The Flame in the Flood | Review
The pitter patter of rain falling onto Scout’s floating island, a patchwork of wood and metal, steadily increased as the craft neared the dock. The two worlds collided gently enough and while Scout secured the mooring, Aesop jumped ashore. As the companions began their trek into the heart of the unknown, there was a feeling of dreadful excitement in the air – an almost reluctant hope. Aesop barked and Scout collected the supplies that the aging dog had located. The rain continued through the darkness, soaking the weary and cold travelers – they needed to find shelter.
As they came upon a dark structure covered in graffiti and plant growth, Scout noticed the nearby rabbit burrows and made a mental note to fashion a trap to use when the rain let up. She and Aesop approached the door and were about to work the lock when they heard a low growl. From the shadows to their left a wolf appeared… like the wandering companions, it was hungry.
Without a torch to keep the predator at bay, Scout and Aesop began to run. Scout could feel her stamina failing as she took off through the dark rain, the wolf seconds behind her. The beast leapt and gashed Scout’s right arm. The wolf didn’t land too gracefully – Scout and Aesop used this to their advantage and made it back to the dock. While the warm blood ran down her arm, Scout used a fishing hook and some line from the supplies that they had scavenged earlier to fashion a makeshift sewing kit with which she mended the gash in her arm. After applying a bandage, the pair boarded their ramshackle craft and cast off into the darkness of the meandering river. The rain had stopped, but the cold and the hunger were ever present. The light of the moon illuminated the edge of the water and the two clung to each other for warmth. Off in the distance, Scout spotted another dock… another gateway to the unknown.
This story was repeated several times throughout my 6-or-so hour playthrough of The Flame in the Flood. You are Scout, a girl alone in the wilderness. Alone, that is, until a friendly mutt with a red backpack approaches you and urges you to follow him. Aesop, the pooch, and Scout bond from the first as they begin their trek down a procedurally generated river. The river, a protagonist in an of itself, funnels you through its forgotten world. A world that either survived longer than humanity or, perhaps, was simply abandoned. Scattered throughout the various docks that you’ll approach on your search for food and supplies, you’ll find remnants of civilization. What remains are mostly decrepit structures and rusting automobiles, a few postal boxes and some crumbling overpasses. Along with the aforementioned evidence of civilization, a few people were left behind. A couple of feral children, a grave-digger (be sure to check out that tomb), and a medicine woman are just a few of the odd personalities that you’re bound to run into throughout your travels. Each have a story, although not all are willing to tell it.
While humanity may have moved out of these once-populated locales, many animals have moved in to take their place. The terms predator and prey are fluid in the world of The Flame in the Flood. Those wolves are quick to chase you off of their territory in the beginning but, as you progress and enhance your kit, they provide meat and warmth through the use of their coats to improve your clothing. Bears, on the other hand, I never really learned how to best. I just lit a torch to hold them at bay while I scavenged. I had to be careful, however, as the light from my torch could attract a snake that could prove the end of Scout and her journey.
The possibilities in The Flame and the Flood seem endless and I never got tired of scavenging or crafting. I especially enjoyed upgrading Scout’s raft to include a tent for shelter from the cold and the rain, or a water purifier so that I didn’t have to travel too far from a dock to produce clean water – a staple on your journey down river. It’s important to mention here that keeping tabs on your status through meters for hunger, thirst, temperature, and fatigue is a must at all times. The meters are intuitive and the gameplay mechanics were hardly restricting whether I was thriving or struggling to survive.
The highs and lows that you experience during your time with Scout and Aesop are greatly impacted by the amazing soundtrack. Recorded by Chuck Ragan, an acoustic guitar playing folk singer, the soundtrack is simply phenomenal. The ten tracks – each representing one of the ten “areas” that you travel through – are excellent even without the game to base them on, but they take on such a deeper meaning upon completion of the game. Hell, my wife enjoyed listening to the soundtrack and she didn’t even know it was for a game!
There were times, as Scout and Aesop floated downstream, that I wished the music would pick up… but as I sat there navigating Scout’s craft through treacherous rapids and rock-filled corridors, it gave me a moment to take in the game’s sound design that aided in the feeling of isolation ever present in this title. Scout and Aesop are alone, should they perish – should you fail to deliver them – nobody would even know that they existed.
By the end of my first playthrough, The Flame in the Flood had proved to me that there is something very special about it. This indie rogue-lite stole my heart with its excellent presentation, phenomenal soundtrack, and a compelling hook found in the river itself. I strongly encourage you to experience the journey of Scout and Aesop as they travel through their vaguely familiar world that was simply left behind.
Watch 30 minutes of The Flame in the Flood below: