The Flock ReviewPrice:
I'm beginning to wonder whether there's a fundamental problem with asymmetrical multiplayer games. Because each side is unevenly matched, and because the nature of their relationship is very specific, the rules of the game must be narrowly defined in order for the system to work. This often leaves little room to elaborate on the basic premise. Turtle Rock's Evolve demonstrated this earlier in the year, exploring a fantastic concept in a way that just didn't have enough meat on its beastly bones. As a consequence, its player-base plummeted within a month of its release.
I fear VogelSap's the Flock will suffer a similar fate. Again, the idea is brilliant, and again there's not enough to it. Sadly the Flock's troubles don't end there either. It has so many problems that it probably shouldn't have been released in its current state.
A round of the Flock begins thus, up to six players spawn at different points in a large arena, each playing as a member of the titular Flock. These dark, spindly creatures then race toward a light which appears a random location on the map. The player who gets there first transforms into a different character known as the Carrier.
From this point onward, the Flock becomes a creepy game of cat and mouse. The Carrier's goal is to hold onto the light as long as possible, while each member of the Flock attempts to kill the Carrier and assume its role.
Such are the game's basic mechanics, but there are several smaller cogs turning in this grim machine. If the light shines directly on a Flock player while they are moving, it kills them instantly. To avoid this, they must use the environment to ambush the Carrier from above or behind. If the Carrier turns the light onto a Flock player, they can avoid being consumed in a white-hot Inferno by standing completely still.
The Carrier, meanwhile, must stay alert at all times, constantly checking its surroundings for encroaching Flock players. The light is charged through motion, so standing still for too long will leave the Carrier vulnerable to attack. At the same time, there are bright blue "objectives" that spawn randomly around the map. If the Carrier shines its light on these, the player receives a fat crop of extra points. But doing this involves standing still for several seconds, difficult when a bunch of sneaky predators are trying to eat your face and legs.
The result is a game with two distinct yet equally intriguing modes of play. As a member of the Flock the game is one of planning and tactics. You seek out that fuzzy light amid the ramshackle architecture of each map, try to anticipate the Carrier's movements and pounce when the time is right. As the Carrier, the Flock is an outright survival horror game, a fraught experience that sees you dashing through shadowy caves and twisting cityscapes, catching glimpses of the Flock in your peripheral vision, spinning around to see one right behind you, frozen in your light like one of Doctor Who's weeping angels.