The Flame in The Flood, from The Molasses Flood, is an outstanding entry into the Nintendo Switch’s already excellent indie catalogue. Survival games aren’t rare these days, but great ones are. Thankfully, The Flame in The Flood is a great survival game, albeit with some frustrating mechanics.
The Flame in The Flood has something of a unique art style with a literal edginess to it. The sharpness of the characters, buildings, landscapes, and enemies relates the harsh reality of the in-game world.
The lighting beautifully compliments the art direction in The Flame in The Flood. It’s contrast of lightning flashes, and the soothing softness of firelight, perfectly emphasise the antagonistic environment.
The use of darkness is also exceptional. As you meander down the nighttime rapids, blood red eyes watch you from the shadowy forest. When on land, the darkness slowly peels away as you explore but never leaves the screen; you are never quite safe.
The sound design is equally astounding in The Flame in The Flood. Natural sound effects impress throughout. Running water floods the ears, while howls and grunts clearly indicate oncoming danger. The barks of your companion dog ring out with a richness not heard from most virtual canines.
The Flame in The Flood benefits massively from an original soundtrack. Chuck Ragan has masterfully crafted a track list which gives your journey a movie-like quality. You’ll find yourself getting lost in the wonderful country music, and the gripping vocals.
In terms of survival mechanics, The Flame in The Flood has enough for you to drown in. As is apt for a survival game, almost everything can and will kill you. Ants bite, poison ivy stings, and that’s not to even mention the wild boars and wolves.
You can suffer lacerations, broken limbs, and these can become infected. On top of this, you suffer from hunger, thirst, and cold. Managing each and every one of these elements takes a great deal of attention, making The Flame in The Flood a truly challenging experience.
Crafting is sensationally deep in The Flame in The Flood. Not only must you collect materials to cook your food, you must craft everything you need to survive. You are only gifted three things in game: a stick to scare off birds, a basic raft, and a basic set of clothes.
From starting tools, to animals traps, everything is left for you to craft. Learning which to prioritise, and which are luxuries, takes time but is essential to success. You will struggle to find a more varied, deep, and rewarding crafting system in any survival game.
The raft, your method of travel through the flood, can be upgraded allowing you better control and utilities. Carefully choosing these upgrades drastically shifts your play style. The raft can become a safe haven from the elements, a nomadic oven, or a range of other survival necessities.
Collecting the raw materials for your glorious creations requires careful thought too. As you sail along the flood, icons will pop up to indicate what docking places are coming up. These include churches, mechanic stations, campsites, villages, and more.
Each of these will offer different materials in different amounts. Choosing where to go, and learning what you can expect to find, will make or break a run. Incorrectly selecting a location can lead to you falling short on supplies, and a depressing trudge towards the end.
The range of materials is at first staggering. There are textiles, plants, meats, ores, and liquids for you to organise. Not all are openly useful at first glance; their uses become evident as you survive longer.
So, where’s the flood for all this flame? You are given a frankly pitiful inventory to start with. While you can collect and craft pouches to boost your space, these can be incredibly difficult to find and feels more like luck than skill.
Similarly, separating your inventory between yourself, your dog, and your raft becomes rapidly irritating. It certainly makes sense narratively, creates difficulty, but ultimately adds an unnecessary layer to the gameplay.
This extends to the frustrating menu systems. You will spend so much time in these menus (used for crafting, quest management, and inventory inspection) that their unwieldiness is almost unforgivable. There is a quick item system, but this has its limits.
Overall, The Flame in The Flood is an outstanding survival game. It offers a true learning curve and, by the time you manage to complete your journey, you will feel like a wilderness god. Alongside this, it is a visual and auditory pleasure.
Even a misjudged menu system can’t take away the desire to return for one more trip down The Flame in The Flood.
The Flame In The Flood was provided by The Molasses Flood, and Alan spent 12 hours trying not to die of digital dehydration for this review.