6.06.2016 Testing games

The Culling: crafting and death

Platform: PC (Windows)
Game Engine: Unreal Engine 4
Genre: MMO-Action, Indie
Developer: Xaviant Games
Publisher: Xaviant Games
Game Mode: Multiplayer PvP
Release Date: 2016
Early Access: March 4, 2016
Price: 14.99$
Official web-site: http://theculling.com/

The whole human history is based on survival. In times overwhelmed with capitalism, it’s much easier to do, than in the Miocene age or Migration period. It’s even more interesting to live in the virtual reality, than in the real world nowadays.

It all started in 2012, when ArmA 2 suddenly got into “Top sellers” in Steam. Thanks to a free add-on DayZ, made by Dean Hall, a game for a small, but dedicated community began to set new records. DayZ had everything it needs: post-apocalypse, zombies, vehicles, crafting, hunger, thirst, traumas and, what’s most important, evil players, longing for your death in order to loot your corpse. And even though it is now a standalone game in beta-status and Dean Hall left the project, his input in game industry can’t be overestimated, as there is no lack of survival games ever since. [BytexTest]The Culling Screen4

The only problem with these games is, that not many of them live until the release day. Alas, the developers play their own DayZ in real life, where they have to eat and sleep. And this requires money, just as much as further development, so most popular games of the genre have early-access lable. Rust, ARK: Survival Evolved, H1Z1 : Just Survive, H1Z1: King of the Kill, The Forest, 7 Days to Die, The Long Dark, Hurtworld, The Culling… Those are the most popular games, that can boast of its’ sold copies and numerous communities. Only Gabe Newell knows how many indie-peanuts really are there in Steam.

All games above have a lot in common. You can find sandbox, foraging, crafting, wild animals, zombies, mutants or dinozaurs there. As much as crowds of your lookalikes wandering around.

But The Culling (and H1Z1: King of the Kill) are a little different. Here, you won’t need to save all your stuff just to start over again after a casual death from an invisible sniper. The “Battle Royale” game style is a lot easier and faster. 16 people are placed on the arena, surrounded by a gigantic dome and given 10 minutes before the area starts to contract. During this time, rookies run to the center, and die by the hads of professionals, who had time to craft some weapons or save in-game currency (FUNC) to call an air-drop. The contraction is presented by poisonous gas, that kills the unluckiest ones. Quite a good gameplay feature, as players will have to face each other in the end of the day.

That facing often goes berserk. Knives, axes, spears, machetes, baseball bats, katana swords, hammers, sledge-hammers, crowbars go on the stage. There also are a stun gun and a pepper spray and long-range weapons (bows, revolvers). One can also play Gojko Mitić and shoot poisonous darts out of a blow pipe. For those who prefer a more enthusiastic way of killing, there are traps. Be sure to have completed Basic and Advanced tutorials. They will carefully explain how to make killing an art to you. Fair to say, that The Culling is quite easy to learn. The controls are simple, interface is intuitive and fighting is fun. The match doesn’t take more than 20 minutes, so the game won’t take a lot of your time a day.

[BytexTest]The Culling Screen5However, The Culling has got some disadvantages. Early access always brings a lot of changes in the content or gameplay with every patch, which may break a thin line of balance in a blink of an eye. Early access often means constant server breakdowns, bad optimisation, bugs…

Last sentence can characterise The Culling like nothing more. All around the internet, people complain about poor optimization of the game, crashes, lags, freezes, minimal system requirements don’t correspond to the real ones, general “rawness” of the game, numerous in-game errors… All the stuff we love so much!

Focus-test

We have already had a focus-test while preparing an article about Crossout. The purpose of that is always the same. It’s to collect the opinions of experienced players on the game. According to the rules of focus-testing, participants must not be acquainted with the project, but many of them had played such games, as Rust, ARK, H1Z1, Battle Royale for ArmA 3. That’s what we mean by “experienced players”.

Participants:

  • Number: 10 people
  • Sex: 8 – male, 2 – female
  • Average age: 25 y.o.

