I got the chance to play Vogelsap’s dark and creepy shooter of sorts, dubbed simply The Flock at this year’s Game Developer’s Conference. Don’t let the name throw you off, as this is definitely not a game about a flock of seagulls, or sheep. In fact, you play as horrific creepy-crawlers that are reminiscent of the weeping angels from Doctor Who and something you’d see in a Chronicles of Riddick movie.
The Flock is yet another asynchronous multiplayer game, and while this particular kind of multiplayer experience is quite the hot commodity these days, I had a fantastic time playing the game. Strapped into a set of (I think) TurtleBeach over-ear headphones, I was ready to take in all the sights and sounds.
In the game you play as a member of the eponymous Flock, a skillful and agile monster capable of quickly scaling buildings, leaping at your enemies, and of course – turning to stone as a defense mechanism. While not this behavior is not exactly like the weeping angels from Doctor Who, there were times when myself or an enemy would be having a standoff, and I’ll explain why.
The key element that makes this game asynchronous is when a monster grabs the Light Artifact. Once you get your hands on this bad boy, you can unleash a beam of light (or a wide swathing of it, it’s your choice) – but at the cost of your own maneuverability and stealth. Upon grabbing the Light Artifact, the player becomes the Carrier, slowly accumulating points as they survive and burn Flock to a crisp.
The only defense that members of the Flock have is simply standing still, which turns their bodies into a stone-like state, providing them with an impenetrable armor. So there’s a bit of a dichotomy with this; Flockians and the Carrier being constantly at odds, with the former consistently trying to overtake and surprise the latter.
Normally I kind of avoid online-only experiences, but I truly had a fun time with The Flock. I found myself getting very much into the controls, trying to scale buildings and run around unseen, only to pounce onto whoever the Carrier was at the time. I kind of enjoyed being simply a Flock more than the Carrier, although things get very interesting once you get that large flashlight.
Upon becoming the Carrier, the entire game changes in a big way. The levels featured in the game’s current build are dark, ghastly, somewhat eerie locales that only get creepier once you’re walking around with a big ass flashlight. You literally go from the hunter to becoming the hunted, and that quick role switch had me genuinely on my toes.
The audio was something that also stood out to me – running and slinking around as a Flock felt quite satisfying, especially leaping forward into that hug of death, into the Carrier’s face. However, struggling to survive in a world of darkness as the Carrier was equally as scary in comparison. This happens when that bone-chilling music comes pouring in once a Flock is on your tail. It’s the little things (like those audio cues) that instill that fear and paranoia, and keep you double-taking as you stumble down corridors.
I have only good feelings behind Vogelsap’s The Flock, it’s an addicting, scary, and fun game that will easily shine once it has been polished some more, despite it being an already solid and engaging game. Development on the game started back in 2013 by two university students, Jeroen van Hasselt and Bo Zonneveld, of which I had the chance to speak to Jeroen.
The Flock is set for a release some time later this year on PC, while the game had a closed alpha kick off last Halloween, drawing in over 10,000 signups and over 4500 players. For now, you can peruse the game’s official website, as we wait for the chance to experience “only unscripted scares,” together.