Thursday, August 13, 2015

Joining The Flock

"And you thought you were being sneaky..."
I have become a creature of darkness.

Last week at Gamescom in Cologne, in one of the biggest convention halls in the world, surrounded by thousands of people bustling about with huge Final Fantasy tote bags, I finally found the Indie Games section. They had a large selection of games, most of which were developed there in Germany, many of which were gorgeous and compelling. Therefor it was during a moment of calm respite that I sat down to play The Flock.

Naturally it scared the shit out of me at first, especially when I first wandered about with a flickering light source, trying to simultaneously look at and flee some spooky-looking monsters. When the game finally clicks though, when you realize how powerful you can actually be as the light bearer, the beauty of asymmetrical gameplay shines through.

I love asymmetry in games. I've written about it in Android: Netrunner here, and around EXP a variety of times. Each experience of asymmetry seems interesting and compelling in its own way. In Netrunner, asymmetry is all about power relations and weaves its way so effortlessly into the themes of the card game. In Left 4 Dead it's about tactical team play, while in F3AR, it's about relying on your teammate juuuust enough to get one up on them.

The many vs one mechanic in The Flock creates a sense of overwhelming doom at first, but it's really not the case. While holding the light, you determine in many ways the flow of the action, funneling your opponents in the direction you want to go. I suspect very skilled players will eventually handle the light so well that members of the flock will have to work together to take them out. I appreciate the unique take on the genre and really hope more designer get daring with asymmetry.

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