This week I got to sit down with The Culling in its Early Access stage. Developed by Xaviant, this game pits 16 players against each other in a nasty, coldblooded death match ala The Hunger Games. It’s a tournament of wits, balls and brutality and thus far, seems quite fun.
The game opens to a basic character customization screen where players can pick from various perks that might give you more currency to start with, increase your movement speed, boost damage and the like. Both a beginner and an advanced tutorial are available before getting plopped into the lion’s den—I would recommend doing both to learn about the crafting recipes essential to survival. After finishing the tutorials, I queued up for a free-for-all match (team based matches can be played also).
Matches are 25 minutes long in an arena full of hills, water, sparse vegetation, scattered buildings and rock formations. As time drags on, the arena grows smaller with the slow progression of a toxic gas field, pushing players towards the center, and thus, closer to each other. You start out with nothing but your fists (unless you’ve chosen a few specific perks) and must quickly, but cautiously, scrounge for crafting materials and supplies. Each item crafted costs a specific amount of F.U.N.C., the currency earned in game by killing others, surviving, or from the remains of former contestants.
Crafting is simple and effective, if not exactly convincing or enthralling, but this is a necessary concession due to the cutthroat style of gameplay. Grab two rocks and make a knife. Add a stick and you’ve got a spear. Mix in another stick and you’ve now got a primitive bow, and so forth. Backpacks for extra storage, bandages for healing, sharp sticks for traps, and more can be quickly fabricated given the right materials and currency.
Combat, at the moment, is an uncanny combination of nerve-racking and sluggish, particularly melee combat. It’s in need of some tweaking and balancing, but this is Early Access after all. I haven’t yet found a gun, but my bow and arrow felt effective. Fighting can be especially frantic when things like pepper spray or explosives are used. Since killing each other is, in a nutshell, the whole purpose of this game, ironing out these kinks should be a top priority for Xaviant.
At an incredibly reasonable $15 on Steam, The Culling, even in its rough-around-the-edges state, is worth it. Yes, the combat needs work, the graphics could be better and the matches a few minutes shorter, but it still provides some amazingly tense, surprising, and enjoyable moments. The Culling is absolutely worth a look.