The Flock Review
I'm playing The Flock to lose.
The Flock is interesting in this regard, as there is a global endgame condition, and that condition is "lose or make others lose enough times." The count starts at something like three hundred and thirteen million "population." When the population counter reaches zero, the game will no longer be on the market. The more people who play or the more players who die, the more the population counter goes down, and the closer the players get to endgame.
This is actually pretty interesting to me. I'm always interested when something is difficult to find, or permanently out of reach. I kind of find this more interesting than the actual game itself. So I'm playing The Flock to lose.
The Flock is an asymmetrical multiplayer game. Something like abstract surrealist flashlight tag. In one of several crumbling arenas, everybody plays The Flock, monsters that bound through the tunnels and passageways and hallways of the level, all of them hunting for the Artifact. The creature designs of The Flock are amazing, Creatures with hunched, visible spines and creepy skull-like faces. A lot of thought went into the way they act and the way they move, and even from a first-person perspective, you can tell that there's a unique form of movement and a very creepy aesthetic to these guys.
When a player gets the Artifact, then they immediately transform into the Wielder. The Wielder runs around the level with the Artifact (basically a massive flashlight) trying to capture points with it while avoiding the Flock, all of whom are trying to become the Wielder. The flashlight can also kill the Flock if one of them is unlucky enough to move through its beam, but if a Flock player simply stands still for long enough, they're "petrified" and immune to the Artifact's deadly beam. The object is to stay alive as long as you can with the Artifact (which gives you points) and then have the most points at the end of the round. Objectives also net you a set amount of points.
Now, all of this would be slightly more interesting to me if I didn't suck so hard at the game. I can kind of grasp the subtlety and complexities of the game, of course, and how the Wielder has to watch their back at all times, and all of that. But too often, I find myself getting burned up or ambushed by a corner I didn't check or some far part of the maze. But instead I die a lot. Die, respawn, rush around the map, die again, respawn. Not a lot of fun.
However, death in The Flock carries something of a boon with it. Each death lowers the population counter. Each time someone dies, the experience clicks that much closer towards being unique. When the counter hits zero, as previously said, that's it. The game has sold out. So if I keep dying, I keep upping the scarcity of the game. I can contribute to that. And that's cool for me. The more I lose, the more people wipe me out, the closer we get to zero. The closer I get to a unique thing.
So I'm playing The Flock to lose.
I will say that while the game requires a controller, the controls are exceptionally smooth. I loved leaping around and jumping from place to place. I also loved trying to plan the perfect spot to leap and scream at the Wielder. It's a lot of fun to play, and I haven't played many games where controls were so satisfying. I love the fluid movement I can use just before the cleansing light blows me away another time.
In the end, I'd say wait for a sale. If you've already bought it, though, I'd hope you'd play it the same way I do. It's a cool game, and even when you die, you're contributing to something cool in it.
Full Disclosure: The reviewer received a press copy of this game