A Cult Of Enjoyability

HIGH Adorable eldritch horror.

LOW Merely competent gameplay.

WTF Feeding poop to cultists.

Cult of the Lamb is something special — a combination roguelike and colony sim that’s more than the sum of its disparate parts. It’s Binding of Isaac meets Animal Crossing, wrapped in a dark fantasy of haunted woods, talking animals, and daemonic entities. 

Players control the Lamb, slaughtered in the very opening moments, only to be raised from the dead by The One Who Waits – an evil god sealed away who needs a servant to restore him.

He gives the fluffy protagonist power to do his bidding, and so the Lamb returns to the world of the living, recruits members into their cult, and hunts down the four Bishops of the Old Faith who sealed away their otherworldly master, all brought to life in an adorable art style mimicking paper cut-outs in a diorama. 

Gameplay is two-tiered — Players will divide a continuously-advancing day-night cycle between fighting through randomized dungeons and spending time at the compound guiding the flock. 

In the combat sections, the Lamb goes room-to-room, slaughtering enemies from a top-down perspective. They’re equipped with two types of attacks — a melee weapon and a spell (called a curse), their exact variation randomly selected at the beginning of each dungeon but replaceable with other, better versions as they’re found. There’s also an i-frame roll (granting momentary invincibility) to dodge enemy assaults and a variety of randomized rooms — will it be a Tarot Card Reader room granting a buff, or a route full of fights?

There are four dungeon areas, each with their own unique biome, resources, and enemies. In each one, players must defeat three mini-bosses — in three separate runs — before a final run to take on the area’s Bishop. Those protectors of the Old Faith will occasionally pop up along a run to put a spanner in the works — typically placing some kind of burden on the Lamb’s followers, like putting them all into a starved status, or causing illness to inflict the Lamb’s camp.

Speaking of which, this directly relates to the second half of play. When not in dungeon combat, the Lamb typically goes back at the compound where their cult is based and collected resources and newly-recruited followers will be used to build structures, unlock abilities and generally power up. While base-building mechanics that serve as level-ups hardly novel to the roguelike, Cult takes it a step further as players will need to actively manage resources, whether it’s preaching sermons to power up the weapon tree, gathering ‘devotion’ for new structures, or farming plants to cook food.

They’ll also need to take care of their followers to increase loyalty. Maintaining cleanliness, providing meals to stave off hunger and performing rituals to maintain an overall faith level will all be crucial for maximizing output — plus the occasional sacrifice. What better way to gain power than to offer a loyal follower’s life to the darkness?

Lamb‘s back-and-forth cycle of dungeon crawling and farming is addictive, and the two connect harmoniously with each other. However, the game is not perfect as each of the two halves are competent, but not exemplary — there are better, tighter roguelikes and more in-depth colony sims.

Weapon hitboxes and enemy movement can be inconsistent or too forgiving, allowing engagements to break down into loose, chaotic button-mashing. Individual rooms stuffed with breakable environmental pieces that can block movement while scrabbling against multiple enemies can be overwhelming, especially in the later stages with scores of creatures dancing across the floor space. 

There’s also a lack of variation for weapons and curses. While advancing along the ‘attack’ skill tree will unlock higher levels granting faster hits and more damage, as well as variations like life-stealing vampiric weapons, damage-over-time poison effects and so on, there are only five weapon types. Spells have more forms, but it’s not an extensive list. the feeling of discovery during a run dies out far too soon.

The cult-building mechanics are fairly simple. While followers will have their own thoughts and may even do things like rebel or have relationships with each other, such action doesn’t lead rich interior lives for these NPCs. It’s all fairly superficial.

However, despite each half being only competent, Cult’s overall package — its blended gameplay, distinct aesthetic, and dark humor — elevate it beyond most flaws in doctrine.

At 20 hours, I seem to have hit the upper limit of the content (although the developer promises free updates) with only a few collectible follower skins to find. There could still be some hidden endings I’ve yet to find, but I don’t predict it has the typical replayability or longevity of its genre contemporaries.

However, while it lasted, Cult of the Lamb was a darkly enlightening experience that wholly delivers on the premise of its cutesy horror genre-mash-up. For the many who have been eagerly anticipating its release, that faith has been rewarded.

Rating: 8 out of 10

— Stephen Cook

Disclosures: This game is developed by Massive Monster and published by evolver Digital. It is currently available on PS4, PS5, Switch, XBX and PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PC. Approximately 20 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated Teen and contains Blood and Violence. The official descriptions reads as follows: This is an action-adventure game in which players assume the role of a possessed lamb brought back to life to create a cult following. Players traverse cartoony environments, attempt to rescue lost lambs, and use axes and daggers to battle enemy creatures (e.g., demons, evil monks, bats). Battles are highlighted by sword slashes, cries of pain, and screen-shaking effects. Enemies generally turn into skeletons and/or leave black stains when killed. Some environments depict impaled creatures on bloody spikes and blood stains on altars.

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available. 

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: This game offers subtitles. The subtitles can be altered and resized. Sound is not necessary for gameplay and there are no significant audio cues. This game is fully accessible.

Remappable Controls: Yes, this game offers fully remappable controls.

Stephen Cook
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