Written by Maurice Verschuur
September 26th, 2019 – Do you ever get that feeling while watching a trailer; this is the best of my favorite worlds? This happened to me when seeing a trailer from Flotsam for the first time. I got even more excited when i received a key from developer Pajama Llama Games earlier this week to play the Early Access, which released today. The survival-based town builder is set in a waterlogged world and features moving towns. The world reminded me of the 1995 movie ‘Waterworld’ (IMDB link), one of my favorite movies from that decade. The story in this case is not relevant, but the world is. Set in an era where, you probably guessed it, the world is changed into one big ocean. People try to survive in small floating towns, the bad guys have a huge oil tanker transformed into their own town.
The gameplay mechanics on the other hand reminded me of Frostpunk, a likewise survival-based town builder. But instead of floating on the ocean in the burning sun. Frostpunk plays out during an ice age that covers the world during the industrial revolution. City’s are abondend and only a few people survived. It’s your task to build up a new town with the survivors while snow is covering the world. Altough the story behind Flotsam isn’t known yet, the two games have the obvious similarity of playing out in a post apocalyptic world due to a natural disaster. The other similarity can be found in the gameplay and espcialy the way your town is formed. You start out with a building in the middle and expand your town around it. In Frostpunk this center building is called The Generator, a steam engine to keep your citizens warm. In Flotsam it’s named the Townheart, a lighthouse/storage facility to keep goods and most importantly, fresh water.
Creating and managing
You can call me a sucker for building and management games. Anno 1800, Prison Architect, Project Hospital, Frostpunk, Cities Skylines and many more. If i start up one of these, time flies and i’ll easily play a few hours straight. Flotsam does the same for me. But why? It’s the feeling you get when you start out with nothing, like an empty canvas. You take a few first steps figuring out the basics. What resources are there? Which one are scares? How do you collect them? You construct your first building from which on you unlock and build more and more. Eventually you have a serie of buildings, connected to each other to form a production chain. This form of creation, investing hours in building something from the ground up the way you like and solving problems on the way, is what appeals me to games like Anno 1800, Frostpunk and now also Flotsam.
Sailing the sea
What makes Flotsam, in my opnion, unique compared to other building games is your town can sail the ocean. As soon as you’ve build some sails you’re good to go. And you will need to, because the resources floating around and found on small islands are scares. A map shows the path you can sail. Some places can be reached with only your sails, but for others you’ll need gasoline because the wind is not in your favour. So you can scavange gasoline, but where is the engine? In the Early Access there was no clear sign of propulsion any other then the sails. Maybey it’s beneath the Townsheart. I don’t know. The engine is simply somehwere… it’s an Early Access.
Flotsam is a survival-based town builder. The survival part in this Early Access means you’ll have to find and manage your resources in order to expand your population and create a sustainable town. Especially in the beginning this is a challenge on it’s own. But once you have build a substainable town it becomes much easier to manage. The developers have stated they “aim to add more buildings and boats, enabling you to face increased threats to your town.” This probably means the survival part wil expand to challenging events your town and it citizens will face. This will lead to a more broader survival-based town builder then it already is in this Early Acces version.
Flotsam is available on Steam as an Early Access. These days there a lot of games launched that carry this label. Some more successful then others, but the Early Access for Flotsam feels solid. Even with the occasional bugs. You got the basic mechanics you would expect from a survival-based builder game. Altough it already feels good it does miss some content as you would expect from an Early Access. The developers say they will keep the game in Early Acces for roughly a year to add for example more content
“We have a lot in store for Flotsam, and we’re planning on realizing the full potential of the gameplay. We’ll be working on regular patches in Early Access until we feel the game is ready to ship. Looking at the planned content, this will be roughly a year. We want the full version of Flotsam to be a completely replayable experience, with an ever changing world, with new biomes to travel to, with more varied landmarks. Keeping player feedback in mind, the plan is to enrich this world with more ways of interacting with the different landmarks and their inhabitants. With multiple options of salvaging, scouting and traveling the world and ways of using resources. We plan to have more guidance with game spanning quests, huge projects to craft, and extra stories about the flooded world. For example drifters, including the animals you rescued, might evolve to have more varied needs, quirks and abilities. Some might be unlocked as starting characters. We aim to add more buildings and boats, enabling you to face increased threats to your town.”