When my other-half and I attended Rezzed in April last year, I didn’t expect him to choose Flotsam as one of his favourite titles at the show. It’s not the sort of thing he’d usually play; but somehow this unassuming ‘floating garbage town survival game’ had spoken to him above all the noise and bright lights at the other stands and managed to catch his attention.
We hadn’t heard much about Pajama Llama Games’ project since and so it was therefore a nice surprise to see it at this year’s EGX. It was out on the show floor this time instead of being tucked away in the Leftfield Collection and, as most attendees seemed to make a rush to get in the queues for the big-budget games as soon as the doors opened, we had the area mostly to ourselves. We therefore got to enjoy the new demo in relative peace with Co-Founder and Artist Juda-Ben Gordier kindly chatting to us.
The idea behind Flotsam originated when the Pajama Llama team decided they wanted to make a video game and took inspiration from an animated short about people living in a flooded world made by one of their artists. They threw it into a prototype and this eventually formed into a title where players must scavenge whatever debris they can from the ocean’s surface, use it to grow their floating city and do their best to survive on a watery post-apocalyptic planet.
Fortunately the flooded environment offers all kinds of relics from the old world to recycle and you’ll find wood, plastic and metal bobbing along on the waves. These remains can be transformed into boats and buildings to allow you to collect rainwater, hunt for various creatures and reel up scrap from the sea floor. Your community of ‘drifters’ will assist you by taking on the various priorities assigned to them but you’ll need to gather fish and drinkable water in order to keep them going.
It’s clear a lot of work has been completed since we last saw Flotsam almost 18 months ago and while it’s still recognisable, the depth of the game has expanded. A new aspect added recently is wind and currents. Juda-Ben helpfully explained that the remains of broken ships now gradually float towards your ‘Townheart’ so you can cleverly use the waves to your advantage, and eventually you’ll be able to build a sail and anchor for your city to move faster in the direction you wish to explore in.
With our overuse of plastic and its impact on the environment being a hot topic in the news recently, Flotsam’s arrival seems very well timed to deliver an important message. In an interview with Gamesauce back in September last year, Artist Stan Loiseaux revealed: “The environmental message is something which came naturally when working with a flooded world based on the world we live in. We’re now really pushing the recycling and environmental message it has because of this.”
I have to say that Pajama Llama’s version of the end of the world looks so inviting and I’m almost ready to go grab my swimsuit. This is down to what they’re referring to as a ‘feel-good apocalypse’ vibe: it’s light-hearted and quirky, and little animations seen when you zoom in give sense the drifters enjoy living in this world despite its harsh conditions. The title’s unique cell-shaded art style gives the game a huge amount of character and it’s hard not to stare at the water to see what you can discover beneath the waves.
All is not as peaceful as it seems though as everything is trying to eat you or sink your town to the depths of the sea. On your journey you’ll encounter dangerous animals, visitors with unknown intentions and mysterious ruins, so you’ll need to decide which obstacles to deal with and which to avoid completely. When I noticed the addition of a whale and asked Juda-Ben whether he would end up damaging our city at some point, he smiled and replied with a cryptic ‘Maybe.’
As I mentioned above, Flotsam isn’t the kind of game my other-half would usually be drawn to but I can understand why he’s attracted to it. A few years back we got into the habit of playing Guild of Dungeoneering in the evenings after work because it was so easy to dip into for an hour or so when we had limited time available. This exactly the feeling I got from Pajama Llama’s project: I can see us picking it up to gather a few more resources, check on the new building our drifters are creating, or find out what’s just over in the distance.
Juda-Ben told us that the title is likely to be released in Early Access in January and the Steam page is already up so you can add it to your wishlist. In the meantime, follow Pajama Llama Games on Twitter and Facebook to stay up to date on their progress.