The Flock Review – Making A Flockery

A game about giant lights that doesn’t have good lighting effects. Enough said.

02

Developer: Vogelsap
Publisher: Vogelsap
Format: PC
Released: August 21, 2015
Copy supplied by Steam

The Flock earned itself quite a spotlight thanks to its unique selling premise – a world population that steadily depletes until nobody can play the game. Every player death contributes to the reduction of a set number of spawns – once they’re dried up, The Flock becomes obsolete.

It was a bold move, selling a game while openly admitting it had a predetermined lifespan, and it would appear Vogelsap didn’t quite win its risky little gamble. Gamers were skeptical of the premise from the start, a skepticism that has led to negative user reviews and a player base that doesn’t exactly swell with numbers.

It’s a shame, because The Flock is a legitimately promising idea – it’s a tense horror multiplayer experience that, at its best, wracks the nerves with its monstrous take on the old “Red Light/Green Light” playground game. Even its precarious pledge to end the game permanently upon respawn depletion is brave enough to be worthy of praise.

Sadly, for all its potential and moxie, The Flock just isn’t a very good videogame.

04

It’s bad enough that the whole thing feels like it belongs in Early Access. It crashes on regular occasions, and even when it runs, the dodgy physics, camera glitches, and threadbare aesthetics reeking of placeholder assets contribute to the feeling that Vogelsap’s work was far from finished before they pushed it into the public arena.

There are a paltry three maps to choose from and one game mode that, while compelling for a while, barely has enough meat on its bones to keep players invested for thirty minutes.

As I said, the potential is there. I want to like this game. I want to really, really like it.

Players all start as a member of the Flock – bestial monsters that all seek to become a Carrier. There is a beacon that spawns in each map, and the first Flock to grab it becomes the aforementioned Carrier – a faceless, minuscule little creature.

Carriers lose the agility of their prior Flock selves, unable to jump, and moving at a slower pace. Their position is a fragile one – it takes one pounce from a member of the Flock to instantly slaughter a Carrier, at which point the killer seizes the beacon and becomes a Carrier itself.

03

The Flock have one weakness, however – the beacon itself. Players take damage if they move in the beacon’s light, meaning they have to stand still should the Carrier be looking at them. Once motionless, a Flock’s field of vision becomes restricted as they literally become statues. The Carrier, however, must keep moving in order to power the beacon – one can’t just stand and flash at the Flock forever, or the light will go out.

In addition to their leaps and pounces, Flock can also create decoys of themselves – identical statues intended to induce paranoia in the Carrier. These statues may also be switched to at any time, instantly transporting the player to a prior location. Flock can also roar to each other, answering fellow players’ calls to increase their speed and strength.

So it is that The Flock presents a clever little slice of cat-and-mouse spookiness, as several players simultaneously work together and compete to corner and murder the Carrier. The beacon’s light always pinpoints the Carrier’s exact location, and only by moving carefully will a targeted player ever hope to survive. It only takes a split-second to get jumped while looking the wrong way.

It’s terrifying for as long as it feels fresh… and that doesn’t last long at all. Once you realize the limitations of the Flock’s abilities and learn the basic tactics for survival, all horror gives way to a repetitive game of tag. A broken repetitive game of tag.

05

Sometimes you’ll die even when you’re looking directly at one’s predators. I did, in fact, have an enemy player casually stroll in front of my beam once, only to leap right through it (normally an instant-death move for a Flock) and take me down. There always appears to be some form of lag during kills and deaths, meaning you can never be quite sure if you’re about to hit your mark or not.

The Flock don’t even carry themselves like the stealthy hunters they’re meant to be, unable to climb, and stuck with fairly basic first-person controls. Aside from a crawling sprint animation, there’s just no sense of immersion, no feeling like a monster. The Carrier, for its part, has little to do but run or point the beacon at recurring “objectives” to earn extra points.

Also, the lighting effects are rubbish – no shadowing, no dynamic illumination. It’s a game about holding a giant light and the lighting is substandard. That says it all.

The Flock is threadbare, glitchy, visually dreary, and sorely lacking in content. Its main game mode simply doesn’t have the staying power to justify repeated play, and any given session could collapse at any minute.  The servers are far from hopping, too – it’s rare to get a full game of five players, and you can’t just join a game in session either.

There’s no real plot to the game, no sense of history of worldbuilding, no reason to care about its dwindling population or the promised “aftermath” of the counter reaching zero. In fact, it’s highly unlikely we’ll see that event for a long long time. The Flock started with a population of 215,358,979, and the lack of players suggests we won’t see that get anywhere near to dwindling soon.

01

The Flock was always going to be a hard sell, but it could have been a success. When you want $16.99 for a game that promises obsoletion, you have to be more on-point than ever. Your game needs to be sleek, rich in content, or at the very least polished in order to convince people it’s worth their time and cash. The Flock is none of these things.

