I really really really like The Flame In The Flood. I am terrible at it, rarely reaching even the mid stage of the river, but I love it. The flood of the title is one that has swept through America, swelling the banks of a regular river until it’s a wide and treacherous one. Only small islands of safety are left – an old fish bait shop, a homestead, a patch of wilderness – and they’re not even always safe. Sometimes there’s a big angry boar or a starving wolf.
The flame is you. And your little dog.
It’s a survival game, and an unforgiving one, and the reason I like it (when I don’t normally like games like this) is that it doesn’t let you build up a fortress of safety. There is no opportunity to stay put and work on a giant camp with various resource farms around it.
Everywhere you stop is quickly stripped of useful bits, if it has any at all, and they don’t regenerate. You’re pulled inexorably down river, whilst juggling your needs – hunger, thirst, temperature and sleep. You can die from any of those, or become ill from an infected wound, or get gobbled up by the wolves, or drown as your little raft is smashed against some rocks out in the current. To combat all that you can make better clothes, catch rabbits with snares and cook them over a campfire, reinforce your raft, craft spears and traps, brew up your own penicillin… it’s surprisingly complicated, and finding what you need is usually determined on the roll of a dice.
As you explore you poke around rusting school buses, find occasional groups of semi-feral children, or notes about people who used to live in this bit of wilderness. But despite this, The Flame In The Flood is somehow comforting. It’s just you and your dog, and the end of the world.