Survival sims aren’t meant to be easy, but even among its genre-mates, The Flame in the Flood is a steep challenge. Even finishing the campaign is an exercise in perseverance and patience, but if you want to last long in the endless mode you’ll need to really understand the strategies required to remain vital. I’ve spent some time with the Xbox One version and I’ve cobbled together a dozen essential tips for keeping protagonist Scout alive on the river wild.
1. FILL YOUR BOOTS
You’ll start with almost nothing. The opening location has a few things in an old crate – but it’s not much to start with. You might be lucky enough to find some nightcrawlers (that’s worms) to eat, maybe even a piece of jerky. But before long the jerky will be gone and the water you had will be gone with it, and you need to be ready for that.
In the early game you’ll need to be careful about only taking the essentials – remember, in The Flame in the Flood you can only travel one way and can’t go back for anything you missed. Later, your expanded bag and raft will allow you more freedom, but surviving that long in the first place is reliant on common sense and forward planning.
2. PACK RAT
In order to upgrade your bag you’ll need to make pouches, but they require some leg-work first. You’ll need rabbit pelts, which means building snares to catch them, and you’ll need a stitching kit, which will lead you to Fishing Supply stores, none of which you’ll come across right away. But this is absolutely essential for progressing. The further you travel, the more wildlife and perils you’ll encounter, and almost every danger requires a different curative. If you don’t have room to carry what you need, you’ll die. Simple.
3. BE PREPARED
It follows, then, that once you have the extra room in your bag, that you fill it with essential supplies. It’s always good to have at least one meal and jar of water on you, as well as a bandage or splint, and some cat-tail either to eat for a life-saving boost or to dry out for tinder should you need to start a fire. If you get caught by a snake-bite and you don’t have a means to make dandelion tea, for example, you’re going to die very quickly. Likewise, if you’re freezing to death and you can’t build a fire, you’re done for. Use your head, and you’ll live longer.
Creating tools is also absolutely paramount: you won’t get far without a knife and hammer, even if they are made from flint and sticks to begin with. Improving your clothing is another way to prepare yourself. Firstly upgrading to rabbit pelt outfits, then insulated clothing and later rugged winter wear will keep you alive as the nights get darker and the storms get longer.
4. SOBER SISTER
Alcohol is rare and utterly vital. You need it to make bandages, for a start, which are the only way to deal with lacerations from wolf attacks, and you need it to fashion a torch, with which you can keep dangerous wildlife like boars and snakes away for a little while. If you drink it, it will do you no good whatsoever – although, in this situation, who wouldn’t want to down the first bottle of whiskey they come across?
5. SPREAD THE LOAD
Upgraded pack or not, you’ll need to offload stuff now and then. Aesop the dog has six inventory slots, and you can use ingredients right from his inventory without moving them. It’s an idea to keep things like flints, fish-hooks, cat-tails and rags in his bags. You can also store things on the raft, but you can’t use them without transferring them to your pack, so it’s best to keep things like lumber, schematics, spare medical supplies and back-up torches there. You always want to head into a new location with at least three spaces in your inventory, as you’ll almost always find something worth keeping.
6. BUSY WORK
Spread around the various locations, randomly, you’ll find message boxes within which scouts and guides have left tasks. If you complete them, you can collect a reward from the next box you come across. In the starting area, for instance, there’s a box that requires you to make basic tools. You can find everything you need to fashion a stone knife and stone hammer in the first few locations, which will net you a handy pre-made campfire when you reach the next message box.
7. PROTECT YOUR RAFT
If your raft sinks, you’ll drown. There’s no amount of supplies that will change that. While you’re out on the river, anything you hit will cause damage to your raft, not only putting you in danger but also requiring the expenditure of essential hardware to repair. The less damage you do, the more supplies you’ll have for making upgrades. Learn to steer effectively and efficiently, boosting past or around obstacles and dragging back on the stick to momentarily slow down. It’s not just rocks and floating flotsam out there; rapids are a nightmare in a simple raft and without a shelter upgrade on your little collection of plank and logs, a storm will wet you through and increase your chances of hypothermia.
