‘Floodland’ Highlights The Climate Crisis Without Holding Back: I utterly lose count of time while playing Floodland in preview hands-on mode. When I sit down, I remind myself, “Just 20 minutes,” because I have places to be and people to see. There will always be another appointment; this is Gamescom, after all.
Despite this, I find myself completely absorbed in providing my group of survivors with the necessities they require to regain some semblance of a life worth living after the world of the game—our world—has been devastated by rising sea levels. These necessities include shelter, clean water, and a supply of food.
Floodland is a strategy game that plays out in a reasonably laid-back manner but isn’t afraid to show players the reality that might be in store for their children, their children’s children, or even themselves sooner rather than later if we are indeed dangerously close to passing notable environmental tipping points.
At first, at least, because I’m just getting these folks going in my demo; later, as nomadic factions join and the availability of livable dry land is challenged, the city-builder/survival game will undoubtedly raise the stakes. Resources are scarce in this mostly submerged environment. Therefore the more people you have in your community, the greater their demands and, consequently, the more resources you’ll need.
Tarpaulins are transformed into tents, and the trash that covers the landscape is made into building materials. Gradually, people begin to find a use for themselves and a reason to have hope. Floodland’s creators, however, see it as a significant statement about the state of the climate problem, which is to say that few are doing nearly enough to meet the challenges we confront.
As a society, we advance in terms of culture and technology, but if and when the seas rise, it can cause us to go back hundreds of years. The game’s purpose is “not to preach but to investigate decisions, repercussions, and the concept of responsibility from multiple aspects,” according to Kacper Kwiatkoski, the game’s designer at Polish studio Vile Monarch (who previously worked on This War of Mine).
Floodland’s colorful design, which draws inspiration from works of literature like The Road and Children of Men, is aesthetically beautiful but shouldn’t be mistaken for a casual game with few risks. According to Kwiatkoski, this is “a mature and realistic post-apocalypse”—not one with warring robots caused by a powerful AI going rogue or shambling undead monsters—but one that is the result of humankind’s own decisions and inaction.
Although a lot is happening in the background of the screen, many clues will help you decide what to do and how to manage your expanding population. (I say this as someone who typically steers clear of strategy games.) The map may be freely turned, and new areas can be discovered through exploration.
Additionally, decaying structures and abandoned homes, which are all half-collapsed and rotting, can be searched for supplies and stragglers that you can include in your party. Along with goals to complete, your group’s morale must be monitored, and research must move forward. As you play, you’ll have access to skill points that can be used to create facilities and technologies, however rudimentary, that will help your society in some ways.
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Beliefs are important because every “clan” has its values and adheres to its moral code. Other groups, however, may not share these values. It will be interesting to see how conflict is handled and resolved in Floodland when the entire game, developed by Ravenscourt, launches on PC on November 15, 2022.
It will also be interesting to observe how many players who grow engrossed in this game find themselves considering how they interact with the world since this may be the inspiration some of us need to act differently.