In most city builders you need to think big by expanding your city and slowly covering the available land with houses and factories. But what if the land you’re building on is getting smaller and smaller while you’re trying to build bigger?
That’s the premise of ‘inverse city builder’ Flooded. The ocean is steadily rising and swallowing the island you’re building on, and you’ll need to rally your small group of hard-working miners to harvest the shrinking island’s resources. The plan is to eventually build an ark so you can escape the flood, but that’s not going to be easy: the longer you work and the more you build, the less land you have.
You begin on a procedurally generated island with a headquarters and few mining operations already working, but you need to quickly expand to boost your production. You can add new mines to resource nodes, build wells for water, and place warehouses to increase the amount of materials you can collect. All the while, a meter in the top left hand of the screen is filling as the clock ticks down to the inevitable: the next time the ocean will rise and you’ll lose the outer edges of your island to the encroaching tide.
As you complete objectives in Flooded, you advance into new eras of technology, from mining operations to electricity via solar panels to the expansion era, where you can start manufacturing artificial land so there are new squares to build on. And even though your island is being eaten away, you can unlock offshore mining platforms to harvest iron, lead, and copper from the seabed while your own little plot of land gets smaller. Eventually you can even begin building ships, including the ark you’ll use to save your workers and move onto the next island and new challenges.
The quickly rising seawater isn’t the only threat to your operation—there are other natural disasters like meteor impacts, erupting volcanoes, tornadoes, and harsh storms at sea that can sink your vessels. And with land being the most precious resource in the flooded world, enemies from other islands will invade in their own ships and try to take your stuff. That’s a lot of moving parts to manage while the sea slowly but steadily absorbs the world from under your feet.
I played a bit of Flooded today and it’s a pretty harrowing game. I was constantly trying to gather enough resources to build new factories and upgrade my existing ones, but that ocean meter is constantly counting down to the next flood like a big wet shadow ready to consume another precious swath of land. I faced some tricky choices as I played: if there’s a copper node close to shore, should I set up a mine on it to quickly extract as much as I can? Or should I leave it and build my factory further inland where I know the building won’t be swallowed by the ocean within the next few minutes?
For the record, I made it pretty far before my headquarters sank into the sea—I was almost to the stage where I can start building watercraft—but I feel like I learned enough to last longer the next time, maybe even escape to the next island.
If you want to see a full playthrough of one of Flooded’s procedurally generated islands, you should check out YouTuber Real Civil Engineer—a real civil engineer—because if anyone’s gonna succeed at successfully building a city during a flood, it’s probably a real civil engineer. If you want to play it yourself, Flooded (from the aptly-named developer Artificial Disasters) will float its way onto Steam next week on April 12.