Survival games have been all the rage for some time now. The vast majority of them are of the craft items, build bases, combat other players and/or AI opponents variety. Among these, almost all of them take place in near-future, post-apocalyptic settings. We’re talking about stalwarts like Rust, Day Z, H1Z1, as well as newcomers such as Miscreated here, or games that have recently re-invented themselves, such as the awesome 7 Days to Die.
However, there has always been a curious lack of battle royale-inspired games. You know, the kind where they throw a bunch of gaming contestants together on some map, which of course contains weapons scattered here and there across them, for players to find (if they’re lucky that is). Sure, there have been a few games that have had strapped-on battle royale-type modes, but nothing that was totally dedicated to that particular survival game subgenre.
That changed early last year when H1Z1 split into two completely separate incarnations: H1Z1: Just Survive, and H1Z1: King of the Kill. Just Survive became the developer’s standard zombie survival crafting game, while King of the Kill was decidedly battle royale-based. But while I found King of the Kill fun in short bursts, what sort of detracted from the whole experience (at least for me) was its shallow gameplay and huge emphasis on long-ranged combat. Each King of the Kill match also contained way too many easy-to-find weapons within its maps. This basically makes each game of KotK dependent on who finds the biggest guns first, and shoots down the other, less well-equipped players. Not so much fun after all.
Just after the KotK emergence, a small indie developer called Xaviant Games dropped their brand of battle royale gaming on us with their offering, The Culling. When it initially debuted, gamers couldn’t stop ranting and raving about it. What was so unique about this new interloper on the battle royale scene was that its combat was much more intricate and subtle (if you could put it that way). As opposed to relying on long-ranged shootouts as in KotK, The Culling emphasized up-close and personal encounters.
That also made combat in The Culling more primal, since you had to look into the whites of your enemy’s virtual eyes, every time you took a hack or blow at them with your ax or baseball bat, respectively. Add to this the fact that melee combat in The Culling had not only attacking, but also blocking, and even shoving your opponents off guard, and you had a much more multifaceted combat system.
While The Culling still had ranged combat, with different types of bows and throw weapons, guns were very rare. And even if you did happen to come across a firearm, ammo was extremely limited. This probably turned a lot of fast-twitch Call of Duty-type players off. You know the kind—the tween fast-twitch variety. Then again, conversely, it also attracted a much more nuanced (albeit smaller) crowd that favored actual combat tactics as opposed to lightning-fast reflexes.
The Culling also had another thing going for it: A wider range of combat effects. For instance, if you shot someone with a poisoned arrow, their screen would become green-tinged and disoriented. Or, let’s say that you laid a particularly well-hidden snare trap, and an opponent stumbled right into it (one of my favorite tactics)—you could simply begin stabbing or clubbing them to your heart’s delight, as they feverishly attempted to break free from being ensnared. These types of effects go far beyond the typical hack someone and make them bleed out condition that most games offer.
Unfortunately for The Culling, however, a slew of odd updates and patches by Xaviant eviscerated what made the game great in the first place. Over the past ten months or so, they’ve taken away the vast majority of the game’s “perk” system, where players could give their character certain abilities such as being able to run faster or with more stamina, or being better with certain types of weapons. They also tampered with the ingenious rock-paper-scissors combat system that made melee combat so fun and visceral. Gradually, The Culling’s Steam store page reviews turned from positive, to decidedly angry and dismissive—it was really a sad thing to see.
Well, Xaviant had been working behind the scenes to overhaul the game all along, it seems. They very recently dropped a new update on the gaming masses, called The Big House, which not only added a whole slew of new content, but also addressed many of the nagging issues that gamers have been incessantly complaining about. For starters, The Culling now has a brand new map called Cul County Correctional, which is one large sprawling prison for people to slaughter each other within. It’s a nice contrast to the original island map, which by now has grown pretty stale, and contains more urban areas such as tunnels, prison cells, and walled-off areas to fight or hide in.
They’ve also added some new weapons into the mix, including a yari, pike (a personal favorite), pitchfork, camp hatchet, steel caltrops and punji sticks, and a survival axe. To compliment these new weapons, the combat system has also been re-balanced. Since many people had been complaining about the newer block and stagger systems, Xaviant has since re-adjusted the melee system as it is now a nice compromise with some of the more vociferous complaints of the past.
New game modes include Lightning Rounds, with smaller player counts and rounds, Shake & Bake, where you have to hide indoors for certain periods of time due to a scorching sun, and Drop Your Bridges, where free airdrops can be called in over some rather compromised bridge platforms.
In all, The Culling’s new update proves that sometimes, no matter how down and out a game may seem, its developers can turn things around. This is probably the most obvious example of that I’ve ever seen—the Steam reviews, when compared to just a few days ago (before and after the update) are like night and day. Gamers are once again lauding the game as the best thing since sliced bread—and who doesn’t just love a good comeback story?
The Culling offers some excellent visuals that suit its grimy dystopian theme. However, you have to have a fast gaming PC or gaming laptop in order to play it at a decent framerate. So, you may just want to invest in a decent gaming rig:
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