-Welcome to this series where I resolve to play my Steam games backlog! Here are my discoveries!-
Game: The Flame in the Flood
Time Played: 1.1 hours
Close to a year ago, I backed The Flame in the Flood on Kickstarter. I was drawn in by the game’s concept and art style. Last month, the game finally entered Early Access on Steam. For some reason, it’s taken me until this past weekend to actually remember to sit down with it and give it a try.
Maybe that’s a good thing.
What Is It?
The Flame and the Flood describes itself as:
A rogue-lite river journey through the backwaters of a forgotten post-societal America. Forage, craft, evade predators.
Travel by foot and by raft down a procedurally-generated river as you scrounge for resources, craft tools, remedy afflictions, evade the vicious wildlife, and most importantly, stay ahead of the coming rains.
My First Impression
I consider the game pretty early Early Access, however. All the major moving parts are there – the art style is attractive and the music is just wonderful. The gameplay is there – rolling down the procedurally-generated river on a raft. Gathering and crafting at stops along the way.
The game, however, feels like it has a long way to go before it provides a fun experience. The game bills itself as a rogue-lite, but man, is it ever brutal. And as much as I wanted to get into this world and the picture it painted, I was constantly struggling with swiftly draining food, water and health resources, and could never stop long enough to experience anything.
Just getting down the river itself is a obstacle course of potential disaster. In fact, my first play through, I died twice from drowning before I could even figure out how to dock at a new campsite. Knocking into debris is far easier than avoiding it, and not only does the raft take damage, but my character ended up with several broken bones and a miserable soaking wet debuff.
Finally, on the third try, and after reading some beginner tips in the Steam community guides, I was able to dock at my first location. I then proceeded to accidentally singe my poor character by touching the fire while trying to craft a something so that she wouldn’t die of dehydration. 😦
It wasn’t until my final try at the game that I actually started to figure out how to craft things like traps (which I assume are for catching animals for food). Because I was always starving or dehydrated, it was extremely difficult to spend any time looking at the crafting screen or figuring out what materials did what.
It also doesn’t help that food and water levels decrease while you’re on the river, and you don’t have control on how far away the next stop will be. Don’t even know what to tell you if you happen to be on the wrong side of the river and you can’t fight the current to get over to the campsite you just passed by. It’s way too easy, IMHO, to die due to things that are just out of your control… and I don’t find that fun game play.
Apparently, the team has already toned down the difficulty levels once. Reading through the forums, I think I ran across a post where the team mentioned they may add a difficulty selector for the game. I hope they do… because this game really needs it.
I also see several places where the devs say things like: once you figure out how to obtain food, it gets easier. This may be true, but as a new player, the clock is ticking down way too fast to feel like I have time to figure anything out. That may end up turning away more players than encouraging them to stick around – not something you want to do with Steam’s new refund abilities.
The final annoyance I had with this game is that every time you died, you started completely over at the beginning. This was odd, because I swore the game saved on its own in several spots. Not to mention, there’s a Continue option on the main screen.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I know that in rouge-like games, you die, you usually lose everything. That mechanic doesn’t bother me. However, unlike other games of this kind, I feel like I earned absolutely nothing for my time… especially since there’s so little time to actually figure things out to better learn to survive the next round.
For example, in Don’t Starve. When you die, yes, you start over again. However, you make progress in other ways – the amount of time you survived is tallied up and it goes towards unlocking other characters. I actually felt like the things I learned during my first attempt at Don’t Starve helped me survive my next attempt, and I wasn’t frustrated at losing it all because I was still progressing in some part of the game.
I don’t get that feeling in The Flame in the Flood, and that’s ultimately what made me put the game down after dying the 6th time or so. There’s so much potential in this game and its ideas… there’s a great art style and great music and a world out there I want to explore. I’m frustrated because the limiting mechanics aren’t letting me explore the full possibilities of this game.
When I backed this on Kickstarter, my mind ran with the idea of flowing down the river on a raft, docking in locations, exploring and finding neat places, gathering materials to craft things to survive, and finding things to upgrade my raft with. I don’t mind survival games at all, but there has to be some reward and some accommodation for different kinds of play styles.
Giving players options and allowing them to explore would go a long way in making this game more accessible. Until then, I’ll keep my eye on the update news and continue to hope for the river rafting, exploration game (with some survival elements) I backed last year on Kickstarter.
Maybe… eventually… once there’s some difficulty balance and options put in place. It could be a fun game if it wasn’t so unforgiving.