PAX Spotlight: Flotsam

PAX Spotlight: Flotsam

I love me a good city building game. There’s something about acting as a metaphysical governor/mayor that really appeals to me: making tough decisions that affect the citizens of the city, building infrastructure, establishing commerce and trade.

I just find it relaxing and challenging all at the same time…not sure what that says about me tbh…

Flotsam is going to flip a lot of the norms of city building games on it’s head, ditching the very land that the genre takes for granted and setting up on the high seas, where space is limited and limitless all at the same time, trash is your main resource, and the local wildlife might just be more that a nuisance.


Flotsam is a survival town-builder, set in a flooded world. You manage a floating village community as it moves around the ocean. You recycle garbage and scrap to construct buildings and collect fish and drinkable water to keep your villagers alive. On your journey you will encounter dangerous sea animals, visitors with unknown intentions and mysterious ruins and wreckages.

Flotsam is a bit like a mish-mash of Seasteaders, Raft, and Banished: It’s a purposefully small scale citybuilder that forces you to deal with a limited number of survivors, while scavenging trash to build a flotilla-esq settlement that can move with the current of the sea.

Mechanically, this unfolds very similarly to other city builders: You’ll assign tasks to the few survivors living on your flotilla, gather resources to build new expansions and valuable technologies, and try to survive and flourish.

Where Flotsam really distinguishes itself is in it’s unique aesthetic and specific mechanics. Flotsam ditches the oft used realism of other citybuilders, instead opting for a cartoony, cell-shaded art style that works phenomenally well. It lets them bend the rules of reality a little bit, instill a TON of character into the survivors and wildlife, and keep an apocalyptic setting a little bit lighter than normal.

The mechanics, or I should say potential mechanics, of surviving on the open seas is where Flotsam gets particularly interesting. Flotsam is still very much in early development by Belgian studio Pajama Llama Games, but in talking to developer Dave Van Verdegem at PAX East, there’s some super exciting ideas in the works (Please take this all with a huge helping of salt; things could change at any time!):

First, the team wants it to be pretty difficult for you to expand your human population. This is a post-apocalyptic situation after all: there’s not people just hanging out everywhere waiting for a job. New citizens of your floating soon-to-be-town will likely be tied behind quests, as will certain technical upgrades.

So, how do you deal with all the myriad task that need to be done to keep the 3 people on board feed, safe and healthy? Enlist the wildlife. By rescuing or perhaps bribing certain animals, you’ll be able to use them as workers. Not any worker mind you, but a specific one. For example, seagulls might be able to act as lookouts, while swordfish can gather more materials (a.k.a. trashy) for you using their sword to spear good bits of wood and plastic like a kabob of potential building projects.

I LOVE this idea, and thinks it’s a brilliant way to keep things relatively small scale and personal in terms of your actual citizenry, while not making it too hard to actually expand and improve your floating junk-town.

I’m excited to see what other ideas and interesting mechanics Pajama Llama come up with as Flotsam continues development, and I’ll be keeping an eye on things for sure!

Currently, Flotsam is expected to release for PC and MAC, but has not estimated release date.



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Editor-in-Chief of With a soft spot for epics, sagas and tales of all types, Jacob approaches games as ways to tell stories. He's particularly interested in indie games because of the freedom they have to tell different stories, often in more interesting and innovative ways than Triple A titles.