This weekend saw the arrival of a new game called The Culling, created by Xaviant, the team behind Lichdom: Battlemage.
In The Culling players are dropped onto an island, where only one will make it out alive. It’s both a battle for survival and a race against the clock in matches that last around twenty minutes apiece. Xaviant say they want to redefine the ‘battle royale’ genre with this new game, so we climbed inside an island airdrop crate and dropped into the action.
This alpha test came with a handy tutorial to demonstrate the basics of combat, equipping weapons, how to use them, and crafting. It was good to see Xaviant spending time on this, because I found out very quickly that throwing a spear was not as easy as you might think when trying to hit a moving target. Spears were not my first weapon of choice for the weekend, that’s for sure.
Before players even make it onto the island they need to think about how they will tackle the match, and select appropriate special Perks. The aptly-named Perks menu is split into six different categories: Utility, Melee Weapons, Ranged Weapons, General Defense, General Offense and Health/Stamina. Making the right decision here will really support (and probably guide) your play style and weapon of choice once the battle starts. Perks will give extra damage, defense, or even equip you with body armour right at the beginning of a match. There’s quite a lot to think about in advance.
With all the Perks sorted, players find themselves peering through some small holes in the side of their personal deployment crate. Once the countdown reaches zero, the crate drops open. The priority is to get geared-up as a fast as possible and this is done by exploring, finding loot crates and investigating structures. The tropical jungle environment is rather nice, and keeps exploring interesting while you get your bearings.
In this alpha there was just one, fairly large, map which was peppered with designated landmarks like an airport, comm station, gas station and sewers to name a few. These key locations would usually contain the good stuff (namely usable gear), but it’s always a race to find it before anyone else; and also to avoid too much early contact until you have something decent to fight with.
Finding weapons is one way to get the upper hand, but the game also pushes crafting as being just as important. For example, you can hack away at a tree to create a branch. Combine two branches and you can create some caltrops to use as a trap. Take a branch and craft it with an oil barrel to create a stick of dynamite. You get the idea. It’s all a matter of experimentation.
Finding a good weapon early can be a matter of life and death as some poor sap discovered as I macheted him to death. I had found the machete very early on, and he was just opening his first loot crate when I pounced.
Loot crates are dotted around the map and provide players with everything from weapons to health boosts. Opening crates also increases your ‘Func’ which is the in-game currency; used to craft better items and call in air drops. Funcs can be used at health stations to restore health and used for crafting. If there’s an item you don’t want, it can be recycled at a recycle station which will also return you some Funcs. It’s a fine balance between what you gain and what you spend, and it works pretty well.
Before a match starts players have to choose what they want to appear in an airdrop crate. These air drops are pricey at 100 Funcs, and they can only be called in at special designated drop points on the map. Hanging around one of these leaves you a sitting duck if you’re spotted, but it’s a gamble you have to take if you’re to get your hands on your pre-selected drop goodies.
I’m not often a huge fan of first-person melee combat in games, as it can feel a bit awkward. Running back and forth button mashing the mouse isn’t really for me. The Culling does suffer from this at the moment, but it’s very early days and a lot will likely change throughout the alpha/beta phases.
Even though this was a short test, it still gave rise to some amusing moments. Like the time I was chased by a guy with a bow, only for me to hide behind some rocks and leap out to attack him from behind as he passed by. Or the moment when only two guys were left and came face to face, one armed with a chainsaw and the other a blowpipe. You can guess how that one ended.
This test featured two modes, play solo against all the others or work as a team of two. I attempted the team match a few times but whoever I was teamed with always died early on, so it ended up as a solo game. It’s also worth noting that once you die that’s it. No respawning. Players can either spectate or leave.
It’s also worth pointing out that throughout the matches there’s a commentator bringing events to your attention such as players being bumped off. It’s all spoken in a rather jolly tone giving the game a real game-show feel. You’re obviously entertaining someone out there, because there are cameras that follow your movements. What sick bastard came up with this?
The Culling could turn out to be quite entertaining as it progresses through Early Access. It gave me one hell of a bloody weekend.