It's survival of the fittest in The Culling's harsh utopia.
In recent years the survival genre has gained a significant following, with a countless number of titles releasing with in-depth crafting, resource and progression systems. Following the unexpected prosperity of a small subset of titles, the genre has become flooded new releases that struggle to differentiate themselves from the competition.
An emerging issue with recent releases is their strong focus on resource management, which if incorrectly balanced, can overshadow remainder of a game's content. Placing a heavy emphasis on grinding can add longevity to an experience, but ultimately dispels any tension it attempts to build in the process.
Xaviant Games' The Culling inherits a number of traits from the survival genre but shifts the game's focus closer to its action-oriented roots. Reminiscent of iconic films such as Battle Royale and The Hunger Games, The Culling leaves a group of players in a closed arena to fight to the death. With supplies randomly scattered across an expansive map, players must race against the clock to collect equipment and fend off the competition.
Earlier this year it was announced that The Culling will be making its way to the Xbox One, via Microsoft's Game Preview program. Prior to its console debut, we've taken a look at what The Culling currently offers and how it will fare making a transition from the PC.
A fight to the end
It comes as no surprise that The Culling found its success on the PC, given that variants of its concept can be seen across a number of today's most popular titles. If a game comes with a custom map editor, it's likely a multiplayer mode has been made with similar premise – often named after its cinematic influences. After showing their popularity over the years, The Culling feels like a natural evolution of fan-made game modes.
"The Culling feels like a natural evolution of fan-made game modes"
Each game of The Culling begins with players trapped inside a human-sized box, which opens up at the start of the match. Over the next twenty minutes, players must quickly search for materials and weapons in the wilderness, to stand a chance of survival against the sixteen other contestants.
This sets up the game's dynamic pacing, which quickly changes throughout each round. During the earlier stages of each match, success can be found through strategic scavenging but soon requires a more aggressive approach as gear is collected.
Thanks to this structure, each match manages to feel unique and unpredictable. With the added wildcards of random loot spawns and the erratic behavior of real world players, The Culling's arena feels like a truly volatile environment.
Death in paradise
The Culling currently offers a single expansive level set on an abandoned tropical island. With some distressed structures and an otherwise barren landscape, players are drawn to the map's limited number of landmarks. Searching these buildings will often lead to more valuable discoveries, but these are locations prone to player encounters.
A number of competitive systems are built into these maps, to ensure players encounter one another. These are slowly introduced throughout the round, to provide players with an incentive to venture into more dangerous sectors of the map.
Perhaps the most effective system is the game's ever-changing map size, as gas engulfs the borders only mere minutes into each round. Closing in from the outer rim, each phase of gas will continue to push players to a central arena known as the 'Culmination'. These phases massively reduce the size of the arena, increasing player density and the subsequent casualties.
Reduce, reuse and recycle
While fighting for survival, players will also be given the opportunity to earn The Culling's virtual currency known as FUNC. This is a temporary currency collected while scavenging and completing tasks but expires at the end of each match.
The quickest way to earn FUNC is by recycling in-game materials at dedicated recycling stations. These stations can convert any handheld item into the virtual currency and provides a way to discard items for a small reward. With only three inventory slots at the beginning of the game, recycling becomes a core aspect of progression. FUNC can also be found across the map inside dedicated containers or rewarded for completing simple in-game actions.
"The Culling still has a number of flaws to overcome"
FUNC later comes into use when accessing higher level items, which can be spawned into the arena via dedicated 'holo-spawner' terminals. These terminals provide instant access to more powerful weapons as the cost of a significant sum of credits. For those willing to take a gamble, personal air drops can also be called in with varying rarities of loot.
In its current execution, The Culling still has a number of flaws to overcome before it can hold a dedicated playerbase. With only a single map currently on offer and the bare bones of its gameplay, it's clear that the game still requires some work before its official release. Looking past its in-progress state, The Culling is set to successfully merge a competitive arena experience with a traditional multiplayer survival game.
While the PC version of The Culling is still seeing frequent updates, we're yet to receive an official date for the game's arrival on Xbox Game Preview.