8. AESOP’S FABLES
Aesop is a plucky little beagle who won’t only provide companionship and inappropriate face-licking, but will also bark like hell when there’s either danger around or something worth looting or searching. If he starts barking, there’s usually a good reason, so ignore him at your own peril.
9. SCARE CROW
Most locations will have an abundance of crows. Evil-minded, black-feathered harbingers of death, they’re also an utter pain in the arse when they start cawing and attract every wolf, boar and snake in the area. Shooing them with your stick will get rid of them, and they’ll often handily drop a feather when they bugger off, which you can use to make arrows later on. If you leave them to create a ruckus, you’ll often pay the price.
10. SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST
Aside bunny rabbits, everything wants you dead. If it moves, it can either kill you or attract something that can kill you. Wolves will cause lacerations that weaken you and may turn septic if not treated, boars will charge you and break bones, requiring splints. Ants bite and you’ll need to use aloe, while snake-bites will kill you inside a day if you don’t have a salve. Don’t feel bad about killing everything you find along the river, is what I’m saying. Spear traps will kill boars and wolves, box-traps will get snakes, and snares will catch rabbits. Make them and deploy them with extreme prejudice – meat will keep you alive and their skins can be used to improve your gear. This isn’t a Disney movie, and the wildlife is not your friend. Kill it, eat it and wear it wherever possible.
11. PAY ATTENTION
Scout is not all that hardy. Malnutrition, dehydration, hypothermia and exhaustion stalk her constantly like the four horsemen of the apocalypse and they are relentless. Everything you do is simply staving off the inevitable. So watch her meters like a hawk. Different things have different effects on her. Using up all your stamina, for example, seems to make the hydration and sleep meters drop faster, while getting wet will drop your body temp frighteningly fast. Manage Scout’s needs at all times – every one can kill her if left unchecked, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed following a single bad night without shelter, or a single animal attack.
12. LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
Knowing what you need to cure a particular ailment is essential, and you can waste valuable time docking in the wrong places when you’re worryingly close to death. Here’s a handy list of locations and what you’ll likely find there, because I’m friendly like that.
Camp-site: These are often life-savers. Marked by a little tent symbol, camp sites always have a lit fire (unless it’s raining), will often have shelter of some kind, and usually contain basic supplies like saplings, cat-tail and mulberries. There’s a high probability you’ll find rabbits, too, which you can normally snag in the daylight hours with a hastily-made snare.
Marina: Dock here to repair and upgrade your raft, or refill your gas supply when you have an engine. There are never supplies here, other than the gas, but keeping your raft afloat is paramount.
Wilderness: A little symbol of a fir tree will lead you to wilderness. Supplies will be thin on the ground, and they’re often stalked by wolves and vipers, but they are decent source of polluted water, saplings and cat-tail.
Church: Stitching kits, alcohol and rags abound, which will usually give you what you need to make basic first-aid supplies and turn rabbit pelts into inventory upgrades. They’re also the best place to shelter during a storm.
Liquor Store: Alcohol, jars and water pumps will usually be found in and around liquor stores. There’s often shelter, and wrecked cars will occasionally yield nuts and bolts to repair and upgrade your raft.
Fishing Supplies: Tackle shops are too useful to ignore if you can help it. The only reliable place to grab fishing hooks and line, which you’ll need to create stitching kits and arrows, it’s advisable to dock at everyone you see if possible. Also, as with the Marina, there’s never any wildlife to bother you if you just need somewhere safe to rest for a minute.
General Store: These are mixed bags, really. Sometimes they’ll have a good spread of everything, sometimes you’ll find next to nothing worth pilfering. One of the most useful things you may find in a General Store is salt, which allows you to turn raw eat into jerky, which is slightly less nutritious than cooked meat, but won’t spoil, no matter how long you old onto it.
Medical Centre: As you get further down the river, these are like Mecca. Penecilin, ready-made bandages, rags, alcohol, stitching kits and clean water pumps are often found in Medical Centres – but they’re rare.
Hardware Store: Another fairly rare one, a Hardware Store is a great source of lumber, nuts and bolts, raft frames and schematics and jars. If you’re looking to upgrade your raft quickly, dock at everyone of these you see.
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