“Could this ac­tu­ally be the sad­dest game ever cre­ated?”

En­joy­ing pretty-look­ing mis­ery in The Flame In The Flood

PC GAMER (UK) - - Extra + Life -

un­for­tu­nately this gives Scout par­a­sites, and her hunger bar starts de­te­ri­o­rat­ing quickly

It’s day one of Scout’s jour­ney up the river with her dog, Ae­sop, and she’s just been mauled to death by wolves in a for­est af­ter her raft got bat­tered by rocks. I’m start­ing again. While the colour­ful pre­sen­ta­tion of

The Flame in the Flood and the pres­ence of a dog sug­gest a warm jour­ney across a flooded United States, it’s ac­tu­ally one of the cru­ellest sur­vival games I’ve played. There is a cam­paign mode with a pre­sum­ably happy end­ing at the other end of the river, but reach­ing it re­quires hours of hor­ri­ble deaths. Scout can die of star­va­tion, thirst, cold, drown­ing, ex­ces­sive bleed­ing or be­ing mauled by an­i­mals. And th­ese are just the ones I know about. It’s as if The Road had loads of al­ter­nate end­ings, in­clud­ing one where Viggo Mortensen got bat­tered to death by a bear for try­ing to craft peni­cillin.

On my sec­ond run, I learn my les­son: avoid wolves. The Flame in the Flood is bro­ken into is­lands, each with a dif­fer­ent icon in­di­cat­ing what you’ll find there: shel­ter, a place to re­fuel and so on. My mis­take was stop­ping at a wilder­ness icon. This is where you’ll usu­ally find wild an­i­mals, which you can’t fight off un­less you’ve crafted traps to keep them at bay. I try to stay out of their way.

The first is­land is fine. I find edible flow­ers and corn, and sleep in the back of a school bus. I leave and drift down the river some more, stop­ping at a set­tle­ment where I gather some mul­ber­ries, which don’t sat­isfy much of Scout’s ap­petite but are bet­ter than noth­ing. An­other is­land turns up a lit­tle way down the river, this time with rab­bits scam­per­ing in and out of holes. Since I don’t have the parts to set traps, I sadly leave the bun­nies to their nat­u­ral habi­tat and con­tinue search­ing the is­land. I’d have cooked their asses in a sec­ond if I had the chance. Me and Ae­sop could’ve had a feast.

don’t starve

I find some­thing called a mouldy lump in a crate. It doesn’t sound too ap­petis­ing, but it does keep hunger at bay. I’m car­ry­ing three, it turns out, so I de­cide to

eat all of them. Un­for­tu­nately, this gives Scout par­a­sites, and her hunger bar starts de­te­ri­o­rat­ing quickly. I get back on the boat and panic slightly. I stop at the next is­land in the hope of find­ing food, but I’ve made a fun­da­men­tal er­ror – this is an­other wilder­ness stop. Ae­sop barks to in­di­cate he’s found some corn, and I get Scout to eat it quickly, but the par­a­sites make her hun­gry again in­stantly. A hog sud­denly jumps out and at­tacks, break­ing one of Scout’s bones. I scram­ble back on the boat, and reach an­other set­tle­ment. There are some scraps of food here but it’s too late. Those par­a­sites are fast.

Rather than watch Scout slowly starve, I de­cide to let her sleep through her hunger in a small nearby house. She dies in the mid­dle of nowhere with just her dog for com­pany. Crikey hell, how bleak is that? Imag­ine this was a film about a girl and her dog, where she sails to four is­lands in search of life then dies from eat­ing some mouldy food out of des­per­a­tion. I’m sur­prised they don’t just go the whole hog (so to speak) and show Ae­sop munch­ing on your rot­ting corpse be­cause he’s starv­ing too.

I cheer my­self up by eat­ing a sand­wich in real life, which is de­li­cious. Could The Flame in the Flood be the sad­dest game ever? Back to Stardew Val­ley, I think, where the an­i­mals work for me rather than against me.

Ex­plor­ing is en­joy­able, but I do fear ev­ery is­land.

Here, we’re go­ing around a mul­berry bush.

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