Imagine a game that can no longer be bought after a number of players have died in the game. A game where players that managed to buy the game are brought to a new stage in this very moment, and upon completion of this stage, makes the game disappear forever. Imagine how unique it would have been to be one of the players whom have played this limited game, to be able to play it in its final stage when no one can buy it. This is exactly what The Flock is going for, and this is what makes it stand out against other Multiplayer games out there. But The Flock hardly touches upon how good it could have been; it isn’t unique in any way and the cease-to-exist selling argument feels more like a sham than anything.
The Flock is a First-Person Multiplayer game that puts one player against all the other players in a cat and mouse like chase, with a lamp. You either play as the carrier or the flock. As the carrier, you walk around the maps with a big lamp, and as the flock, which are an alien/monster race, you try to kill the carrier and by doing so, becoming it. Playing as the carrier you need to focus the lamp on the flock players to kill them, but they can only be killed if they are moving, so there is a lot of standing still and just watching the carrier, which on occasion can be fun and feel a little creepy, but mostly plain boring.
Playing as the flock, you move around very similar to the alien in the Alien vs. Predator games, without the wall-hanging, different kinds of attacks and all things that make them fun. You either walk slowly on two or run fast on all four, but getting the light in your face while moving will kill you. So far, I like the idea behind the game, where standing still makes you this kind of a statue, and there is a multitude of real statues looking like the flock placed all over the maps, but sadly it is only fun on paper and never reaches any of its potential in the game. I really wished I could tell stories of how I hid from the carrier among statues just to attack him right after he thought he was safe, but the stiff and boring level design never opens up for these moments.
Moving around as the flock feels very fluid with good and limited controls, it is kind of fresh with a game that doesn’t give multiple ways of killing or moving about, even if in this case makes the game more repetitive than it has to be. Moving around as the carrier is sadly a lot stiffer, while its walking mode fits the game in some sense, slower moment with a faster run mode for short burst would have added more to the tension the game so often misses.
Tension in these kind of games can also be very dependent on the visual style chosen for the game, and running the game on an old engine with low detailed grey and brown textures, is not the way to add tension to the game. Add that the lightning for the maps seems to have been completely forgotten making it a dark game with almost no shadows to trick your mind. I really hoped that, for a game that basically is about a big lamp, they would have put a bigger effort into its lightning.
While The Flock doesn’t feel unique at all in neither how it looks nor how it plays, it does have one selling point that really makes it stand out: The one I told you about in the beginning of how the game will eventually cease to exist. Before you rush over to Steam to be a part of something special, let me tell you this: There will be nothing special about it at all. Having a limited game based on its “population,” which is counting down every time a player dies, may sound tempting even if the game is not that fun. But when the population is high and the players right now are extremely low, I never under my time found a full or even half full server. It will take the game more years to reach this point than the average life of online games out there. On top of this, The Flock has a very high price for the small amount of content that it provides, making it almost the same price range as a lot more unique and better made titles such as Natural Selection 2 or even Alien vs. Predator, which both have similarities in their Multiplayer.
The Flock is a game with a great selling argument, which on paper gives the player access to something that only the first buyers will have experienced, something that seems to go away before it can even grow a big community. This may seem like a weird decision for something the developers have spent years on making, but in the end it seems like a fast way to get players to buy it before words spread on how lacking The Flock is in every area. It does have its moments where you, as the carrier or even as a member of the flock is on edge, but those moments are extremely rare and do not at all make up for all the shortcomings The Flock has.
Original Author: Karl de Maré