- Developed by Vogelsap
- Published by Vogelsap
- $16.99 – €16,99
- Full Controller Support
- Available on…. (click for respective storefronts)
The Flock is an asymmetrical, multiplayer only horror title that aims to bring you the exhilarating thrill of the hunt as a member of the game’s titular race of bestial monsters and the terror of being hunted as the lone carrier of everyone’s favorite glorified flashlight.
Matches consist of three to five players. At the beginning of each match everyone is a member of the Flock, jumping and galloping around not unlike your average lycan until the “Artifact” spawns somewhere on the map. It’s location is denoted by a giant beam of light shooting up into the sky for everyone to see.
At this point players must haul ass to get there first and acquire the artifact thus transforming them into “The Carrier.” A player can only win a match as the Carrier and they do so by either lasting the longest as such or by completing objectives on the map (which can only be completed by The Carrier).
This is where the horror elements of the game come into play. As The Carrier your only defense against the Flock (other players) is to shine the light of the Artifact on them which causes them to burn up in appropriately looking agony. Unlike the agile Flock who can jump and gallop all over the map to take advantage of its verticality, the Carrier is limited to moving within its pathways which may force you into tight corridors or wide open spaces so complete awareness of one’s total surroundings is a must if you aim to survive.
Completing objectives as the Carrier means you’ll be looking to see if a blue orb has spawned in any of the preset locations on the map. You’re made aware that it spawned by a blue flash and its location is made known to you by way of an upwards beam of blue light similar to how players were alerted to the location of the Artifact at the start of the match. However, only the Carrier can see this light. You’ll go there and shine the Artifact on it for a few seconds which leaves yourself vulnerable but if you’re successful you enjoy a hefty boost in points.
As the Flock the only way to defend yourself against the light of the Artifact is by not moving an inch when it shines on you. When you stop moving you transform into a statue, impervious to the harmful rays and looking really really creepy to the Carrier who probably only just saw you moving and must now keep an eye on you lest they turn around and you spring an attack while their back is turned.
So with all that said, how is it? I’ll explain by describing what it’s like to play as The Flock and the Carrier respectively and how that all ties in to my opinion of the game as a whole.
It’s not very fun to play as these guys. It really isn’t. On paper it sounds great because you hear about how agile they are and how they can climb and use height as an advantage when stalking their prey, However when put into practice you quickly realize that your physical prowess consists of a sprinting gallop and your ability to “climb” walls is entirely dependent on whether or not you can jump higher than the wall in question.
The Flock can’t jump to the edge of a surface and nimbly pull themselves up over it as you might expect to be able to in a game like Mirror’s Edge or Dying Light. The sharp claws on their hands and feet aren’t used to dig into and scale surfaces either, as their design might suggest. Basically, if your entire character model can’t jump higher than that wall, then you ain’t gettin over that wall and you need to find another way.
The Flock possess a skeletal structure that allows for galloping & pouncing on all fours but apparently that’s where the acrobatic abilities of the species come to an end.
Unless you count them being able to jump kinda high.
This lack in mobility means that you won’t be climbing and stalking about the place like a panther but instead you’ll be mashing the jump button over and over as you run around looking for walls you can get over. This is an especially frustrating experience as the game’s surfaces detect the model of the Flock’s head and outstretched neck so you have to consciously remember to stand a foot or so away from the surface you want to jump over to maximize your height lest you get caught on pixels and your jump is halted.
As per the game’s rules you are effectively losing when playing as the Flock because they can’t win or amass points in any way so hunting the Carrier should be a rewarding experience in and of itself but it just isn’t.
You’re not a predator so much as you are an awkward monster stumbling about the place.
The Flock do have a couple other abilities at their disposal, the first of which being the ability to leave a decoy of yourself somewhere on the map and being able to swap places with it with the touch of a button.
This can be a fun way to mess with the Carrier as a map may have statues of the Flock littered around as scenery.
A crafty member of the Flock can leave a decoy of themselves where it might seem innocuous, wait down below for the Carrier to pass by it, switch places and spring the attack.
It’s a fun tactic when playing the game slow like that but out of the three maps available (that being Slums, The Caves and the Temple) only the Temple has statues of the Flock in it as scenery which means on any other map the Carrier is going to know a decoy is either that or the real thing.
This means that using a decoy isn’t as effective a tactic unless you develop your skills around making use of it on a fast, situational basis.
The second ability is called the Flock Call which causes you to let out a roar. If other Flock answer it then all those involved reveal their positions to one another, also becoming faster and stronger.
I do not understand the purpose of this ability at all.
You are effectively playing against the other members of the Flock so why would I want to participate in making my opponents stronger and faster? Furthermore because there’s only one Carrier and only the Carrier can win, any ideas about coordinating attacks via the Flock Call begs the same question: Why would I want to?
It’s a neat effect but it’s practical use is slim to none.
Overall playing as the Flock is a shallow attempt at making you feel like a predator due to weak mobility and abilities with incredibly niche applications. You should’ve been a parkouring Deathclaw.
Where the game fails to make you feel like a hunter as the Flock, it nonetheless excels at making you feel like the hunted as the Carrier and it’s as the Carrier that the true joy of playing can be had.
