Originally, I had planned to do a standard review for The Flame in The Flood, The Molasses Flood’s fantastic and very atmospheric survival game which puts you in the role of a girl who’s rafting down the river in an apocalyptic wasteland. Yet, after hours of rafting, surviving…and a lot of not surviving, I wanted to instead talk about one of the game’s core mechanics that makes it so much more interesting: your dog Aesop and the little backpack he carries with him. It’s this mechanic that adds an element of strategy to The Flame in the Flood which I love..
Aesop is Your Best Friend
In The Flame and The Flood (abbreviated TFITF from now on), your’e trying to survive and thrive while floating down a very treacherous river in a very rickety raft, with some very hungry animals looking to make you their snack. Your one true friend through this entire ordeal is Aesop, your stalwart canine companion. He’s not much good in a fight, but he will carry some supplies for you. THIS is more important than you’d ever suspect, and after your first drowning, fight with a wolf, or case of sepsis, you’ll realize why.
Aesop is an Immortal Super Dog who can teleport at will.
Die, and when you start again, you’ll have nothing, However, Aesop will be right there by your side, with the very same items you gave him before. This can only mean it is the exact same dog, and he is both immortal and able to telelport the miles you’d traveled back to that first little island. Now, you might wonder why he didn’t try to communicate this to you this sooner, but Aesop is a dog, so I think we have to let that one slide. This mechanic is where the strategy comes into play in TFITF: What do you fill this little dog’s pack with in anticipation of your soon-to-be-nigh death?
You’ve got 6 slots to work with, and I’d like to discuss the different strategies that I went through in trying to best maximize my chances for survival. Hopefully, this will help you survive as well.
Option 1: Food and Survival Supplies
Ultimately, the most important thing to have in TFITF is food and water. You can avoid Boars, Bears and Wolves, and all the rest of the supplies you might need can be gathered relatively easily, but if you run out of water and food, you’ll be sure to perish soon enough. You might well think of stocking Aesop with Jars of Clean Water and Jerky!
I’d advise against this. Water is incredibly abundant in TFITF…which makes a lot of sense since this is an apocalypse focusing on a flood. In the first stash of supplies you encounter in every game, you’ll always receive 1 Empty Jar and a Filtration Kit with three charges. In additional, empty jars are fairly common to come across, and Thirst has never really seemed like an issue in my personal journeys downstream.
Nutrition was always more of a problem to keep at a healthy level, but was certainly manageable. You’ll be drowning (hahaha) in Mulberries and Cattails as long as you make frequent stops, and while these don’t give you a lot of Nutrition, they stave off starvation as well as anything. If you make a point to visit a few farms, you’ll have plenty of vegetables and if kill one or two boars you’ll run into, you’ll have Raw Meat to cook or turn into Jerky. It’s also worth killing a boar to upgrade your clothing, so you can kill two birds with one stone.
So, food and water are not the best use of Aesop’s bag space. Well then, let’s try to meta game the system a bit…
Option 2: Quick Start
On the very first Island you start the game on, you run into a mailbox that gives you a goal to complete called “Basic Tools”. This is a simple task requiring you to build a Stone Knife and a Stone Hammer, and rewards you with a handy Camp Fire upon completion.
When I started thinking about TFITF strategically, my first thought was to fill Aesop’s Bag with items to immediately complete this task. For a Stone Knife you need 2 Flint and 1 Braided Cord, and for the Stone Hammer you need 2 Flint, a Sapling and a Rag. That’s 4 slots, leaving you 2 addition inventory slots to use for whatever you’d like, and gets you a campfire right off the bat, as well as the first two tools you need in the game.
This, however clever, is not the best choice for you to focus your strategy on.
First, do you really even need that campfire? Every camp site you run into will have a lit fire, and these are a plentiful type of island in the first few regions of the game. Yes, you will need both the Stone Knife and Stone Hammer, but 4 out of 6 Inventory for two items and the completion of one early game goal that rewards you with an item that will, essentially, be a waste of inventory space, is not a worthwhile trade.
Instead, you want to focus on the one thing even more important than Aesop.
Option 3: The S.S. Success
Aesops Bag should be used as a means to do two things; Give you more inventory space and ensure your survival. Your going to do this through two upgrades to your raft: The Rudder and The Expanded Storage.
These two upgrades will do so much to ensure your survival both early in the game, and later on that it is absolutely foolish not to get them as soon as you possibly can. And, with the help of Aesop, this can be much, much sooner than you’d normally be able to.
The Rudder will make it MUCH easier to steer your raft, which will allow you not only to navigate rapids with ease, but also to ensure you get to the islands you need to.
The Raft Storage upgrade is worth it’s weight in gold. Inventory is everything in TFITF, and an Extra 6 slots will allow you to collect even more supplies that you might just need.
To build these two upgrades you’re going to need the following for each: 1 Raft Scematic, 1 Raft Hardware (2 Nuts N bolts and Stone Hammer ) and 1 Raft Framework (2 Old Lumber and a Stone Knife).You’ll need to find a Rustwater Station to apply this to your raft, but there are at least a few of these in the first regions of the campaign, and I’d still argue this is a fantastic use of space in Endless Mode.
So, you’ll be looking to fill Aesop’s bag with Old Lumber, Nuts N Bolts and Raft Schematics. Raft Schematics seem to be a fairly random drop, but I’ve personally found the most at Fishing Docks. Old Lumber seems to be fairly plentiful, particularly once you get a little further down the river, and you’ll be drowning in Nuts N Bolts once you hit the city areas (Just search old cars). That’s still leaves you with 3 slots left in Aesops bag! If you fill these with Saplings, Rags and Flint, you’ll have collected enough Cattails on the Tutorial Island to be able to complete your first goal as well as upgrade your raft!
So, when everything is considered, your ideal start should look like this:
Your amounts may differ a bit, but these should be the six item that you have Aesop carry around for you: Saplings, Rags, Flint, Raft Scematics, Old Lumber and Nuts N Bolts.
TFITF is a fantastic survival game, which is getting much well deserved good praise. Clearly there’s some mechanical depth, and I haven’t even mentioned the very unique art style, or the fantastic soundtrack by Chuck Ragan. If you’d like to experience this for yourself, don’t hesitate to head on over to Steam and support these Boston based indie developers.