It had to be better than the average game, but it pales in comparison to even a lot of Early Access games.

Vogelsap created a purely frustrating product – something that could have, and indeed should have, been something special, only to squander its opportunities at every step.

I’d love to see everything The Flock tried to do in a better game, but I fear the failure of this one will only dissuade others from attempting it.

3/10
Poor

Thanatos2k
Guest
Thanatos2k
I don’t think the premise is worthy of praise, I think it’s worthy of harsh condemnation. Any game that’s unplayable a year after release is reprehensible. Shame on the developers. This is an EA-style “shut down the servers” move. But the concept isn’t completely bad, just horribly implemented. This is how it should have worked. The game is free to download, and each world with its limited respawn pool is separated into runs. You pay a fee to get into the current run. When the lives run out, everyone loses, and then they start a new run, which everyone would… Read more »
hylisk
Guest
hylisk

I thought the concept of the game was very interesting and solid idea. (not talking about the controversial doomsday countdown, but the core of the game). This is just another game of great idea done wrong. As many of us know, proper execution is more important than the concept in video game.

Avenger93
Guest
Avenger93
You know, this game could have been a real example of art in videogame format if only they had bothered to make it that. Right now, The Flock seems an exercise in “what is the worst possible decision we as devs could make?”. Not only is the gameplay threadbare and after 30 minutes you allready know everything there is to know, but this ideea that there is a story to unravel and that will reach a climax with the last death is laughable and sily considering all the “story” material of this game is delivered via out of game text… Read more »
Sapphire Crook
Guest
Sapphire Crook

It’s the classic story of someone trying to reinvent the wheel but forgetting to grease the axle.
Yes, it’s nice to try something strange and ‘fresh’, but at least you can get the parts that are already familiar right.
Like lightning. Got that pretty good for years.

diamond
Guest
diamond
I watched TotalBiscuit’s WTF is of this game, and I think it looks godawful, a 3 seems kind of generous. Of course all multiplayer-only games eventually become little more then worthless paper-weights, so even if this game wasn’t announced as ending at some point, people would expect it to anyways with all the server shutdowns we’ve seen this year. That’s one reason I absolutely refuse to waste any money on the new Battlefront, the complete lack of single-player and galactic conquest has completely killed whatever interest I had in it, and knowing the MP will probably quickly die out like… Read more »
Cameron Ward
Guest
Cameron Ward

Yeah I never got the big idea. Multiplayer games are on a time limit and unless the support and content is good, no one is going to want to keep playing a game that only has a half baked design to it.

Milestone_RP
Guest
Milestone_RP

After seeing this and the Squirty Play video, is it safe to say that Jim really doesn’t give…
a…
flock…
about this game?

I’ll just show myself out now…

Matrim
Guest
Matrim

You do that. Shame on you.

Raven
Guest
Raven

So, have you found if there is an objective for the carrier? I watched it on your channel. Anything happens if you shine the light on the globular light? Or is there any objective other than trying to survive the longest?

Clark O'Brien
Guest
Clark O'Brien

The way this looked in your play through made it seem like a game MODE rather than a game on its own. Dying Light nearly has these elements in its multiplayer and easily delivers a better experience, and you can probably buy it for a similar price now. As has been pointed out if you want to make a single concept game you really need to polish it until it’s a shinning example of what it wants to be, especially when you have a price point that’s near the “last year’s big studio release” one.

mrshair
Guest
mrshair

One thing is, that I don’t see what the “gimmick” of having finite play-throughs has to do with the game in question. It’s a potentially interesting idea that could be used in, for example, an especially bleak zombie game (if the genre hadn’t been beaten to death already, I guess), where watching the world’s population inevitably drop to zero adds to the pathos of the experience. But why here?

Galak Fyarr
Guest
Galak Fyarr

The dev(s) discussed this on a reddit AMA, one of the reasons they wanted this finite play-throughs is because they say that after x years, multiplayer games die off anyway, and they don’t want a customer paying for their game just to discover nobody is playing it (steam refunds kinda ruins the argument)

If you ask me, that’s a convenient way of saying “our game might not be good, so we estimate that people won’t be playing anymore in a few years”.

Or they simply don’t want to support the game longer than a few years.

