Survival city builders put the fear of God in me. There’s just something about managing an entire civilization of people that just rips my nerves. Dealing with the last group of people alive, whatever world they inhabit, makes me question every decision I make like I’m cutting wires under a bomb.
So it’s a relief that Floodland is a little colder than some of its city-building contemporaries. Gone are the threats that end humanity like the great winter storm of Frostpunk, which forever descends upon you and periodically tightens its grip around your neck. Here you have a simple group of stranded civilians looking to pick up the pieces following an apocalyptic flood.
To accomplish this, they looked to you, an almighty God-like being looking down from above. The game takes a much more personal approach to how you interact with its survivors than other city builders. It is not about navigating a global crisis, but about picking up the pieces in the aftermath of said crisis. The focus is on how people come together – or not – in the wake of a disaster and whether they can put aside their differences and personal values.
You can take on one of four groups, each with their own stat bonuses and predetermined worldviews. The Good Neighbors are hard-working suburban survivors with very “traditional” American values, for example, while the Firefighters are a more liberal colony that values personal growth and freedom above community. These traits establish some of the roadblocks you’ll face further into Floodland. When someone drops dead from starvation or disease, the Good Neighbors urge you to consult with their family on what to do, while the pragmatic former oil workers of Berkut-3 will want to pick up and study the deceased. Periodic picks are paramount to managing your clan’s level of unrest in Floodland. Go against their wishes too often and you risk annoying them to flight and strike.
These decisions are compounded when clans join forces. Floodland’s environment can be auto-generated for replayability, but you’ll still have the option to team up with another group and welcome them into your community. This is where things get tricky: the good, law-abiding neighbors might not mingle with the more libertarian firefighters, so decisions about what to do with deceased clansmen could antagonize a party considerably while satiating the other.
“Making decisions for the good of one faction is all well and good, but when there are two or more clans in the mix it can come to blows”
Making decisions for the good of one faction is fine, but when there are two or more clans in the mix, it can come to blows. Every question you are now asked by your faction – such as whether to create a regulated sports league (priorities, people) – can have dire consequences for one group over another, leading to broken relationships and even looting . It’s a simple yet smart way to raise the stakes for split-second decision-making, and Floodland constantly puts you in the spotlight to make the tough decisions.
This more involved approach to your community of survivors makes some of your decisions more harrowing. Periodic adoption of laws allows you to shape the civilization in which these people live, guiding them along certain paths of life. Do these survivors deserve a militia blowing their necks in the name of “peace” or should they be free to largely watch over themselves, even if it leads to looting when supplies run low? There are no easy answers in crafting the laws of Floodland, which makes things more laborious.
Aside from choices that could drastically and irreversibly change the future of your community, the usual building blocks of town building are here. You’ll need to manage food and water meters, collecting berries, fish and seawater to hold back the tides of hunger and thirst in your clan. The flooded lands quickly become a game of expanding and adapting to the needs of your population: if you have gathered all the berries in the area, you will have to research and develop another method of food production, such as fishing rafts.
These decisions, however, have unintended repercussions and consequences. A fishing raft can be a relatively stable food source, but the fish are classified as “at risk”, which means they can potentially cause food poisoning among your population. Floodland is, at heart, a game of stepping forward and reacting to any disaster, constantly balancing the needs of your population against advancing and exploring flooded lands.
This is where Floodland walks a mighty and thin tightrope. Strategic city builders are often a balance between being proactive or reactive. Does the game allow you to adventure and solve problems as you go, or does it suddenly introduce obstacles that you need to react to quickly? Floodland mostly falls into the latter category, as the game’s overarching storyline tasks you with finding solutions to problems like killer fish invading your shores or desperately searching the horizon for places lost scouts might be hiding.
There is such a bottleneck in exploration and production due to the importance of knowledge, it often feels like you are waiting for knowledge points to accumulate before you can tackle the problems
It wouldn’t be much of a problem if Floodland weren’t so intent on forcing players down a research-dominated path. Building a “study” building where citizens can debate and learn is your main source of knowledge points, which can in turn be used to upgrade your civilization with better buildings and tools. You’ll need to hunt down welding torches to break through and explore the huge, crumbling buildings that dot the skyline, for example, or spend time researching how to build good houses to keep people from getting discouraged.
The problem here is that studying is a slow source of knowledge income, but it’s also one of the few reliable sources of knowledge in the floodlands. Giving players too little or too much to do in strategic sims like Floodland is a difficult balancing act, and because there is such a bottleneck in exploration and production due to the importance of knowledge, it often feels like waiting for knowledge points to accumulate. before you can tackle the problems. This makes Floodlands a more “responsive” experience, which isn’t entirely redundant, it just pisses the player off.
Floodland brings a nice, personal twist to the city-building genre, with the people and the calamity they survived stalking your every move and decision. Mixing clans and integrating societies into each other is another deft touch, lending extra weight to every crucial decision. Where Floodland falls a bit, forces the player to react to periodic roadblocks with an increasingly tight production bottleneck, somewhat hampering creativity in favor of a set path. It is by no means a dealbreaker.
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