The Culling Early Access Review – Sticks and Stones Break Bones

The Culling 1HE LIVES!!!! THE GREAT KEVIN HAS RETURNED TO US!!! Sorry about the whole not having wrote for ye in a while. Quick explanation: I left, finished college, got a job, made money, decided to do writing again during time off and here we are. While I won’t be writing as frequently as before, I will be trying to do an article a week, and they will all be opinion pieces of some sort so look forward to those.

Since November, I really haven’t played many games. Up until a week ago Firewatch was the only game I played outside my MASSIVE addiction to Final Fantasy XIV which I spent a large portion of my free time playing when not working. The game was starting to drain me, so I decided to go on a little shopping spree now that I have disposable income and nothing to spend it on. One of the games I got was The Culling.

The Culling, developed by Xaviant Games, is a game heavily influenced by Battle Royale type movies, including the hugely popular Hunger Games. It’s odd so few games have piggybacked onto the success of the Hunger Games franchise, especially considering it’s setting works great for a multiplayer area game, but Xaviant Games decided to give it a shot with The Culling, and while it isn’t amazing by any stretch, it is unique to a degree and a lot of fun (and what more do we really want?). I also want to note that the game came out only a month ago in early access, so keep that in mind.

The Culling 2The concept is simple. 16 players are dumped into the wilderness and must brutally murder eachother before the timer runs out. Last one alive wins. How you go about this is up to you, and while 25 minutes might not sound like much time, a lot happens between that box opening and the final skull crack.

Finding a match doesn’t take long. The game says the average is about 2 minutes usually, but I’ve had more games start in under a minute than anything else, which shows how active a playerbase the game already has. Starting off, you are armed with only your fists and whatever perks you chose before entering the game, giving you bonuses with specific weapon types, defence bonuses, or allowing you to start with an item like a backpack or man-tracker. The box you’re in opens and The Culling commences. Time to smash rocks together…. Literally.

The crafting system is a major part of the game if you plan on living past 10 minutes. Rocks and Sticks make up most tier 1 weapons and items, so knowing what works best for you and the perks you chose is key if you plan to be aggressive early on. Smashing two rocks together gets you a knife, adding a stick gets you a spear, adding another stick gets you a bow and so on. Simple? Yeah, but you also want to make sure to conserve ‘F.U.N.C.’ so you can gain access to higher tier weapons scattered around the map or to call your air dropped supplies (carried by the slowest and noisiest, Amazon rejected drones). F.U.N.C. is what allows you to craft, call in supplies, open boxes and use health machines, so the more you have, the better off you are.

To gather F.U.N.C. you can trade in unused items, pick up the limbs of previous contenders or slowly gather over time, but the quickest and most effective way is the reason you’re there in the first place. Killing other players.

Combat is pretty basic, which is expected. With melee weapons you attack, block, throw and push (to break blocks), but with ranged you have the obvious advantage of being able to keep distance between you and your enemy. That said, once they get close enough and hit, you’ll drop your ranged weapon, giving even that lucky fucker who got an assault rifle in a Tier 3 box something to watch out for, as well as backstabs and headshots doing critical damage. You also have traps and explosives, which when used right can give you a major advantage over anybody, even if the odds are stacked heavily in their favour.

The Culling 3Laying traps in the doors of a building your scavenging will give you much needed time to get everything you want out of there, as well allowing you to lure unsuspecting players into their inevitable demise. While some traps work more effectively than others, they all have their uses. Snares stop players in their tracks until they break out, claymores are likely to kill a player straight out, and caltrops are dropped instantly, draining enemies health. You can also craft pipe bombs which are great when getting the drop on someone or finishing off a fleeing enemy.

On the subject of traps, scattered around the map are poison gas chambers which you can activate to catch nearby enemies off guard and drain their health or even kill those that are hidden in buildings attempting to find their way out. The centre of the map is probably the more congested area, but while dangerous can drop a lot of weapons and items. One of these include the “kill switch”, which will activate every gas chamber on the map, getting you kills and forcing players to stay away from these chambers or into the centre of the map.

The Culling’s map is fairly large, and will take a few games to get used to where things are and how things work, but once you do you’re set and are at no less a disadvantage as anybody else assuming you picked a decent build of perks and slam sticks and stones together in the correct order. The “balance” is determined mostly by luck in what you find, but if you don’t have the balls then you’re not going to make it very far. Even if you focus more on long-term survival and taking them down only when one or two are left, you will run into players regularly, whether they are unsuspecting scavengers or there purely to hunt you down. And you know players are being hunted, as regular announcements tell how players died, and if you look up you’ll see the scoreboard floating overhead, reminding you that the whole thing is just some fucked up show for the enjoyment of the masses.

Graphically it’s passable. Not particularly good, but nothing I’ll really complain about. The performance could definitely be better though as there is no excuse my rig shouldn’t hit 60fps, especially in a game where the fastest reactions win.

The Culling 4There is a lot of tense moments, and standoffs with an enemy can last either seconds or the entire game. It’s a lot like the tension in Day Z but in smaller, more frequent bursts, knowing that while you’ll be in another game in a few minutes, everything you’ve done to this point will be voided if you die now.

I’ve used the word simple (or some variant) a few times in this review, and I don’t mean that in a negative way. I simply mean there just isn’t much to it, but that means the developers could put a lot of thought into what’s there, as well as making it very easy to pick up and have a lot of fun. They just put out an update yesterday too, and going by the change-log, they’ve been putting in considerable effort (unlike those fecks with the Day Z Standalone).

While there’s still a lot of work to be done on it, what’s there now is a good sign of things to come and depending on what you’re looking for, the €15 price tag is worth it, even as basic as it currently is, which speaks volumes about the core gameplay.

The Culling is not a game for everyone though, but if you’re into the idea of a Battle Royale type game, check out the gameplay below by Funhaus (ex Inside Gaming) featuring Cr1TiKaL, who play together in the team mode.

Thanks for reading! As I said, expect to see me pop up regularly enough doing mostly reviews/impressions as well as industry opinion pieces. If there’s anything you’d like to hear my thoughts on, drop a line in the comments and I’ll consider doing an article on it. k tnx bi

Hunger Games Family Guy

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