The Flock is an irksome game. This isn’t because it’s outright frustrating or annoying – although it is – but because it dupes players into caring about it by promising a great deal.
Vogelsap’s horror game is a multiplayer affair in which all players begin as a member of the titular collective. These Lovecraftian horror monsters are extremely agile; they run and jump like jungle cats on steroids.
The Flock: Of Speed & Statues
They’re some of the most satisfyingly speedy characters players will ever play as; they drop to the ground to sprint on all four limbs and although the blurring animations make them a bit difficult to follow, it’s possible to absolutely scream through the levels using bounds and leaps to traverse the landscape.
Their only offensive move is a lunging attack. Aside from that their abilities revolved around defence and deception. Standing stock still will “petrify” the monster, turning it into what looks like a stone statue – and since the maps are dotted with stone statues it essentially camouflages them until the player moves again.
Flock creatures can also issue a call that reveals the positions of all nearby Flock, which is useful for locating its fellow monstrosities. Finally, they can create a decoy that will not only terrify other players, but they can also can instantly switch places with it. Essentially it gifts them the power of short range teleporting.
The Flock: Alone In The Dark
Once a member of The Flock finds a torch (called the Light Artifact) they become a Carrier. The Carrier is a small, faceless, blobby character that has none of the speed or agility that The Flock has.
As The Carrier, the player racks up points for the entire length of time they hold the Light Artifact. They can also earn points by shinning light on some objects for a certain amount of time. Incidentally, players can only win the game by accruing and they can only do this as The Carrier.
The Light Artifact’s beam can also kill The Flock, as long as they’re moving. Any Flock members who are caught in the light for too much time will burst into flames and then the player controlling them will need to wait to respawn. Players can reduce the waiting time by spending points they’ve earned as The Carrier.
Players can mask their position by turning the Light Artifact off, but they can’t earn points until it’s been relit. The mouse wheel controls Beam length and range; a broad beam will cover more area but kill The Flock slowly, and a narrower beam is more deadly but it only has a small killing range.
If one of The Flock manages to so much as touch The Carrier, the latter dies and the torch passes to its killer. The remaining Flock will chase the new Carrier as the old one respawns as a monster once again.
The most fun players will have in the game is when they’re controlling a member of The Flock. The monsters’ speed has to be dialled down as players close in on their prayer, as headlong towards the light will leave them burnt and dead. Instead, they’ll need to try a bait and switch approach; petrifying themselves as they approach The Carrier and then striking once the opportunity presents itself.
Playing as The Carrier is less enjoyable and also more challenging. The Carrier’s light runs out if the player controlling it remains still for too long. This prevents The Carrier cowering in a corner and racking up the points, and it also means they need to turn their back and open themselves up for attack.
Unfortunately The Carrier’s pace of movement feels like the player is trying to wade through molasses, and after playing as The Flock this is quite exasperating. The Carrier’s sprint ability runs out quickly and there’s no received wisdom on recharging the Light Artifact; after several matches, it’s unclear how long the light lasts and how much players need move to recharge it.
The Flock review: Unintentional horrors
So, in theory, The Flock is a tension-packed game of cat and mouse, but the hoops players have to jump through to enjoy it make it something of a nightmare.
Launching the game is problematic. In fact, players will be lucky if it does. HTXT.Africa Editor Nick struggled for nearly an hour to get the game running, and when the rest of the review team had finished their runs he had given up. This means that a lot of people’s experience with the game will be playing something else. Nick had a lot of fun playing Satellite Reign, on an unrelated note.
Writer Deon was the next; although he could boot up the game, he couldn’t play without holding down the Tab button. It’s one of the most bizarre glitches we’ve heard of in recent memory.
Once players manage to enter a match, they should prepare to for a host of issues including dropped connections, black screens and more, which can only be resolved if you shut off the game with the Task Manager and restart it.
One of the most intriguing aspects of The Flock is its player-cap. The game is allowing only a finite number of players in and there is a set number of times each player can die. Every death literally thins the herd.
The game also displays a counter that decreases by one for every death. What happens when this number reaches zero? The developer Vogelsap explains:
When the Flock’s population reaches zero, the game will never be purchasable again. Only players who have The Flock in their Steam library will then go to the next phase of the game and be able to partake in the yet to be announced climactic finale. After the ending, the game will go offline permanently and no longer be playable.
The problem is, that the player cap is so high that this game probably drop off the radar before it ever even reaches the half-way point due to its bug-ridden and shonky gameplay.
And that’s the problem with The Flock; we don’t believe that it will ever have a player base high enough to make its most intriguing draw relevant. The Flock is just not reliable.
For all its ambition, it’s also a rather thin affair. The Flock contains a tutorial, one game mode and three maps. That’s it. Players can pretty much explore all it has to offer in around forty minutes.
Once again, these aspects could be forgiven, if The Flock was priced properly. As it stand, the game will set players back game will set you back $17 (R236) and that’s a lot to ask for what’s on offer here.
The Flock review: Conclusion
We enjoyed the first twenty minute of The Flock. It was tense and exciting and we were trying our best to maintain composure as we talked while playing. This game and its core concepts are solid.
As an event, The Flock fails as the population counter is just set too high with too few players. As a game The Flock also fails as there is just not enough content, and what exists is bug-ridden.
While this game could be improved with more content, a much lower price or reducing the population size, right now it is impossible to unresservedly recommend.