The surviving city builders put the fear of God into me. There is something about running an entire civilization of people that is getting on my nerves. Managing the last group of people alive in whatever world they live in made me question all my decisions as if I were cutting wires under a bomb.
It’s a relief, then, that Floodland is a bit cooler than some of its city-building contemporaries. Gone are the threats to humanity like the great winter storm in Frostpunk, which squeezes you forever and periodically tightens its grip around your neck. Here you have a simple group of stranded civilians looking to pick up the pieces in the wake of horrific floods.
To achieve this they turned to you, some omnipotent looking down from above. The game takes a much more personal approach to how you interact with other survivor city builders. It’s not about going through a world-ending crisis, but picking up the pieces in the aftermath of said crisis. The focus is on how people come together — or don’t — in the aftermath of a disaster and whether they can put aside their differences and personal values.
You can take charge of one of four groups, each with its own stat bonus and pre-set worldviews. The Good Neighbors are hard-working suburban survivors with very “traditional” American values for example, while the Fire Brigade is a more liberal colony that values personal growth and freedom above community. These traits define some of the roadblocks you’ll encounter most in Floodland. When someone dies of starvation or disease, the Good Neighbor will urge you to consult his family about what to do, while the pragmatic former oil workers of Berkut-3 will want to take the deceased and study it. Periodic choices are of paramount importance to managing the level of unrest for your Floodland clan. You often go against their desires and risk angering them to the point of robbery and beating.
These decisions are multiplied when clans unite. Ocean Floodland may be automatically generated for replay, but you will always have the opportunity to collaborate with another group and welcome them into your community. Here’s where things get tricky: law-abiding, benevolent neighbors may not deal with the more liberal fire brigade, so decisions about what to do with deceased clan members may greatly anger one party while saturating the other.
“Making decisions in favor of one faction is all well and good, but when there are two or more clans in the mix, it can take a hit.”
Making decisions in favor of one faction is all well and good, but when there are two or more clans in the mix, it can take a hit. Every question now asked to you by your faction – such as creating an organized sports league (priorities, people) – can have dire consequences for one group over another, leading to a breakdown in relationships and even looting. It’s a simple yet clever way to increase your decision stakes in a split second, and Floodland constantly puts you in the spotlight for making the tough calls.
This more engaged approach to the survivor community makes some of your decisions even sadder. Periodically enacting laws allows you to shape the civilization in which these people live, and leads them to certain paths in life. Do these survivors deserve a militia that spouts their necks in the name of “peace,” or should they be free to largely control themselves, even if it leads to rampant looting when supplies are scarce? There are no easy answers in the law-making process in Floodland, which makes things even more difficult.
Choices that can radically and irreversibly change the future of your community, the usual basic elements of city building are here. You will have to manage food and water counters, collect berries, fish and sea water together to curb the waves of hunger and thirst for your clan. Floodland quickly becomes a game to expand and adapt to the needs of your inhabitants: if you pick all the berries in the vicinity, you will need to find and develop an alternative way to produce food, such as fishing boats.
However, these decisions have unforeseen implications and unpredictable consequences. Fishing rafts may be a relatively stable source of food, but the fish is classified as “risky,” meaning that it can cause food poisoning in your population. Floodland is, at its core, a game about putting one foot ahead and responding to any disasters, constantly balancing the needs of your inhabitants and moving forward and exploring the flooded wastelands.
Here Floodland is walking a great tightrope. Strategic city builders often have a balanced act of being proactive or reactive. Does the game allow you to get adventurous and solve problems as you progress, or suddenly introduce roadblocks that you need to respond to quickly? Floodland falls primarily in the latter category, as the game’s overarching story tasks you with finding solutions to problems like killer fish swarming your shores, or desperately searching on the horizon for locations where lost scouts might be hiding.
There is such a bottleneck in E&P that because knowledge is so important, you often seem to wait for knowledge points to accumulate before you can tackle issues
This wouldn’t really be a problem if Floodland wasn’t quite ready to force players down a path dominated by quest. Creating a “study” building where citizens can debate and learn is the main source of your knowledge points, which can in turn be used to upgrade your civilization with better buildings and tools. You’ll need to find welding torches to hack and explore the massive destroyed buildings scattered over the horizon, for example, or spend some time researching how to build proper homes to keep people from getting frustrated.
The problem here is that the study is a slow source of knowledge income, but it’s also one of the few reliable sources of knowledge in Floodlands. Giving players too little or too much to do in strategic simulations like Floodland is a tricky balancing act, and because there is a bottleneck in exploration and production due to the importance of knowledge, you often seem to wait for knowledge points to accumulate before you can tackle problems. This makes Floodlands a more “interactive” experience, which isn’t entirely redundant, it just puts the player in a vulnerable position.
Floodland brings a nice personal touch to the city-building genre, as the people and the disaster they survived go after your every move and decisions. Blending clans and merging communities into one another is another ingenious touch, giving additional weight to each pivotal decision. When Floodland falls a bit, the player is forced to respond to periodic roadblocks as the production bottleneck gets tighter, hampering creativity somewhat in favor of a specific path. It is by no means a losing deal.
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