The Culling Hands-On Preview
In just five days, The Culling ‒ as an alpha and Early Access product ‒ claimed 35 hours of my finite existence. I’m addicted, but contrary to those numbers, seldom does a PvP (player versus player) experience occupy weeks of my free time. Although you may have seen people stream The Culling, the tweaks that do separate it from free-for-all releases like DayZ and H1Z1 have helped Xaviant Games build a better battle royale.
Note: The Culling is still in Early Access, leaving Xaviant sufficient time to break or bolster its formula, yet the game’s potential is too compelling to ignore. Case in point: The Culling forces engagements early. Where H1Z1 allows competitions to wear on until seconds are left on the clock, The Culling slashes its population within a minute of players spawning on the island ‒ a staging area just sizable enough to support 16 contestants and its limited resources.
Survival (and one’s spawn) funnels scavengers toward the arena’s landmarks ‒ the airport, a research lab, a gas station, etc. ‒ at the match’s outset, before other vultures loot them. The unlucky then perish or play smart, seeing as ambushes (in the style of backstabs) apply bonus damage. The Culling requires constant situational awareness because its first-person camera prohibits people from peering around corners (an amenity afforded to third-person games like DayZ or H1Z1). But even when players wait for sloppy seconds, they are not doomed to die by default.
The Culling instills a light crafting system to help competitors prepare for and recover from the injuries they receive. Two rocks produce a knife. Combine that knife and branch to fabricate a spear. Mix in another stick to produce a bow and arrows. Two branches, meanwhile, breed a bandage. One more generates a satchel. You have offensive and defensive options that aid in executing a comeback or organizing an early lead, since traps also play a vital role.
What traps lack in damage they make up for with debilitating effects. Caltrops taint their victims with a crippling weakness, slowing movements; snares freeze targets in place; and claymores deliver a crippling and bleeding wound, sapping health until the lacerations heal. Weapons inflict penalties such as blood loss, too, albeit of varying strengths.
The Culling contains a wide assortment of armaments already, despite its Early Access label. I rarely fussed over the swords, spears, axes, hammers, or firearms I used to protect myself. On the other hand, you must earn the best equipment. Xaviant sorts weapons into tiers, and more formidable weapons ‒ no surprise ‒ dispense greater damage. A second tier cleaver depletes eight health at its weakest, but a charged attack should deal 24. While it also induces intense bleeding, the cleaver lacks the speed of a tanto knife that does a quarter less damage.
That said, you need F.U.N.C. to obtain a legitimately imposing arsenal.
F.U.N.C. is a nano-material that can be shaped into various tools. It’s the catalyst that allows players to forge smoke bombs from rocks and poison gas, but F.U.N.C. is a precious currency. You can only craft items as long as you have excess cash, which regenerates slowly. Players spend F.U.N.C. to open locked crates littered about the map, too, or summon airdrops that complete your character’s loadout. Both cost more than the money you accrue while hiding in a cave, so how nice is it that slaying contestants practically stuffs a survivor’s pockets?
Like I said, The Culling is already better than other mur— self-defense simulators in urging its victims to reduce their opponents pronto. If you want to call in an airdrop, you need funds, and items contained within can change the odds. The smuggler care package includes a kukri, one man tracker (for pinpointing the nearest enemy), and a backpack that increases your maximum inventory space when used. The pirate airdrop advocates offense by comparison, bestowing its looters with a magnum and sabre.
Although the more devastating airdrops empty your wallet, The Culling does not guarantee a thing. Care packages will arrive eventually, but the minutes wasted after radioing for it are the ideal time for opportunists to encircle you. Worse (for their owners), crates can be shot down mid-flight, requiring you to make a move or forget that accident happened. Even so, the most resourceful warriors farm F.U.N.C. through secondary means. The island’s recycling machines exchange money for any item you feed them ‒ rocks, chainsaws, or medkits are all fair game.
I should mention, too: Xaviant has already done well in rebalancing its existing economy. In the closed alpha, many of the matches I played ended with a shootout. Everyone gravitated to a gun-based airdrop as long as they had one. Last stands became predictable. In The Culling’s Early Access state, firearms remain exclusive to the miserly. You must pinch virtual pennies to procure a gun for the match’s final phase. You risk something to win everything ‒ you forsake crafting and unlocking crates, and you must flatten a few players beneath your boots.
You can think of The Culling as the closest approximation of a playable Hunger Games, sans shoehorned romances, and the developers are not shy about the similarities. An electric dome quarantines victims from the outside world, and there is no leaderboard to bring up with your typical Tab key. Instead, The Culling suspends a scoreboard hologram in the sky, transmitting pertinent match info: who’s alive, who slayed who, and ‒ when you’re playing team matches ‒ each person’s partner. I’d say it’s one of my favorite immersion-related features in years.