Floodland Review: "Great Ideas, Mixed Results"
Management and survival sims come hand in hand if you think about it. While most games in the genre lean into one or the other, there are still elements at play that tip into both. Building a world and ensuring it runs smoothly is where the challenge is, and it only takes one small disaster to throw a spanner in the works.
The latest game from developer Vile Monarch, Floodland, aims to perfectly balance both in an attempt to inject something new into each genre. While the end result is a mixed bag, Floodland is the framework for something special down the road.
A Well Of Great Ideas
Set in a post-apocalyptic world, decayed from the effects of climate change, Floodland puts you as the head of ensuring your colony can survive. As you begin the game, you’re forced to choose between multiple factions, each with its own positives, negatives, and belief systems that will determine the course of your adventure. Immediately, it’s an extremely lore-heavy game, with each faction built around a solidly written backstory, offering the player the ability to get as much out of the story as they want to put in.
Your main objective is to start your colony from nothing, with simply a few members in tow to help you. From here, you’ll send members out to scavenge for resources and slowly but surely begin building up an encampment to not only recruit more survivors but build up the skills of your fellow campmates.
Unlike other post-apocalyptic sims, Floodland remains a lot more grounded than others in its genre. You won’t be chasing down mutants or fighting otherworldly beasts, the tensions and drama remain much closer to home where you will play judge, jury, and executioner. As mentioned before, the world is divided into factions. You may choose the down to Earth and hard-working Good Neighbors, or you may go down the road of the Fire Brigade, who put the individual first rather than the group as a whole. These ideologies clash and will be where most of your tough decisions lay.
No matter which faction you’ll choose, you’ll bump into various others and even have the opportunity to invite them to join you. While they may bring their resources and offer you some cool bonuses, they also come with their own set of challenges. Most notable will be the clashing of brains, as numerous ethical dilemmas will put your camp at odds. For example, the death of a fellow survivor may leave the camp divided on how to approach. While some will want a traditional burial, others will want to research and determine the cause to prevent it from happening again. It’s almost impossible to make everyone happy, but that juggling act is what gives Floodland an edge over others in its genre.
Heigh- Ho, Heigh-Ho, It's Home From Work We Go
Unfortunately, while these mechanics work well, it’s often buried beneath a sea of busy work that can dramatically cost Floodland some enjoyment. You shouldn’t expect to be in for an easy ride when managing your colony, but more often than not, you’ll be stuck doing meandering tasks which distract you from the meat and bones of the game. Resource management is a key component of Floodland, but can often feel like a repetitive loop just to keep your camp afloat - especially in the game’s early hours.
An opening prologue attempts to usher you into the experience with its tutorial, but it often feels counterintuitive. New players will most likely be left scratching their heads attempting to understand the mechanics, as the tutorial does a pretty rough job of explaining Floodland’s mechanics. Simple objectives will appear, and while some will point you in the right direction, others leave a lot to be desired in terms of what you actually need to accomplish.
It’s within this tutorial you’ll also learn how to scavenge materials to build new buildings and upgrade your camp. This is where one of Floodland’s biggest hurdles resides, as it becomes clear very quickly you can bottleneck yourself into tough scenarios. As you scrounge around for resources, it’s easy to rapidly run out, stopping yourself from upgrading your camp or assisting those who are in need of the materials. Things become a little easier as you progress through the map and build constructs to assist your resource management, but it’s far too easy to get yourself in these tough spots with little to no wiggle room to escape.
All of this feeds back into the ideology of making tough decisions in Floodland, and while some may thrive off the added pressure of resource management, it feels fairly punishing - even on lower difficulties. Thankfully, the UI of Floodland manages to balance being complex and simple to use in one fell swoop. Presented in a minimalist way, you’ll easily be able to identify research trees and quickly learn the commands on screen and how they help you in the grand scheme of things.
A Flood Of Technical Issues
Another hurdle Floodland runs into is its current release state. During our playtime, we encountered an array of bugs, which ranged from minor to almost game-breaking. Initially, the game wouldn’t start before updating our graphics settings. Menus were filled with placeholder text and there was no music to be heard. In-game, the experience didn’t let up with other glitches hindering the experience
From frame rate dips to the game completely locking up when attempting to zoom in and out, Floodland feels as though it’s constantly fighting back against you to enjoy the game. Consistent game crashes are also sprinkled throughout, meaning the best bet is to set the autosave function to trigger fairly regularly. The only problem here is that it can often cause the game to lock up when saving and crash, creating a catch-22.
In its current state, Floodland feels more like an early-access release, rather than a full retail launch. With an array of balance issues, buried underneath a sea of glitches, there’s constantly always something in the way of your enjoyment. It’s a shame, as the framework here is set for a fantastic management survival sim, but in its current state, it’s hard to recommend jumping in until a few patches tighten things up.
Great Ideas, Mixed Results
With that being said, the ideas in Floodland are fantastic and are building to something special. Constant roadblocks may hinder the experience, but for genre veterans, or players looking for a tougher challenge, you may be able to see past the negatives and bite into what makes Floodland so unique.
Despite its flaws, Floodland still manages to be a captivating adventure with a gorgeous visual style, wonderful score, and mechanics that just need a little bit of fine-tuning to become more accessible. If you’re bored with other titles in the genre such as Frostpunk, then Floodland could be the next big thing, at least when its little niggles have all been ironed out.
Reviewed on PC. Code provided by the publisher.