The Culling’s sequel somehow manages to feel like it’s chasing a trend it actually helped create.
The Culling 2 unexpectedly launched yesterday, but it’s already off to a terrible start. Currently sitting at a measly 13% positive reviews of around 150 total on Steam, it’s one of the worst averages for a follow-up to a well-known game I’ve ever seen. And, frankly, it may deserve it.
The first Culling doesn’t have a sterling review average either, especially after development was officially shut down in December. It currently sits just below 60%, but still managed to gather over 13,000 reviews since its Early Access launch two years ago. It’s still early days for The Culling 2, but it isn’t trending toward even a fraction of that success, and may already be dead in the water.
So what the heck happened? I tried The Culling 2 out myself and looked through a ton of Steam reviews to find an answer. The original Culling was a battle royale game before the genre blew up, sporting an compelling melee system that set it apart from the hero shooters and survival games of the time. But the overwhelming impressions throughout most of its sequel’s Steam reviews express a fairly justified sense of betrayal for two different reasons.
The first: many people are mad at developer Xaviant for taking The Culling out of Early Access, walking away from it entirely two short months later, and then suddenly releasing a sequel six months after that. People are raising a fair question: why didn’t Xaviant simply fix the issues of the first game instead?
Xbox players are especially mad about this. The Culling received even worse support there, launching on the platform less than six months before development ceased. With other battle royale games like PUBG and Fortnite getting frequent updates and support, the complete abandonment of a game in favor of a surprise sequel isn’t a great look.
The other sense of betrayal occurs in-game, where The Culling 2 looks almost nothing like its predecessor. Many complain that everything that made The Culling an early standout is missing in its sequel. For example, The Culling’s interesting emphasis on melee combat has fallen by the wayside, replaced with the standard fair of looting assault rifles and other guns.
The Culling helped blaze a path for the battle royale craze, but its sequel still manages to feel like it’s chasing a trend it actually helped create.
This one-two-punch has simultaneously alienated fans of the original game and given fans of PUBG or Fortnite no clear reason to switch teams. That’s especially painful when you consider that The Culling was one of the games blazing a path for the battle royale genre to take over, while its sequel has somehow managed to still feel like its chasing a trend it actually helped create.
The Culling 2 is also not a very good game, as many reviews also point out. It doesn’t look very pretty, its once-loved over-the-top game show announcer feels dated after Radical Heights recently failed using a similar theme, and it doesn’t feel good to play.
Server population is also an issue that has come up in both the Steam reviews and my own testing. Despite the 50-player limit – coming under the standard 100 – it was pretty much impossible to find a well-populated match on launch day, and it’s even worse now. PC Gamer even posted a match where they won a round before touching the ground as they were one of only two players in the lobby – the other disconnected.
I previously wrote about how people shouldn’t really dwell on a game’s player count as long as you can easily find good matches, and I stand by that. But right now you basically can’t find a match at all for The Culling 2, at least on PC. According to SteamCharts, it peaked at just 249 concurrent players on launch day (not even enough for five full servers) and hasn’t gone above a max of 13 concurrents all day today.
As of right now, I think the Steam reviews have it right, at least as far as the PC version is concerned — we don’t know how many people are playing on PS4 or Xbox One. But it’s still the same game on those platforms with the same shaky development history.
It’s such a shame. The Culling truly did have some interesting ideas and a sequel could have offered an evolved version of that unique take in a rapidly oversaturating genre. But this isn’t a sequel for The Culling fans, it’s got a host of its own newer problems, and odds are you literally won’t be able to find a match.
Tom Marks is IGN’s PC Editor and pie maker. You can follow him on Twitter.