I’m drifting down the river on a ramshackle raft. It’s midday. I just finished some repairs on the raft after it suffered some damage while navigating some rapids. As I contemplate what my next move should be, I take a moment to enjoy the peace and quiet. Haven’t seen a whole lot along the river in a while; no debris or flooded cars, just trees and the occasional rock. It’s a nice moment.
As I begin to move into through some towns, a storm rolls in. Vehicles and highway remnants dot the river as dour alt-country tunes kick in, matching the dour mood the rain brings. I sort of want to sit back and take in the scene, but I need to find some shelter from the rain.
I stop at the nearest dock — a church. Great shelter and usually has medical supplies. Just hope there’s not trouble waiting for me.
The last few stops I’ve made were rough. Packs of wolves hid in the furthest corners of the area, descending upon me as soon as I began to search crates for supplies. If not wolves, then boars or snakes. Everywhere I’ve gone there’s been danger. Didn’t use to be that way. For the longest time, I was able to roam without much worry. Used to be rare to encounter a wolf or bear. Now it’s rare not to find them.
The farther I go, the more dangerous every stop becomes. It’s become so risky to scavenge that I often avoid it unless I have no other choice. Much as I’d like to find a workbench and craft some new tools, it’s not worth getting mauled over. Wouldn’t mind doing a bit of hunting for some extra food, either, but again: not worth the risk. Just have to hope I can stretch my food far enough to reach my destination now.
The Flame In the Flood wasn’t always rough. For a while there, it was pretty easygoing. I was able to obtain everything I needed without much trouble, making the trip downriver feel like a more casual affair than a constant struggle. My raft’s in great shape, I have the right tools to make just about anything (provided I have the materials), and I’ve got enough food and water to last me a while. Even so, I feel like I’ve finally hit the point where I actually have to survive.
What I mean by that is, in most other survival games, the general loop feels defined by constant struggle. You’re dropped into a world with nothing but the clothes on your back (if that) and left to find your way. Maybe that’s slowly establishing a base of operations, or perhaps you have to constantly stay on the move grabbing everything you can find along the way. In The Long Dark, for instance, every run I made was a essentially a test to see how long I could last before I succumbed to the elements. I could never stay anywhere for too long because I was always working with a limited number of supplies, barely eking out a living with what little I could find. Death was always a foregone conclusion; it was simply a matter of when.
With The Flame In The Flood, I haven’t felt that way. Minute-to-minute survival is more or less simple as can be: keep yourself fed hydrated and you’ll do fine. The times I failed was due to my own clumsiness or lack of foresight. Broken bones and lacerations from boars and wolves, or venom from snake bites were always the result of recklessly running into the unknown rather than slowly inching forward watching carefully for whatever may be lurking. The few deaths I’ve suffered happened because I wasn’t prepared. So long as I remained vigilant, survival was a cinch.
But that’s only because I was constantly able to replenish my supplies. Food and clean water were easy to come by, ensuring I was never at risk of hunger or dehydration. Medical supplies were plentiful enough to keep me stocked with bandages and splints before more hostile animals entered the equation. By the time things got difficult, my bag and raft were full various materials. Just about anything I needed could be made, long as I had a bonfire or workbench available. The early goings were less about survival, then, as much as they were about preparation. You have a long trip ahead of you, so you spend the early leg of the journey building up a stash of supplies to help you along.
The Flame In The Flood is less about survival and more about the journey in that regard. The survival elements are there, but they feel more like general maintenance than the struggle most other games depict it as. It allows The Flame In The Flood to be a more peaceful affair, one where those quiet moments sailing down the river can be enjoyed. It’s a far less stressful experience than its peers, and it’s all the better for it.
As of this writing, I’ve begun the final leg of the journey. Just passed through a wasteland of a region and am getting close to the end. Don’t know what’s waiting for me there, but I’m curious to find out. Been a long road, but it’s almost over. Just a little bit further now.