The landscape presented to the few survivors of the apocalypse imagined by the Polish studio Vile Monarch is of a bitter beauty. The rise of the waters has covered a large part of the emerged lands. Few and small groups of people try to survive in lush environments, where nature has taken over man’s constructions. We find ourselves in a post-apocalyptic world with totally different premises than those of Frostpunk (here the review of Frostpunk), a title that has been able to transport city-sim enthusiasts to the frozen lands of New London.
It did not surprise us, however, to learn that the team behind this Floodland is made up of ex-members of 11bit Studios itself. In particular, due to similarities that appeared to us more than inspirations, in a playful structure confirmed to be similar to that of the game dated 2018, albeit accompanied by a narrative context far from its own.
When the ice melts
If in Frostpunk we find ourselves having to face the pitfalls of a global glaciation in a uchronic setting, here human civilization has faced a catastrophe that takes the consequences of some problems of recent history to extremes. A rather vague incipit tells us that the Event – the simultaneous interruption of global energy production – was only the coup de grace after years of growing difficulties. Protests, riots and a policy not up to par, have added to climate change, leading to the collapse of civilization and the deaths of an incalculable number of people. The few survivors are left to themselves, adrift in a world invaded by water and pollution.
Our survivors will be able to exploit the little land that has emerged to collect the fruits of the earth and the resources that will grow there as well as rubble and waste. Fortunately for us, the sustenance loop to which the unfortunate individuals are forced can be automated even in the exploration phases: it is possible to immediately give the survivors inputs for area research, avoiding tedious sessions of manual assignment of tasks to obtain materials and food.
Even the buildings, once built, have the same area functioning, and it will be up to us to look for the best point to include as many regenerable resources within their area of influence. This result is not very easy to achieve, given the somewhat rough management of the areas of the map on which it will be possible to build.
Of reconstruction and difficult choices
Ironically, it will be the very resources that contributed to the global catastrophe that will come in most use. The hyper-industrialization that characterizes our times is well represented in a map dotted with chimneys visible in the distance and takes the form of a gameplay that expresses subtle criticisms of environmental matters. In fact, among the renewable resources there is also plastic, which continuously runs aground on the shores of the colonized territories.
Always having them at hand will be essential for constructing many of the buildings useful for survival, while other materials, such as water, wood, concrete and sheet metal, can only be recycled by unlocking the appropriate technologies. To grow our colony we will have to order people to build structures, to finalize production techniques or to obtain objects for the recycling of new resources. However, the implementation of technological research has left us perplexed by the inconsistency that characterizes its progression. The game is set in what appears to be an alternate present, but we will be required to research the basic technologies for felling trees or fishing. This requirement appears in stark contrast to the ease with which our survivors will put a radio tower back into operation to search for other people within a few days. We understand how all this is attributable to gameplay needs, yet it somewhat cracks the likelihood of the plot on which the title is based. In Floodland we will have the possibility to organize expeditions for the game map, in order to find other survivors.
This time we will actually be able to follow the journey of our caravans on the map, unlike in Frostpunk, where it was all reduced to markers and textual events. Exploring the numerous ruined buildings will give us the possibility of integrating other groups of people into our community, thus introducing the social management phase which perhaps represents the biggest difference between this title and the aforementioned work by 11 bit studios.
Floodland places great emphasis on the relational dynamics resulting from the forced coexistence between the different clans present in our community. The initial choice between one of the four collectives available, all described by very detailed backgrounds, will draw the line to follow in promulgating laws or when making decisions to resolve random events during the game. Choices that turned out to be unexpectedly complex, because they called us to look for the best compromise that could satisfy everyone to a certain extent.
In each case, the game indicates which option satisfies one or the other faction. Net of this, the clash appeared inevitable in each of the runs carried out on standard difficulties, with the death or exile of some components representing the most common epilogue of these agitated phases. To surprise us positively in this sense, the considerable degree of customization of the difficulties took care of it. Yes, because we will be able to modify aspects such as the availability of resources, the speed with which they are consumed or the general mood of the community, which can make the repercussions of wrong choices more or less severe in the eyes of one or the other clan. The picture is completed by the system of issuing laws: periodically we will be able to issue edicts that will allow us to shape the new civilization, guiding it towards the establishment of common rules. The choices that can be made in this sense are many, and often irreversible given their crossroads structure. For one thing, setting up an armed force could please the most authoritarian clan, but dissatisfy the others to the point of making them flee. However, like the system of technologies, the political branch takes full advantage of Frostpunk without actually introducing any noteworthy difference, if not precisely the consequences that each law will have on the various social groups.
Barring any future expansions, Floodland’s replay value isn’t that high. What motivated us to start the adventure again was using a different starting clan. Each of them is placed at the extremes of two character axes, one linked to personal authority and freedom and the other to enterprise opposed to the predilection for scientific research. Depending on the difficulty, each run will commit us for a maximum of 10-15 hours but beyond the first two we didn’t have the right stimuli to complete others.
In large part this is due to the map, always the same in each game, as the initial position from which our adventure starts. Of course, the placement of some resources and the order in which we will discover other clans will be random, but the most important buildings will be in the same position, leading us to know in advance which ones to give precedence to and thus making the progression develop in a rather uniform way.
In essence, in the long run Floodland loses its bite, failing to re-propose the sensations of suspense and surprise typical of exploring unknown places. Partially mitigating the shadow of repetitiveness may be the different approaches with which to try to rebuild society, in particular by favoring different specializations of the clans. The social system is further deepened by the experience that each of them can accumulate through the work of its members.
By earning and assigning skill points in the four characteristic traits accessible to all groups, we will unlock bonuses for the various work activities: a decidedly effective way to customize what we could define the builds of each clan. In short, from the point of view of social management, Floodland delves into the mechanics already seen in similar productions with some interesting ideas, giving a little more depth to its playful recipe.
Start over in peace
The Floodland map is filled with a feeling of calm, at every stage of the game. Even during the moments of greatest tension between clans, we have not felt that urgency of having to intervene promptly to avoid the worst. This is a title that takes its time, not wanting to impose a fast pace on the player to make it successful at all costs.
Indeed, the developers seem to have wanted to create a relaxed gameplay: this intention seemed particularly evident to us in the artistic direction, as well as in terms of game design, although the Floodland mechanics remain suitable for an audience with a little of experience with the genre of reference. The soundtrack and the graphic design of the in-game elements undoubtedly struck us positively, as well as the illustrations combined with each textual event. From an aesthetic point of view, the bright colors and the design of the structures created, those of a ruined world invaded by waters that are polluted but full of life, give the experience a certain personality. Unfortunately, the animations of our survivors, perhaps slightly woody and not very detailed, counteracted this visual spectacle, but on more than one occasion we found ourselves admiring the general comings and goings of our community while listening to the excellent songs that accompany every moment of the game, giving the scene a feeling of melancholy hope for the future.