delicious wolf jerky go unfulfilled.

In The Flame in the Flood, a roguelike survival game by developer The Molasses Flood, you play as Scout, a little girl riding a raft down a swollen, raging river during a soggy post-apocalypse. You dock periodically at randomly generated campsites and clearings to scavenge for supplies, craft gear, and try to keep yourself fed, hydrated, and warm. The dangers are many: starvation, dehydration, injuries, wild animals, and disease. The river itself, filled with jagged rocks, uprooted trees, rusting autos, and slowly drowning houses, is both your only chance for survival and the greatest threat to it.

Sticks and stones

At times The Flame in the Flood is a wonderfully serene experience, such as when paddling down the moonlit river—the calmer portions of it, anyway—accompanied by a sleepy, twangy soundtrack, or when sitting by a crackling campfire to cook corn muffins or brew dandelion tea, faithful dog Aesop by your side. It can quickly plunge into delicious, panicky chaos as well, such as when a storm suddenly rolls in, dousing your fire and forcing you to seek shelter and warmth, or when a single encounter with a wild animal leaves you bleeding, near death, and limping back to your raft on broken bones.

Flame in the Flood
Rabbit stew, comin’ up.

Crafting is simple and pleasurable. You have a recipe list, and the items you can currently make are bumped to the top of the menu. You can craft snares to catch small animals, traps to kill bigger ones, clothing to keep you warm and dry, and upgrades for your raft. Ingredients can be eaten raw, though for less nourishment and more risk than cooking—some have poisonous side-effects. Clean water can be found at pumps, or you can craft a filter that allows you to strain bacteria out of puddles. Hunger and thirst are pressing needs, but unlike a lot of survival games they’re well balanced here, and I never felt like too much of my scavenging time was taken up by hunting for nourishment.

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