Billy Bissette
Guest
Billy Bissette
You don’t even need Steam Refunds to ruin that argument. If they don’t want customers paying for a game just to discover no one is playing it, then they can simply stop selling the game when it drops below a certain player point. Better yet, they can make the game free at that point. For an online game, give out the server code and if anyone cares at that point, then someone will run it. Of course if you are really concerned about people getting their money’s worth, then you could try making a game that isn’t online multiplayer only.… Read more »
Jeremy Comans
Guest
Jeremy Comans
Here’s how I fix the experiment. First, make the game a couple of dollars. Two, make a spectator mode. Lastly, and most importantly; Start the death counter at about 2-2.5 million, and ad a few more lives per purchase if enough buy the game (the current counter will take 7 years to deplete at its current rate). The aim is to have the game finish in about 3-4 weeks. This way, with an immediate objective, people will want to be part of the experience to see how it ends. Possibly with a special rules round as reward and an explanatory… Read more »
NeilS52
Guest
NeilS52

I feel like this should be a game mode in a much bigger FPS. I can give them credit for trying something new, but like you always say, innovation isn’t enough; especially when it crashes a lot and costs seventeen dollars.

Jason Fruitloops
Guest
Jason Fruitloops

“Enough said”
/Proceeds to write 20 paragraphs.

Jim flocking sterling son I guess.

Ben Mitchell
Guest
Ben Mitchell

It was enough, but you can’t really do that for a review.

Tropxe
Guest
Tropxe

Steam really has more in common with the App Store than it does with games consoles now, despite Valve’s attempt to make Steam into a kind of console-like eco system and even put out Steam boxes and controllers.

Ffordesoon
Guest
Ffordesoon
I watched your Squirty Play and felt sad for all the reasons you listed. Games that are bad from the concept up suck, but the ones with a wonderful concept poorly executed are the real heartbreakers. I do hope more devs will catch on to the potential brillaince of a hide-and-seek multiplayer horror game. That Dead Realm game is supposed to do something similar to this far more successfully, and that was apparently a hit, so maybe it’s catching on. I hope so. A haunted house game with four human players versus one ghost player could be phenomenal – and… Read more »
Edwin Jackson
Guest
Edwin Jackson

I loved the premise of the Weeping Angels, as an adversary they are utterly terrifying and it’s a shame that a game with a similar idea couldn’t convey the same sense of dread and horror.

Berb
Guest
Berb

I wonder if the devs will continue to update it, or add new stuff in to encourage people to get it.

Chris N
Guest
Chris N
I feel like this could have been done better, as-is, in “real” life as a games conference game, like True Dungeon (except, y’know, without all the problems that plague True Dungeon). It’s got all the simplicity and emergent gameplay from the social elements that makes Werewolf so incredibly popular, while at the same time always giving players something to do (and thus avoids the problem with Werewolf). While the game itself may be a failure, I feel that we can learn things about what it *tried* to do and build better games with those lessons in mind. The review and… Read more »
Left 4 Dinner
Guest
Left 4 Dinner

Such a shame. The core idea of it, is something that I personally find very interesting. If the crashing was not an issue, I wonder how much of an impact it would have had on the review. Ill still keep this game on watchlist, and see if they change over time. If not, then its a damn shame because it looks fun, its a kind of unique idea, and the paranoia that it creates is there.

Einar Jóhannesson
Guest
Einar Jóhannesson

The core idea is intriguing, but at the same time I feel like it’s the very thing that doomed the game. The developers basically had a choice between spending extra time and money on a game with an artificially shortened lifespan and risk not getting their investment back, or releasing it as soon as it’s borderline playable and hope the idea is enough to sell it.

Evan. .
Guest
Evan. .

Not to get too heavy but I think the ‘planned obsolesce’ is meant as an analogy for death.

Polishfury5000
Guest
Polishfury5000
Such a strange premise. I would think that it would have made more sense to have a single server open at a time with a much smaller population and close it down when the population drops. Maybe have a hierarchy to the carriers and monsters so that whoever is left at the end of each server gets some special bonus or flair or reward to participating. On a side note, if the developers are sticking to their whole end the game when the population goes plan, do you think the developers will keep spend resources to patch and fix up… Read more »
Evan. .
Guest
Evan. .

I hate seeing good ideas wasted. You see it all the time in greenlight, where someone that really should have collaborated has gone solo and butchered their ideas with an incompetent execution.

I was pretty excited for this game when I heard the concept, but then with videogame development the creator is as responsible for the glue that holds the pages together as the story on the pages itself.

Now if we could stop the Shakespeare’s from using prittstick…

SneakaFreaka
Guest
SneakaFreaka

Vogelsap = creators (plural)

Chürz
Guest
Chürz

Looks like the poor man’s version of Evolve, to me.

Evan. .
Guest
Evan. .

I thought that was the base game?

SneakaFreaka
Guest
SneakaFreaka

Evolve barely has scare moments.

JVF
Guest
JVF

Yeah, didn’t seem very promising based on your Squirty play. I really found the idea interesting too.
Great review though, as always.

Daryl Corey
Guest
Daryl Corey

Same here when I was watching it and he had those like three crashes right at the begining and the constant camera issues just jumping around to face him some wierd way it soured me on that game utterly.