Start your own cult in a land of false prophets, venturing out into diverse and mysterious regions to build a loyal community of woodland Followers and spread your Word to become the one true cult.
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Reviewed on: PC (5800X, 32GB RAM, Nvidia RTX 3070)
Also available for: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
Developer: Massive Monster
Creative Director: Julian Wilton
Story: Johanna Williams, Jay Armstrong
Design Director: Jay Armstrong
Art Director: James Pearmain
Music: Narayana Johnson
Cast: Will Mesilane, Julian Wilton, Narayana Johnson, Jay Armstrong, Jayde Fletcher, Eleska Boyd, Ali Dale, Paulina Samy, Emma Barrett
Cult of the Lamb is an interesting game that has a wild start. The story begins with your avatar, a small lamb and the last of sheep kind, tied and being prepared for sacrifice to the gods. The gods mention they are doing this to prevent a prophecy: a chosen lamb would serve an old god and kill the new gods. Your Lamb approaches the altar with caution in each step, arriving on the plinth marked with blood and surrounded by apostles, the gods, and anointment of symbols; you are soon sacrificed. Upon your desecration, you are reborn in front of a different god, a God named ‘He Who Waits’, and they require your service. A contract is struck between the two, returning you to life in exchange for building a cult of worshippers for He Who Waits. Accepting this deal, you are reborn in your flesh, knife in hand, slaying the apostles of the New Faith and beginning your journey to create the ‘Cult of the Lamb’. Once free from this temple, you are greeted by an old avatar of He Who Waits sent by the god to guide you on your future endeavours.
After your ordeal, you are brought to an open space filled with rocks, trees and other items of interest and given a chance to name your new landscape. I called my cult headquarters “Spagerholden”, which was close enough to spaghetti, and I had a sneaking suspicion I was hungry at the time. Along with my new grounds were a few interesting items, a totem for followers to prey at, a church for my lamb to preach sermons, and a portal for accepting recently saved creatures to be indoctrinated into my cult. A brief tutorial follows: I gather my new followers and assign them tasks to complete while I build beds and farms to assist the new members.
Cult of the Lamb brings a merriment of different tools to assist you in your cult building experience, from mini-games to construction. All have a uniqueness, but many of the tools have inspirations from other indie titles that can be seen throughout the game. From fishing to farming, I could complete many varied tasks during my time with the game. After a few dungeon runs, which I’ll get to in a moment, I discovered a fishing village, and your home base seems less lonely as you find more villages surrounding your cult grounds.
Daily tasks include:
Working with your followers to produce timber and stone for building.
Worshipping your Lambliness in the church.
Declaring doctrines for your followers to adhere to and much more.
There is always something to be done on the cult grounds, from cleaning up excrement and preventing illness to the re-education or destruction of heretics to ensure your worshippers are happy and healthy. Each follower has a task and can be blessed with items to assist them in their routines; from allowing them to be awake forever or just speeding them up during their day-to-day tasks, the gifts always have a price.
Running dungeons is a separate task; the longer you play, the more dedicated worshipers you gather, and the easier this task becomes. You are using the dedication of the worshippers to level up and gain better loot, weapons and chest for your dungeon crawl. The roguelike randomisation of the dungeons is beautiful, and each of the old faiths dungeons has new types of enemies to face, some more dangerous than others. Along with the assortment of enemies comes an emergence of weapon types, all with their pros and cons. Hammers smash enemies but are slow to move, and daggers are fast but cause minor damage and require a closer attack, meaning higher risk. Claws and axes are an excellent middle ground but are still slow to swing but include a more devastating third attack. Along with these weapons is a secondary attack, which requires charging but has a massive variety of forms, from poison bombs to missile swarms there are too many to go into all the details on them. Again, each has its pros and cons, but if you are like me, you will find a favourite combination soon enough.
The cult functionalities are a tricky beast to tame but a worthwhile task. The more devotion you gain, the more items are available to be built in your headquarters. Improving the lives of your flock by enhancing their faith in you rewards you with abilities, buildings and progress of the cult. Understanding the best way to serve your god and using the flock of animals to serve you all better equates to some interesting developments. While having heretics spouting negative or misinformation to the flock can be dealt with in multiple ways. My favourite was sacrificing them to your He Who Waits and enjoying the beliefs of the cult spiking. Have an older member about to die, set up a grave site and use their death as a preaching moment. There are many ways to run your cult, and no two runs will be the same. Building doctrines into your cult to better guide them ensures that your cult is unique to you but also allows for a multitude of play-throughs.
This game’s art is gorgeous, simplistic 2D avatars on an everchanging landscape, bringing memories of The Binding of Issac, while the base building and fishing reminded me of Stardew Valley. The game itself is a work of art, and there is a wide variety of animal forms to unlock, as well as many unique forms that are spawned from the bosses faced throughout the dungeon crawls. The choice is yours. When you rescue and convert a new cult member, you can remake them in any image you desire if you have unlocked it. The divine imagery of the hand-drawn models and the animations makes this game a must-play for the visuals alone.
The music and sound design are subtle but beautiful, with a gospel-like soundtrack playing throughout the game, varying for areas visited and hastening when fighting bosses. The audio for the characters and bosses creates a unique and intense atmosphere when required but will also lull you into relaxation.
The gameplay loop, like many roguelikes, is repetitive but addictive, broken up by the cultivation of your village and the continued need to tend to your flock. There is plenty to do between runs, or if inspiration strikes, you can hit up old dungeons and attempt to crawl deeper once the main boss is defeated; trying this course of action is rewarded heavy, but the difficulty spikes are enormous. The addition of the cards with health, bonuses and other items assists the Lamb through these dungeon crawls, while the starting weapons and layout vary each run. End bosses change as often as the map, with each dungeon needing to be defeated four times before facing one of the Old Faith members. The defeat of the Old Faith bosses leads to breaking the chain for your god and moves you one step closer to the next dungeon and closer again to freeing He Who Waits.