PREVIEW: Flotsam

Sep
30

PREVIEW: Flotsam

A colorful but somewhat limited version of WaterWorld

Released: Steam Early Access
Type: Single-player
Genre: Management, Survival
Developer: Pajama Llama Games
Publisher: Kongregate,
Release date: 26 September, 2019

Overview

Flotsam is an Early Access survival and management game set in a post-apocalyptic world where the seas covered almost all land. Plastic and wood float everywhere and the last humans live in floating cities made of junk. The player is tasked with the management of one such city and its inhabitants, called drifters.

Waterworld, without violence

Flotsam keeps a relaxing gameplay during all city stages: initially water and food will be short, but there’s never really the need to do everything very fast to survive. The game even lets the player test a little at the very start, giving him food and drinkable water reserves.

Initially, the main problem is having a stable source of food and water: these two resources are, in fact, not as easy to gather as I thought. Water requires boiling, to separate the actual liquid from the salt. To boil water a dedicated building is required and it uses firewood to make the water boil. Firewood is made in another building, using dry wood, that is obtained by drying the logs that can be found floating around the ocean. Again, not so easy! And all this is only for water!

All these hoops make for a game that requires some management skills and, luckily, doesn’t feel artificially difficult or too heavy to play. Resources are, in fact, handled naturally: you’ll never create metal pipes using plastics, for example. Managing the town after resolving the food and water problem isn’t that difficult and it slowly becomes a grind to build the more advanced buildings.

Food and water are a problem in the early game.

Fish, fish and more fish

The more the player advances in the game the more autonomous the city becomes. Solar stills are researchable and automatically provide a small source of water, without the need of the process listed above. There’s a building used to catch fishes, so the player doesn’t have to manually tell his drifters to do it. After the initial hurry to find food and water the game slows down: here is where the game needs features that still aren’t present into the game. Something that keeps the player, well… playing, after the initial hours.

After the first two hours the need of the player’s intervention becomes a lot lower.

To boldly go where no man has gone before

Having a floating city means that it can be moved around and, in fact, Flotsam has a convenient system of waypoints that can be used to move the town. Opening the map details where you are and what you will find in the next areas. Not all areas are reachable, though. There are two sources of motion: wind, that can be exploited by building a big sail, or oil. The first one lets the city move only in one direction, while the second can be used to move diagonally.

Exploration is limited by the low number of different area events.

Depending on the area, different points of interest can be found: a small decaying village on the top of a mountain, a factory in ruins, survivors on a small island… The events are very basic and unoriginal, so after the same one appears for the third time the desire to discover disappears.

Future developments

Flotsam is in dire need of content to keep the player hooked for more than four hours, adding not only more buildings, but also more map events, some dangers (pirates? seaquakes?) and some basic stuff like traveling merchants. The fact that after the first two hours there’s no more need for the player to manage food and water should move the focus to something more interesting, like the security of the town or the wellness of its drifters.

Verdict

Flotsam is a game that just entered Early Access. It will hopefully become a more solid management game in a year or so. Right now, unfortunately, it is a mere base of the game it will become, which is a bit too little for the steep asking price of $24.99 / €22.99 / £19.99.

About texdade

I'm a master Computer Science student and passionate gamer, always looking for games that bring something new to the table. Normally an FPS/RPG person, but also play a lot of strategy and management games. I just can't play TPS or sport games. Oh, and I can't stop dumping money on MTG cards, for some reason.

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