I seem to be on a roguelite kick recently! First with Prey: Mooncrash and now with Cult of the Lamb. Both are vastly different roguelite experiences though, but they are similar in a sense give that they both change things up from the usual roguelite formula. Meaning that for someone who is into roguelites but looking for something different, which I guess is me now, Cult of the Lamb is a great choice for your next game to play! But while there is plenty it does right, it is still a little rough around some of the edges. So let’s talk about that!
First and foremost, Cult of the Lamb is a new roguelite indie game from developer Massive Monster and published by Devolver Digital, a name you probably recognize if you have any interest in indie games as they tend to publish a lot of them! The premise of the game is that you play as a lamb, the last lamb to be specific as all the other lambs have already been sacrificed to keep ‘The One Who Waits’ from breaking free from their chains put upon them by the Old Faith. However, after the lamb’s execution, they are brought back by The One Who Waits and given the Red Crown in order to give them the power to beat the Old Faith and set their new master free. To do this, the lamb has to form a cult of followers and grow the faith while slaughtering heretics. It sounds a lot more intense and dark than it actually is! Despite the fact that you are very much running a cult, sacrificing followers, putting them to work, and doing all the evil cult things you can think of, the cute art style and the fact that all the characters are animals really offsets how dark and messed up the things you are doing actually are. It’s adds a more jokey and lighthearted tone to it all! Which is good because things can really get dark if you want them to.
Before getting too into that though, let’s talk a bit more about the game play and how Cult of the Lamb sets itself apart from other roguelites. I’d say the biggest difference between it and other games of the genre is the cult building aspect. This isn’t just a background element of the game to help justify the premise, you actually have to build your cult and following to progress! Meaning that about half of this roguelite game is going to be spent doing base building and managing your cult. Luckily, this aspect of the game is actually a lot of fun. You first start things off by finding some followers, because what’s a cult if you don’t have mindless followers to support your faith? You can find followers a number of different ways from just rescuing them in a crusade, which is what the game calls the roguelite sections, to sending out a follower to find more followers to buying them from a creepy spider guy who hangs out just outside your base. So it’s not too hard to find new followers for the cult. Something that is important as you will be going through quite a few cult members throughout the game. But once they are inducted into your cult it’s your job to make sure they are well fed, loyal, and working to provide for the cult! When it comes to building your base and how to go about leading your cult, you are actually given quite a bit of freedom. You can really have any layout you want for most of the buildings, the only one that is fixed and can’t be moved is the statue in the middle of the area that followers pray at. Beyond that, you’re free to make the place your own! It honestly kind of reminded me a bit of Animal Crossing: New Horizons and it’s town building mechanic. Though in Cult of the Lamb you’re giving more freedom when it comes to editing and rearranging your buildings after they are built. Something that I personally love as I tend to be pretty anal about how things look!
Beyond just building though, you are also given the choice of what kind of doctrines you’d like to impose upon the cult. This is what dictates how your cult is run basically and what rules your followers will follow. After collecting enough Commandment Stone Fragments you are able to go into the temple you built for the cult and decide upon a new doctrine! From here there are five categories to choose from with four different doctrines for each. The categories are Afterlife, Work & Worship, Possessions, Law & Order, and Sustenance. Which category you want to address first and in what order is completely up to you. After picking one of the five though, you are given a choice between two different doctrines. For example, the first doctrine you make in the Afterlife category will give you a choice between the Belief in Sacrifice Trait or the Belief in Afterlife Trait. Belief in Sacrifice makes it so your followers will gain Faith instead of losing it when you sacrifice a follower while the Belief in Afterlife will make it so they don’t lose as much Faith when a follower dies for any reason. Once you make the choice between the two, you can’t go back! You will be given this kind of choice four times for each of the five categories.
This does actually give the game some replayability when it comes to picking which doctrine you want over another as you can make the opposite choice next play through. Which of the five categories to choose from isn’t really a big deal either as you earn the stone fragments required for a new doctrine pretty quickly once your cult is big enough. Stone fragments are mainly earned through completing quests from your followers. These quests range from doing a certain ritual they ask for to feeding the follower a certain meal to just collecting some items for them on your next crusade. Doing these quests, even without the stone fragments earned from them, is always a good idea though given that if you don’t do them you’ll take a massive blow to your Faith which can cause lots of problems! The biggest being some followers will try and dissent. This means they will go around telling your other followers that you and the cult aren’t what you say you they are. And that will lead to even more followers losing Faith unless you put the dissenter in prison and re-educate them, or find a way to kill them either through a ritual or just straight up murdering them if you decided to put in place the doctrine that lets you do that!
So all in all you are given a pretty good amount of freedom when it comes to running your cult. And running it well is very important as that is the way you level up your lamb. The daily sermon you can hold in your temple is your main way of collecting Devotion which you need to level up. The more followers and how loyal they are is what determines how much Devotion you gain each time you hold a sermon. So depending on how well you run your cult and how much time you want to spend actually with your cult making sure everything is working as it should, you can actually level up pretty quickly! Leveling up will unlock stronger weapons and curses for you to use when you are out crusading. Which, now that I mention it, is an aspect of the game I should finally start talking about!
