When Floodland was revealed at Gamescom just over a month ago, it didn’t hesitate to shine a grim light on our real-world climate crisis. Polish developer Vile Monarch conceived Floodland as a post-catastrophic society survival game, in which unprecedented flooding has drowned most of the earth as a result of unchecked global warming. It’s surprising, then, that the game’s distressingly tangible future has such a feeling of cooperation and hope. With Floodland‘s launch date of November 15 getting closer, Vile Monarch and Ravenscourt gave Screen Rant a brief hands-on look at the game.
The development team at Vile Monarch includes a lot of key talent from 11 Bit Studios, which is famous for Frostpunk and the anti-war game This War of Mine. That pedigree certainly shines through in Floodland, both in its systems and its themes. The player is charged with leading, maintaining and advancing a group of climate refugees as they establish themselves on what little dry land can be found. The group is determined by selecting a clan at the start of the game, which also determines your sociopolitical worldview going forward. Different clans have different traits and bonuses based in their worldview, which effect survivability, development, and interaction with others. The idea of clans is an exciting innovation on the society survival formula, even though it couldn’t be explored to its full extent in the preview.
Floodland is charting new territory for the genre in a number of other ways, too. While games like This War of Mine and Frostpunk were very much about hunkering down in one place and subsisting on the immediate surroundings, Floodland demands that the player journey out into the unknown in order to survive. After making landfall for the first time, it becomes almost immediately necessary to send out scouting and scavenging parties. The resources around the initial outpost will last for a little while, but migration and adaptation are the core of the game. Charting the hidden parts of the map, building up a network of camps across the wetlands, and finding new people to run them is crucial to the game’s ultimate goal of creating a sustainable society.
That expanding society has to be maintained as well, which is where technological research and lawmaking comes in. Like its predecessors, Floodland layers a complex social system over its video game survival mechanics to create an ever-engaging balancing act. Where it differs from its predecessors is in its tone: these people aren’t just trying to endure until tomorrow, they’re trying to make a new start for humanity on earth. That sense of hope pervades the game and imbues a real desire to take care of your survivors and make new discoveries. Even in the opening hours of Floodland, seeing the many kinds of ruins jutting up from the hazy horizon of the map makes one wonder at the possibilities in the full game.
For fans of the admittedly-niche society survival genre, Floodland is shaping up to be a must-play. There are still a few things it could stand to improve before launch, however, like the choppy performance and dated visuals. It’s certainly not as accessible as Minecraft, either – the lack of effective tutorials might put newer players off before they even get started. All things considered, though, Floodland feels like a smart, topical survival sim with a message of hope over despair, and fans don’t have to wait much longer to play it for themselves.
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Floodland will be released on Steam on November 15, 2022.