The moment you get that successful strike you’re in the shoes of the Carrier. You’re alone, weak, small, and there’s monsters out there to get you and they can get you from nearly every angle (provided those controlling them can mange to get up a wall).
It’s a surprisingly tense experience running around trying to stay alive and complete objectives. You feel a real sense of dread that someone is going to be waiting for you around the next corner because the game succeeds at making you forget its own limitations which results in a terrifying game of peek a boo as the Carrier.
There’s not much that the Carrier can do to really defend themselves aside from keeping the light on would be attackers. You have to keep moving to keep the light on and if you stop for too long it flickers and goes out.
You can shut off the light altogether and flick it back on to try and catch your enemies off guard if you know where they’re at but this generally is a bad idea and usually results in death.
You can also adjust the range of the light, widening or narrowing the beam but I personally didn’t see much of a purpose for doing this as you’ll typically kill a member of the Flock at close range.
Coinciding with the fun of being hunted, I found controlling the Carrier to also be a more rewarding experience because you have an objective to complete aside from simply staying alive. There is more “game” to be had when playing as the Carrier as opposed to the Flock who have only one real objective and it’s one that never changes nor awards points. There’s a real sense of purpose here that is much more gratifying than playing as the Flock and suffering the constant feeling of “I’m losing.”
Despite being a far more thrilling and engaging experience the Carrier suffers from similar pitfalls to the Flock concerning their mobility.
They can’t jump as the Flock can. They can only walk or sprint, effectively being glued to the ground. This creates some issues on a map like the Caves which is full of uneven surfaces and jagged edges that the Carrier can easily get stuck on trying to navigate around which results in a cheap death.
This was a minor issue though that didn’t really take away much from the superior enjoyment I had playing as one.
WHO’S YOUR DECORATOR?
Aesthetically speaking I love the Flock moreso for its potential than what’s shown in game. On paper the Flock are truly sinister looking creatures and the environments shown in concept art are beautiful but in engine the lack of proper texturing and somewhat awkward modeling (particularly when galloping) makes for a vision that struggles in the translation.
It’s one of those games that from afar looks fairly good but upon closer inspection you see some real ugliness that most certainly could’ve benefited from more polish.
But the game does have atmosphere and loads of it. The soundtrack is a low haunting murmur during matches with the occasional swift rise in instrumentals to accent the fear of getting pounced on and all through out you’ll hear the echoing snarls of the Flock themselves as they call to one another to attempt to freak you out.
You’ll notice how, once again, this is all when you’re the Carrier. Adding to the list of the reasons why they’re far more enjoyable to play is because the game’s atmosphere is most appreciated as them.
All in all it’s not the worst looking game. Thematically I feel it’s spot on, but the game could do with much more polished texture and model work.
TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE……….OR IS IT?
The Flock is an experiment of sorts. One of its “selling points” is that eventually the game will effectively die. There is a global population counter that tracks every single Flock and Carrier death and it ticks down with each one.
When the counter hits zero the game will no longer be available for sale and the servers will shut down following what the developers call a “climactic finale” for those who own the game at that time.
It’s an interesting idea but one I feel whose purpose is extremely unclear. What’s the use? To determine if people would buy a game they knew upfront had an expiration date? Why spend and risk losing the money on development if you’re going to potentially lose out on an audience by alienating them into thinking there’s no point in buying?
Their reasoning for this is as follows:
Most indie multiplayer games lose their player base within a year. Even heavy hitters such as Titanfall and Evolve have a fast dwindling player base. The most popular games such as League of Legends and Counter-Strike still have a somewhat anticlimactic ending of their players’ experience. Because in the end at some point – and this can be after five years or two months – you’ll stop playing because you either got bored of it, you’ve seen it all or you, or your friends have no longer time to play.
We want to tackle that problem, and make sure The Flock ends with a climax after which the game will be fondly remembered. Much like a lot of single player experiences where you have a huge battle or a boss fight.
We have three design goals for this game. We want to make a:
1. scary/tense game
2. immersive experience (that you really feel like a monster, or being hunted as the Carrier)
3. and do it in an unconventional way.
It’s an interesting and admirable approach to game design but the flaw in their plan is that overall the game just isn’t that good. It has its redeeming qualities and I’ve explained what they are but the The Flock simply is a mixed bag that doesn’t amount to much in the end.
It’s a title that’s full of potential and lays the ground work for an experience that can be as engaging as it is frightening but in its current state I simply can’t recommend it.
The Flock handle like ass, there’s only three maps and one mode of play and its playerbase is shrinking every day thanks to game breaking bugs that plagued it its first week of launch. I personally didn’t experience anything of the like during my time with it however, having only experienced a graphical bug on a statue once.
To their credit Vogelsap is addressing the game’s technical issues as fast as they can and updating on the regular but even with a technically flawless game, it’s gameplay loop is still extremely simple and bound to get repetitive.
While I enjoyed my time with The Flock that enjoyment really only stemmed from one half of the game’s core and that’s not enough to justify a recommendation.
Especially at $16.99 which is a tall order for a game of this caliber possessing as much content as it does.
Finally the population counter seems to be a moot point since after doing some math it would take decades before it reached zero, having began at over 215 million which is just a ridiculous number.
I’ll be surprised if anyone is around at that point to care about The Flock’s “climactic finale.”