The Flock is a multiplayer horror game that ends after too many people die. Cool idea! The game itself? Freaky, but limited.
Here's how it works: you start out as a creepy gargoyle monster, one of the titular Flock. Your goal is to claim the Light Artefact, a fabled instrument from a time of eternal daw — OK YEAH it's a torch. It's a really shitty torch that stops working if you stop moving. At any given moment, one player has the Light Artefact and all the other players are hunting them.
The torch player wants to reach and activate checkpoints (using the light, naturally), while the Flock players want to kill them before they can. Conveniently, the light reduces flock players to mottled stone and ash if you shine it on them while they're moving. Inconveniently, it renders you completely defenseless otherwise.
So, in short, Flock players stalk the Light Artefact player slowly — climbing cliffs and other platforms while trying to keep out of sight, standing stock still and turning to stone when the light shines on them — while the Light Artefact player scampers through the level going, "Oh jeez oh gosh oh whatwasthat" every time the floor wheezes and creaks or, you know, a fucking gargoyle monster appears right in their face. It's like this:
Oh hey, I'm just taking a walk with my good friend this ageless relic of immaculate glory and OH FUCK IT'S RIGHT THERE.
Another time, I ended up reaching an objective — cheering in my heart of hearts that I'd survived the otherworldly horror gauntlet and was about to claim my prize — only to realise I was surrounded. They stood, statue-esque, waiting for my light to falter. It was only a matter of time; I knew it, they knew it. Then one of them would pounce. Sure enough:
And yes, every time you die as a Light Artefact carrier or a Flock, the game reminds you that you wasted another life in the universal pool. Once there are zero lives left, nobody else will be able to buy the game, and it will go into some grand finale. After that, it will be offline forever. It definitely makes death feel a little weightier than, say, a simple kill-death ratio.
Playing as the Flock is tense too, but in the opposite direction. You're the hunter, not the hunted, but you're also extremely vulnerable. A glass cannon, basically. Flock players are agile (though clunkily so; playing as them doesn't feel good at all), so they can get a high ground advantage pretty easily. They can also make decoys of themselves, which is definitely handy when you're stalking a player who's trying to both keep tabs on you and trudge forward to their objective.
So again, neat stuff, but that's kinda... all of it. The Flock has three levels and one mode. It gets repetitive reeeeeeeally quickly. I've been playing for about an hour, and I'm already starting to get bored. Certainly, strategies will evolve over time, and players will get better at freaking each other out, but there's only so much for them to work with. And again, this game just doesn't feel good. Controls are unpolished, kludgy.
So far, I love the idea behind The Flock — a giant doomsday clock literally triggered by death — but I'm not sure I'll want to stick around long enough to see its grand finale.