Apart from running the cult and getting more followers, it’s your job to go out crusading in order to kill the heretics of the Old Faith! This is where the roguelite elements come in as you have to go into dungeons and fight your way through the enemies to work your way up to the leaders of the Old Faith. There are four dungeons that have their own looks, bosses, and enemies, though a few enemies are shared between all four. Beyond that, they all are very similar. The layouts are always randomized and your main goal is to reach the door at the end and progress to the next area. The rooms in each of the areas either include enemies, an NPC that will give you a new Tarot Card, which basically gives you a random new buff for the run, or a new weapon/curse. There are a few rooms that will sometimes just give you loot but those are pretty rare. Once you get to the first door leading to the next area in a dungeon you are given a choice about how to work your way to the end. This is also randomized as well! You are given a choice between fighting through another area with more enemies, going to a shop keeper, rescuing an animal and bringing them to your cult and things like that. You are able to see what each path offers leading up to the boss so you’re given plenty of freedom when it comes to planning your path, which is really nice!
Sadly, as you might have guessed, after awhile you start to notice a lack of variety. And while this can be a massive problem for some roguelites, it isn’t too damning for Cult of the Lamb as the simple but solid combat was more than enough to keep me entertained even with the lack of variety. At the start of each dungeon run, you are given a random melee weapon and a random curse. Curses are basically a ranged attack for you to use and not like an actual curse or debuff for your lamb. There are a few different types of each as well and you’ll be unlocking more as your cult grows. Which is a good way of tying both elements of the game together! You’ll also need a certain number of cult members to access each new dungeon as well. Though, as I said before, this is about it when it comes to the roguelite elements.
Cult of the Lamb certainly isn’t as deep as some of the other games in the genre but when you combine it with the base and cult building elements it comes out to a much more full experience! If you were to split the two elements of the game apart you’d be left with two very underwhelming games, but together they make for a very unique and fun roguelite. That being said, it does make it hard to recommend the game on either of these aspects alone. For example, if you’re looking for a more pure roguelite experience you should probably skip this as you’ll be left wanting much more from it. Same goes for if you wanted to play the game just for the base building. And while that is a shame it does mean that the overall experience is much more unique that most other base building games and roguelite games! And for that reason, I can very easily recommend it if you were looking for something like that. However, I do have to also mention some of the game’s short comings…
Now these issues are mostly just technically issues, meaning that this might not affect everyone and it may just be affecting the PlayStation 5 version of the game, which is the one I played. Still! These issues need to be mentions, especially if you are also picking up the PS5 version. Multiple times while I was playing, parts of the base building elements would just straight up stop working properly or get me soft locked. Things like my followers not working on certain jobs like farming, crafting, or mining despite the fact that I assigned them to those jobs. They simply would act like there weren’t any jobs of that kind to be done and go off to do something else with their time. Same with sleeping. I would have plenty of beds made and open but some of my followers would complain about the lack of beds and then simply sleep on the floor. And worse than that the game would sometimes soft lock, meaning while the game didn’t freeze or crash I was still technically stuck, when trying to do certain tasks. Things like trying to re-educate a prisoner right after re-educating another prisoner, bringing a new follower into the cult, or trying to do multiple rituals in a row. The game would simply stop functioning right before the animation would play for each of these things leaving me stuck in limbo watching my lamb simply stare at whatever task I wanted them to do. Now, luckily, whenever you are at your base you just about always have the option of pausing the game, saving, and then quitting to the main menu which would always fix any of these issues. So I managed to not actually lose any progress when one of these glitches would pop up. However, that doesn’t mean it didn’t hamper my experience and enjoyment of the game. Normally I can look passed a few glitches here and there in games, in this gaming age you kind of have to do that to enjoy literally any game, but these glitches happened over and over again… They happened more often than they didn’t! It got to the point where I’d save and quit every so often just in case something broke that I didn’t notice. And that should not be something you have to do in any game!
Thankfully, these glitches didn’t completely kill my enjoyment of the game, something you probably guessed as most of this review has been very positive. But I still felt the need to mention it as it’s something that needs to be addressed in both reviews and by the developer themselves. That being said, these glitches are easily my biggest gripe about the game which is a good thing. Glitches can be fixed after all. Although, if I had to complain about anything else in the game it would probably be it’s short length. The game is not long in the slightest even when it comes to fully leveling up your lamb and your cult and defeating the Old Faith. I’d say the game is about 15 hours long or so? And despite there being some replayability with how you run and set your cult up, I don’t think that is enough to really justify a second playthrough unless you adored the game. But complaining about the length would be some extreme nitpicking. Not only is the game $25 instead of the usual $60, the developers already have plans to support the game with free content updates down the line, meaning that there will certainly be a reason to come back! And I know I am looking forward to that already.
Cult of the Lamb is a fun and unique experience with a cute art style and an engaging premise. The art style and premise actually compliment each other pretty well! I don’t think I would have been able to stomach as many of the dark and twisted things you do in the game if it didn’t involve cute animals which helps add a comedic edge to everything. I very much meant what I said with the title saying that running a cult shouldn’t be this cute! That being said, you should give Cult of the Lamb a try, especially if you’re looking for something to spice up the usual roguelite experience. I can promise you won’t be dissapointed!
But those are just my thoughts! What are some of yours? Interested in giving Cult of the Lamb a try? What are some of your favorite roguelite games? I’d love to hear your thoughts so don’t be shy!
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