Conditions:

  • Briefing
  • Playing Tutorial Basic
  • Playing Tutorial Advanced
  • Playing Practice
  • Character customization in Loadout tab
  • Playing Free for All
  • Conclusive feedback

Main measurements:

MeasurementAverage value
General impression3,5
Tutorial Basic4,6
Tutorial Advanced4,3
“Practice” mode4,2
Character customization (Loadout.Outfit)3
System of Perks (Loadout.Perks)4,3
“Free for All” mode3,9
Crafting System3,9
Combat System3,6
Controls5
Interface4,3
Game visuals3,6
Game sound3,2
Replay value, game captivity4


6 participants out of 10 valued the game as “good” and 3 gave it a “will-do” mark, as it wasn’t their genre. One more participant claimed that Battle Royale for Arma 3 has a lot more interesting gameplay features and valued the game as “poor”.


All members of our focus group positively valued the Tutorial Basic mode, as a simple and easy way to introduce the game.


Tutorial Advanced was valued the same as Tutorial Basic. The biggest advantage is the oppotrunity to try every weapon available in the game.


Practice mode was valued as “Great” by 4 testers, “Good” by 4 and 2 more called it “will-do”. Experienced players complained about low AI level.


The response on the customization of the charachter was mostly tepid. The main reason for that were a small number of individualisation variants and a poor textures even on high graphics.


The system of perks was met otherwise. The focus group outlined the amount of abilities in the game.


The “Free for All” mode was warmly met as an interesting and grasping option.


4 “will-do’s”, 3 “good’s” and 3 “great’s” speak of not very much realistic crafting system with ludicrous special effects. It’s quite unique and remarkable though.


The combat system was valued mostly neutral. The amount of weapons is, no doubt, a plus, but the game lacks combo chains and dinamic battles. The use of weapory is mostly the same.


All members of our focus-test consider the controls as a simple and intuitive feature.


The game interface didn’t bring any complications to our focus group. 7 out of 10 gave it a “good” mark, others – “great”.


6 participants said that the graphics are “good” and answers the demands of 2016. 4 respondents think that it “will do”, because of low textures of characters even on high graphics.


Talking about sound effects in the game, the focus group couldn’t come to an agreement. 1 participant rated it as “great”, 2 more gave it a “good” mark. 5 testers consider it a “will-do” and 2 more people decided that the sound was frankly “poor”. The commentator’s voice was annoying after a short while and the sound itself wasn’t dynamic, but monotonous.


In general, the project was called captivating with a replay value. 8 participants wanted to play a couple more times after the test, 1 is going to buy a game for himself and 1 more said that the game “will-do”, but it’s not his genre.

Conclusion. The game was met mostly warm. It’s cons, as we think, are the character customisation and monotonous music. The pros are a good Tutorial, general interest during the battle and wide system of perks.

Minimal system requirements

OS: 64-Bit OS Required: Win7 SP1, Windows 8.1, or Windows 10
CPU: Intel Core i3 560 / AMD Phenom II X4 945
RAM: 4 GB
GPU: DX11 GPU with 1GB VRAM: NVidia GTX 460/ AMD Radeon 5850
DirectX: Version 11
Network: Broadband internet connection
Free space: 8 GB

At first sight, The Culling has got typical system requirements for today’s game. The least they claim is dual-core Intel or quad-core AMD CPU, modest amount of RAM and an average videocard from 2010. Nothing extreme! The thing is, that the minimals look optimistic right until you run the game for the first time, when you will find out that playing in this configuration is quite problematic.

Bytex minimal configurations. Performance

OS: Windows 7 x64
CPU: Intel(R) Core(TM) i3 CPU 540 @ 3.07GHz (4 CPUs), ~3.1GHz
Videocard: Palit NVIDIA GeForce GTX 750 STORMX OC [NE5X750THD41-2065F]
RAM: 4 Gb
DirectX: 11

We prepared our own computer that mostly corresponds to the minimal requirements. The CPU is a bit worse (3.06 GHz instead of 3.33 GHz is less than 10% different) and GeForce GTX 750 on Maxwell architecture, which is almost the same in performance, as GTX 460. 4 Gb RAM and Windows 7. No frills.

The first thing we saw was mostly identical FPS on every graphics setting with both resolutions tested. Full HD drops FPS down to zero on low-quality and up to one on high-quality settings. Medium-setting didn’t have such drastic drops. That’s awkward!

