It’s not every game that can pull off vomit as a tactical choice. If The Culling’s closed alpha test taught me anything though, it’s that making your enemies sick is the key to beating them with a billy club.
I spent a number of hours exploring The Culling’s Hunger Games-esque arena this weekend. And while I can’t say that I’m any good at the game yet, I can most certainly assure you that I will be coming back to hone my skills.
From the moment the menu loads, you’ll likely notice that Xaviant’s latest doesn’t take itself too seriously. The smarmy game show host that announces major in-game events lightens the mood, even as you’re running from poison gas or chasing down a fleeing foe.
One of the strangest parts of The Culling isn’t its jovial approach to murder, though. It’s the odd crafting system.
As you’ll see in the video below, in order to create something new, you’ll need to spend flexible universal nano-compound (F.U.N.C.). Combine two rocks and you get a knife. Add a stick and you get a spear. Put one more in the mix and that sharp pointy melee weapon becomes a bow.
With just those two items, you can make bandages, hatchets, satchels and blow guns. The later is the current favorite of many players because of its gastrointestinal effects.
Tag an enemy with one and they’ll be stunned occasionally while under the influence. This is accompanied by the uncomfortable rumblings of digestive distress, vocal lament, and vomiting. This is enough to close the distance on your foe and slash or bash them to death while they deal with whatever is going wrong in their stomachs.
Because starting locations are randomized, you and your 15 foes will need to adapt. If you start in the wilderness, you’ll have time to craft without interruption, but you also are likely to be last to one of the buildings.
Starting near a structure means you’ll be able to rummage through cabinets for better gear than you can craft. But with others making a beeline for those locations, your round could come to an end if you aren’t prepared for a fight.
Regardless, the key is managing your F.U.N.C. You don’t start with much, so choosing what to craft with the rocks and sticks you find (or punch out of the ground or trees) is important. You’ll also find F.U.N.C. tanks and the remains of former contestants that can give you a small boost.
By default, you can only hold three items. You can open up one more with a satchel or two more with a backpack. You’ll find recyclers outside each building that you can use to dispose of unwanted items (or those you don’t want your foes to find).
F.U.N.C. can also be used to open blue item chests and, if you manage to save up enough, call in a custom airdrop. Your foes can shoot your drop out of the sky, and they’ll know where you are going to be waiting for it. There’s huge risk, but massive reward for calling one in.
Knowing what to hang onto and what to toss depends on how you set up your loadout. You can choose three perks, some of which raise your maximum health, drain stamina as well as health with blunt weapon hits, or include a chance to cripple with arrow shots.
The ingredients for greatness are present in The Culling. It’s an extremely watchable game that plays quickly and doesn’t force players to stick around after they’ve died.
As it enters early access on March 8, Xaviant will hopefully put its focus on improving the melee. It’s very haphazard right now with clumsy blocking and shoving. A more defined weapon relationship (similar to a rock-paper-scissors triangle) would help players approach encounters more strategically.
For the first outing though, the game ran smoothly. I’m hopeful as it heads into a more public test phase that Xaviant is able to improve weapon balance, add new arenas, and further incentivize the use of traps and snares.
If the closed alpha weekend is any indication, you’ll be seeing a lot more of The Culling. We’ll certainly be playing more of it.