The Culling is an arena based game, where 16 contestants enter a game show themed island and fight to the death with a whole range of weapons, perks, traps and other loot, all at your fingertips to help you vanquish the other contestants. The Culling is an early access title, and is being developed by Xaviant. The developers at Xaviant are very involved with the community, and thrive off of community feedback, whether that be through the subreddit devoted to the game (/r/survivetheculling) or their many social media handles. They also have complaint forms, which they take into account when creating new patches the balance the game. These developers are by far the most involved with their community of any developers I’ve ever seen, it really creates a close-knit feel to the Culling community, dubbed the ‘Cullmunity’ by some of its members.
At present there are only two game modes, Free for All and Teams. They pretty much speak for themselves. Free for All is all 16 fighters pitted against each other, last man standing. Teams couples people together, 8 teams of 2 with the last team, or last representative of a team, coming out as the winner. Free for All is the most popular game mode, and while it does appeal to me with the exclusivity of 1v1 combat, as opposed to the very real chance you can be forced into a 2v1 fight in Teams, Teams still holds my heart firmly in it’s frustratingly addictive grasp. I play 99% Teams, with the odd Solo game to fill time; I prefer teams purely because of the new complexities added when having to consider your partner as well as yourself.
With the perks that can fill a huge variety of different class options, tactics, the high skill ceiling and the hardcore feel of the game, team-play adopts a huge role in the Culling. You can have a build that plays extremely well in Solo, but in Teams falls through. As a result of your newly swollen ego, you could leave your teammate to fend for himself, thinking you’re powerful enough to go it on your own, and get cornered in a 2v1 fight; which 90% of the time, is an unavoidable death sentence unless you have traps set up previously. You have to have synergy with your partner, communication is key and if you can, plan your play-styles together before entering a match. These features are thrilling and offer so much interesting variety, but are also to some degree necessary to survive in a Teams game.
For example, a common combination of airdrops to bring: one player brings Boar Hunter which comes with two Tier 3 Survival Spears and a stim, and the other brings either Archer or Hawkseye which come with a Recurve Bow or a Compound Bow respectively. As a result around the mid game point both players are kitted out with the same two extremely strong weapons, which increases how effective you can be as a team. An example of perks that work well together are one person taking Stunner, which applies a cripple wound on every arrow hit, nullifying movement speed perks and slowing your target by an additional 5%, with Leg Day which increases your sprint speed to chase down people and stop them running away. Your partner can then bring a very melee-centric build with Mangler, which allows axes to deal 80% of their damage to the opponents stamina, Cannibal which gives the player health and stamina after killing someone and Tough Mother, which decreases all damage taken by 10%. This means one player can give chase to someone, shoot them and nullify their speed perks and slow them down even further, while the cavalry comes in and deals the heavy damage while being extremely survivable in melee combat.
The melee combat itself is what makes up the core of the game. If you can’t fight, you can’t win…. usually. The melee combat is made up of a Rock, Paper, Scissors system, the three counterparts being Block, Hit and Shove. Block beats Hit, Shove beats Block and Hit beats Shove. This leads to some very complex combat coming out of such a simple system. Mind games really come in to play as you can cancel a fully charged hit and shove an opponents block down, meaning if you play in an overly aggressive manner, people can adapt and throw in blocks when you aren’t expecting them and counter you. Another staple move of this system is running at someone charging a hit up, causing the enemy to put a block up to stop themselves eating the damage, then the aggressor can cancel the hit, shove down the block, and get in a free charged hit. It might sound relatively simple, and in theory it is, but in-game with the heat of battle breathing down your neck, you can panic and lose your grip, and end up getting beaten by a very simple combo that, in theory, is easy to defeat.
Currently the game is in a limbo of balance, and it keeps swaying dangerously around like a ship in a storm. One patch everything seems fine apart from one perk being slightly too strong, then that perk is removed or nerfed through the floor. Usually something totally innocuous that was rarely used and relatively impotent also gets nerfed, and a perk or weapon no-one used is buffed ridiculously so it’s almost a must have. The players have come to accept this strange path to progress and just have to almost re-learn the game from scratch, especially if a key part of the combat is changed. An example of this could be the changes to block delays. The Devs keep changing blocks between having no delay, meaning you can throw it up and down at will, and having a delay, meaning you have to keep the block up for a certain amount of time before it can go down. A great deal of players find these fluctuations very frustrating and leaning towards noob friendly. These sorts of changes to the core combat mean the game is very tumultuous. You almost have to learn a whole new way of fighting every patch, which puts a lot of people off.
The Culling is one of my favourite games, with 380 hours poured into it, I have had endless fun. The game can be frustrating at first, with a steep learning curve and no matchmaking system worth anything. Rest assured veterans will crush you for a good few games as you get to grips with the combat, develop patterns for faster looting and pin a method down at the start of a match. But you will get better, you will overcome the odds and gradually start winning more and more, and it is one of the most rewarding feelings I’ve gotten from a video game to date. All in all the Culling is well worth the £10.99 I paid for it, and I would recommend it more than a lot of recent Triple A titles. I’ve juiced so much enjoyment out of this game and continue to do so; go and get it now on Steam and support the dedicated Developers at Xaviant!
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