Creating a game that is inspired by both the 2000 classic movie Battle Royale and by The Hunger Games offers the chance to provide players with an exclusive and innovative gaming experience and this is what The Culling, an early-access title developed and published by Xaviant Games, tries to achieve. Fighting up to 15 other players, your objective is to survive the match by slaughtering all of your opponents. Knowing your surroundings, crafting the right amount of items and hunting your preys will be key to victory, but the game seems to be unable to let you do so.
When a game asks you to become one with your surroundings, immersion is essential for a positive experience. Stealthily creeping behind your enemies would make you feel like a real survivalist, but The Culling seems to be unable to give you the right tools for the job. As your cannot follow your enemies’ tracks or observe the environment for clues, finding a prey in the game becomes a matter of luck more than anything else. This process gets slightly easier after a few games, as the layout of the map slowly finds its way within your head, but the 20 minutes that compose each match will normally be spent randomly roaming around the forests that populate the island and crafting items while you hope to bump into an enemy squad or into someone who got lost. Crafting is another of the features that end up being more confusing than practical. By combining them according to specific recipes, most of the items you will find on the island can be turned into weapons or tools: a few rocks can be used as a knife or attached to a branch in order to make a spear, for example. Each recipe requires some ingredients and a handful of FUNC, the in-game currency, in order to yield an item but the scarcity of the latter and the limited amount of inventory slots that your have at your disposal make dynamic combat a reality that is hard to achieve forcing you to specialize and leaving you vulnerable. More advanced weapons can be acquired through random airdrops or by spending high amounts of in-game money, a commodity that is relatively hard to collect and is only awarded for exploration, killing or when interacting with special containers.
Combat should be one of the most important and better developed parts of The Culling, but fighting appears to be sluggish and rather choppy, with hits that are rarely precise and weapons that deal unrealistic damage. The game features different tiers of tools and several damage-over-time effects such as poison, sickness or, bleeding but this is not enough to render fights an enthralling experience. Melee encounters, which will be the most common way to dispose of an enemy, will mostly result in a series of quick clicks as you try to score a hit or block an incoming attack. Traps complete the collection, allowing you to fully exploit the terrain and vegetation but some of them will frequently bug out and remain perfectly visible even when placed in tall grass and can be easily bypassed by even the most distracted of players. The Culling also allows you to throw almost any weapon such as spears, explosives, blades and grenades at your enemy in a desperate effort to end their lives but the lack of a cross-hair and the inability to properly aim at them will turn the attempt into something that is more funny than effective.
Choppy mechanics and missing features
Making decent use of Unreal Engine 4, The Culling manages to appear as a rather nice looking title. This comes at a cost in performance, as the framerate tends to stutter even in less populated areas and while playing the various offline tutorials. The lack of a storyline which would make the fights more convincing as it provides an explanation for the events, limited character customization, and constant ping spikes, especially when playing on a server that is physically far from your computer, are the final nails in a coffin that is already too full and heavy, making The Culling a title that is – in its current state – highly unappealing.
The game can be played by joining its early access program and according to the guys at Xaviant Games a full version won’t see the light of day until somewhere in 2017 . A plethora of features including new maps, a female character model, additional skins and perks, and more game modes should be added in the future, marking The Culling a title that could potentially get a lot better than it currently is. For now, all you can do is keep an eye on the development process and hope for this game to be completed as soon as possible.