Further tests wil clear things up. Yet we can say, that 20 FPS is not quite enough for a close-quarter combat. Usually, lower settings or changing the resolution would help, but not this time. For now, it’s clear that the minimal configuration declared, would only be enough for a slide-show. If it’s critical for you, we can only suggest you to watch the “Battle Royale” while waiting for the optimization.

Bytex testing table and other participants. Performance.

OS: Windows 10
DirectX: 12
Motherboard: gigabyte ga-b85-hd3
CPU: Intel(R) Core(TM) i7-4790 CPU @ 3.60GHz
RAM: 16 Gb
HDD: wdc wd10ezex-21m2na0
Cooler: Deepcool Iceedge 400FS

We were surprised by The Culling on minimal configurations, as the diagramms looked to much alike. At first, we thought about poor optimization, but when we changed Core i3 to Core i7 and increase RAM up to 16Gb, then GeForce GTX 750 works much better! 4 cores instead of 2, 8 threads instead of 4 and GTX 750 can keep FPS on a decent rate.

So the game is ether addicted to a CPU or “the CPU opens the potential of the GPU”. The main conclusion is that the low budget GeForce GTX 750 provides comfortable performance while working with a powerful CPU. See summary diagramms below.

Outsiders of our testing are GTX 750, GTX 750 Ti and GTX 660. They sometimes lack performance of high graphics with Full HD because of FPS drops, but medium settings give us much better results. Average FPS is above 50, minimal is around 40 or more. Good results for inexpensive GPUs.

There is, probably, no point in trying to pick a leader according to our diagramms. It’s enough to say that GTX 760 and GTX 770 which are far from the top of our list and low budget GTX 950 and GTX 960 can easily handle Full HD on high graphics. They even have more than needed for medium quality. On the other hand, there is no such thing as too much performance.

The “Red” team is presented by R7 370, R9 285 and R9 380 (the same “medium” range, as in the “Green” team) and the low budget ones: R7 250X and HD 7770. Of course, we are not only interested in AMD performance, but also in the eternal war between videocards all over the market. GeForce GTX 960 against Radeon R9 380, GTX 950 against R7 370… See the diagramms below.

This time GTX 960 wins R9 380 with better Full HD results and price. The fight between GTX 950 and R7 370 is not that obvious. Yes, NVidia has better FPS rate, but AMD is a little cheaper. Just like in Warhammer 40,000: Eternal Crusade and The Solus Project, NVidia videocards look stronger, than their AMD opponents. Perhaps, the heart of all these games (Unreal Engine 4) prefers NVidia architecture.

Anyway, R9 380 and R9 285 provide you with comfortable performance on high graphics with Full HD and R7 370 will be enough for medium settings. Talking about R7 250X and HD 7770, both can handle Full HD on minimal graphics.

The laptops we’ve tested, won’t suit for playing The Culling, though. There is no way to squeese out 30 stable FPS even on low graphics. Besides, the rate often drops down to zero.

Laptops

CPU: Intel(R) Core(TM) i3 CPU 370M @ 2.40GHz
RAM: 6 Gb
HDD: SAMSUNG HM321HI
GPU: ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5650
CPU: Intel(R) Core(TM) i3-5005U CPU @ 2.00GHz
RAM: 4Гб
HDD: ST500LT012-1DG142
GPU: NVidia GeForce 920M

 

Conclusion

Numerous bugs are not that big of a problem after all. Early access is, practically, an open beta-test, in which the impatient ones take part. They know what they are doing when they buy a rough verison of a game. In addition, The Culling opened it’s doors only 3 months ago. Xaviant Games systematically updates their game, so there are good chances that someday we will see a much better game with fewer bugs and more opportunities.

The focus-test, held by our company brought stronger points of The Culling to the light. Those are: thought through tutorials, joyful “Free for all” mode, intuitive interface, and a great system of perks, which allows to individualize the charachter according to specific style of playing.

Unfortunately, there are some weak points too. Sound effects and charachter customisation need to be worked on, combat system lacks combo chains and additional animations. New arenas would be good too (we suppose, that the developer is going to add them after improving balance and basic gameplay). Players from Russia are also desperate for localization. Well, in short terms, there is a lot to suggest! And the main suggestion is to fix minimal system requirements, noted in Steam before optimizing the game. Let’s wish the developers all the success in the world with their game!