By: Ted Chow
A horror-inspired indie title, The Flock is an interesting cat-and-mouse game that has a concept with a countdown population all leading to a finale of sorts. However, is it good business practice to display a game’s life cycle before the servers shutdown? Will players be dismayed by the fact that the game will go down, or will they come together as a community to receive any substantial conclusion? Only time will tell, but it is one experiment that looks destined to go in the do’s and do not’s of video game development.
The Flock is a first-person horror experience that really promotes inducing paranoia and suspense with the limited field of view. The movement of your character will feel like you’re crawling and shifting through the ground as you stalk your prey as the flock. If you are accustomed to first-person shooters, the controls should feel similar to that experience. Overall, everything felt smooth and customizable, albeit a bit simplistic.
As far as graphics goes, The Flock hits a level of ambience in the game’s environment that oozes in the creep factor. From the dark corridors to the post-apocalyptic world, The Flock is able to capture the curiosity of the player. However, the game isn’t without noticeable flaws in the textures department and special effects that hide the obvious. Levels can feel rudimentary and model details can be lacking in depth. The soundtrack does add to the horror aspect of the game, but it is quick to fade in its novelty.
While the controls and graphics may help the game, the gameplay in the The Flock is rather lackluster to say the least. With no single-player mode or proper explanation as to the game’s lore, you are pitted against other flock creatures in order to secure an artifact that gives you the power of the light bearer.
The light bearer wins if he survives and accumulates other artifacts, while the flock wins if they kill the bearer. The light bearer also needs to continue to move otherwise his light will dissipate and make itself vulnerable to attacks. It’s essentially a cat-and-mouse game that was great in concept but poorly executed as this is the extent of the gameplay.
Along those lines, it’s worth noting that the game suffers from some connection issues as well as a lack of players for a multiplayer-only game. The novelty of chasing after the light bearer wears thin after you have played the handful of maps available at launch. While suspenseful on your initial playthroughs, The Flock doesn’t have anything to keep a player invested in the game except for the population countdown to server closure.
Even with the grand finale touted by the developers, having to accumulate over 200 million deaths in sparsely active multiplayer can feel like an eternity for even the most faithful of players. A strong community is needed to enjoy The Flock, but at its current state, enticing people to invest time and money to play a game to that finale where everything ends is both bold and torturous.
With the game considered to be in a released state, it is hard to make the case that the game offers anything substantial to players coming into The Flock. The gameplay is barebones as it is, and it may have been best if it had stayed in early access or an alpha release. The point system after every match is arbitrary and doesn’t contribute to anything in terms of decreasing the doomsday counter.
Matches can be relatively short and widespread enough that it can feel barren. Luckily, your creature will have some wall hacking abilities to see other flock allies for a limited time. However, with no sense of accomplishment after each match or in general playing The Flock, the game can feel rather unsatisfying.
The Flock has an interesting premise with a first-person cat-and-mouse dynamic; however, the game feels lacking in modes and overall polish. It is a shame as there is a lot of potential with the idea, but as constituted The Flock isn’t worth the price of admission — hopefully that’s something that can change in the future.