Flood Zone Review: Building cities with a community focus

Survival city builders put the fear of God in me. There is just something about running an entire civilization of people that tears my nerves apart. Managing the last group of people living in the world they live in makes me question my every decision as if I were cutting threads under a bomb.

It’s a relief, then, that Floodland is a little colder than some of its contemporary city builders. Gone are the threats that put an end to humanity like Frostpunk’s great winter storm, which falls forever upon you and periodically tightens its grip around your neck. Here you have a simple group of stranded civilians trying to pick up the pieces in the aftermath of an apocalyptic flood.

To accomplish this they turned to you, a God-like almighty being who looks down on you. The game takes a much more personal approach to how you interact with its survivors than other city builders. It is not about tackling a crisis that ends the world, but about picking up the pieces in the aftermath of that crisis. The focus is on how people come together – or not – in the wake of the disaster and whether they can put aside their personal differences and values.

You can take charge of one of four groups, each with their own predetermined stat bonuses and worldviews. The Good Neighbors are hardworking 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 will face later in Floodland. When someone dies of starvation or disease, the Good Neighbors will urge you to consult 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 choices are key to managing your clan’s level of turmoil in Floodland. You go against their wishes too often and you risk irritating them to the point of stealing and hitting them.

These decisions are compounded when clans join forces. Floodland surroundings may be auto-generated for replayability, but you will always be offered the option to collaborate with another group and welcome them into your community. This is where things get tough: good law-abiding neighbors may not join the more libertarian firefighters, so decisions about what to do with deceased clan members could drastically irritate one side while satiating the other.

“Making decisions for the sake of a faction is fine, but when there are two or more clans in the mix, it can come to blows.”

Making decisions for the sake of a faction is fine, but when there are two or more clans in the mix, it can come to blows. Every question now being asked of your faction – such as whether to establish a regulated sports league (priorities, people) – can have disastrous consequences for one group over another, leading to a breakdown in relationships and even looting. It’s a simple yet smart way to raise the decision stakes in a split second, and Floodland constantly puts you in the spotlight for making the tough calls.

This more involved approach to your survivor community makes some of your decisions more dire. The issuing of laws periodically allows you to shape the civilization in which these people live, guiding them along certain paths of life. Do these survivors deserve a breathless militia in the name of “peace”, or should they be free to monitor themselves extensively, even if that leads to outbreaks of looting when supplies are running low? There are no easy answers in the Floodland legislative process, which makes things more scrupulous.

Aside from the choices that could drastically and irreversibly change the future of your community, the usual foundations of city building are here. You will have to manage the food and water meters, gathering berries, fish and sea water to hold back your clan’s tides of hunger and thirst. Floodland quickly becomes a game of expansion and adaptation to the needs of your population: if you have caught all the berries nearby, you will have to research and develop an alternative method of food production, such as fishing rafts.

However, these decisions have ripple effects and unforeseen consequences. A fishing raft might be a relatively stable food source, but the fish are classified as “risky,” which means they can potentially cause food poisoning among your population. Floodland is, after all, a game of how to step forward and react to any disaster, constantly balancing the needs of your population against moving forward and exploring the flooded wasteland.

This is where Floodland walks a tightrope. Strategic city builders are often a balancing act between being proactive or reactive. Does the game allow you to venture out and troubleshoot as you go along or suddenly introduce roadblocks that you need to respond to quickly? Floodland falls mostly into the latter category, as the game’s overall storyline commits you to find solutions to problems like killer fish swarming your shores or desperately searching the horizon for places where lost explorers might be hiding.

There is such a bottleneck in exploration and production due to the importance of knowledge, it seems like you are often waiting for knowledge points to build up before you can tackle problems

This wouldn’t really be an issue if Floodland weren’t so intent on forcing players to follow a research-dominated path. Building a “study” building where citizens can discuss and learn is your main source of knowledge points, which in turn can be used to upgrade your civilization with better buildings and tools. You’ll need to research welding torches to drill through and explore the huge ruined buildings that dot the skyline, for example, or spend some time researching how to build suitable homes to keep people from getting discouraged.

The problem here is that the study is a slow source of knowledge income, but it is also one of the few reliable sources of knowledge in Floodlands. Giving players too little or too much to do in strategic sims like Floodland is a difficult balancing act, and as there is such a bottleneck in exploration and production due to the importance of knowledge, it seems like you’re often waiting for knowledge points to accumulate before being able to tackle problems. This makes Floodlands a more “responsive” experience, which is not entirely redundant, but only puts the player in the background.

Floodland brings a nice personal twist to the city building genre, with the people and calamity they survived haunting your every move and decision. Joining clans and integrating societies into one another is another skillful touch, adding weight to every fundamental decision. Where Floodland falls a bit it is forcing the player to react to periodic roadblocks with an increasingly narrow production bottleneck, somehow hindering creativity in favor of a predetermined path. However, it’s not a puzzle in any way.

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