Cult of the Lamb has come to indoctrinate all players on all platforms. Is it worth drinking the kool-aid for? The Finger Guns review:
Does it make me sound like an absolute serial killer if I admit that Cult of the Lamb appealed to me much more than any game I have seen in a very long time? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not secretly going to start posting propaganda for Scientology or the Illuminati any time soon, but Cult of the Lamb made you intrigued to dip your toe too, right?
A Deal with the Devil
The story for Cult of The Lamb starts pretty simply and isn’t complicated to follow. You assume the character Lamb. Lamb stands before four powerful evil bishops about to succumb to being… well…. a sacrificial lamb. Sacrificing you, this ensures a dissented bishop below is condemned to eternal captivity, preserving the ‘Old Faith’ as they know it. Whilst sacrificed into the afterlife, Lamb comes face to face with ‘The One Who Waits’, the dissented Bishop in question offering Lamb a deal of a lifetime. He asks you to start a cult in his name and live to tell a tale for another day. Of course you accept this deal, as not accepting this deal is the equivalent of just shutting off your console. Lamb is gifted with the Red Crown and is now able to fight his way out of the dungeons that once acted as its sacrificial alter. As the story progresses you learn more about ‘The One Who Waits’ and what you’ve signed up for.
Cult of the Lamb divides its time equally between rogue-like dungeon crawler and management cult simulator. Combat is immediately satisfying as you look to escape the very place of your demise. When slicing through foes, the DualSense and haptic feedback are joyous, reacting to every swing of your sword. The mechanics of combat are simple, hit and roll. Using roll to dodge will temporarily immunise you from danger, whilst hitting is the hack and slash that players have come to love in rogue-likes. Along the way, you’ll meet Ratau, a guide who can help you escape the lands of the Old Faith. This acts as the tutorial and is thorough in purpose. Guiding you as the player through combat, follower collection and basic rules of becoming Jim Jones.
Let’s begin in the land of your own cult, the moment before we drink any kool-aid. As a Cult leader you will need to obtain a following, and Lamb can do this by rescuing followers or even buying them off of NPC’s who have captured them. When they arrive, you are to indoctrinate them and they are yours to play with as you wish.
It sounds like I am making this sound so far like a shallow premise but that’s misleading as Cult of the Lambs management simulator has depth. Each follower will bring with it its own personality of positive and negative traits that will have an impact on how your cult operates. Some followers may be harder to level up for example, or have less belief in you to begin with. Some may become more faithful if they fall unwell.
Eat Shit and Die
No really, you can make your followers eat shit and die if you are having a bad day. As a leader you will need to look after your flock, or perhaps torture them. It’s your choice really. Duties must be carried out on behalf of or requested of your flock, but some may need your control as a leader. Lamb will have to maintain a high level of cult belief and feed the members of the flock daily. Sermons, rituals and doctrines will have to be implemented daily to ensure that followers stay loyal and don’t plan any mutinies.
Rituals and doctrines are where the fun really begins. Doctrines are the type of rules and beliefs that you stow upon your colony. Rituals are the acts performed to enforce those elements of those doctrines or just to keep your following happy throughout living with you. Rituals can include sacrifice, feasts or even marrying your followers, and can be done periodically to give a huge boost to belief. You can even play devil’s advocate and steal from your followers for a consequence of belief but landing in the riches of coin.
It’s a lot of fun and these rituals can be unlocked as you play through the roguelike aspect and gather devotion; a type of belief currency from the shrine they worship. Rituals and Sermons will add to your devotion counter, which acts like a levelling system, you may have an aim to get to 100 and each sermon may give you 10 or 15 devotion a day. Once reaching its target you will be able to upgrade weapons and curses that Lamb is able to hold during the rogue-like part of the game.
In addition to playing the part of the next Bhagwan Ranjeesh, followers will ask you to complete missions which could be as simple as giving another follower flowers to show admiration or cooking them a bowl of poop as a prank. Lamb will also need to care for followers if they fall ill and build structures to keep resources flowing or keep your cult area clean. Should followers get sick, they can either die or dissent quickly. If a follower starts to dissent it will start stomping around the area trying to spread the news of your cruddy leadership. I mean, if my mother pooped in my living quarters and didn’t clean it, I’d dissent against her too! So it’s imperative to not leave your cult for too long or chaos can ensue.
It’s very easy to become very attached to your cult area and not go out on missions for days at a time. Cult of the Lamb has a day/night cycle where followers will sleep in sleeping quarters during the night or pray to you. In the day, both you and your followers will tend to the environment, chopping tree’s, tending to your farms, or engage in worship. Building structures and placing decorations to make your area become the prettiest looking cult there is, is an addictive feature. It doesn’t feel tedious to do this, and it feels like fulfilling a sense of purpose whilst away on battle. Your cult will continue living, breathing, dying (oh yeah, they die of old age, and it’s really sad and everyone gets sad faces on their adorable animal features) even when you’ve stepped away to the other regions. It makes for a good challenge to try and balance all components of the game at once.
The Meat Grinder
This brings me into the rogue-like section of Cult of the Lamb. A lot of people will see the term rogue-like and it can immediately be a make or break decision on whether to dive in. Some people know that kind of gameplay is not for them and there is no penitence for that. Each to their own and I guess I normally include myself in that category. The likes of Elden Ring or Demon Souls, with that brutal style of kill or be killed x1000 on hard mode, isn’t for me. I quite frankly don’t have the blood pressure or the patience for it.
However, there is something to be said when games take on elements of this, and make it more ‘accessible’, or soften it down from the basically ‘getting spat on and you’re dead genre type’. In the last few years the industry has also seen many more looping mechanics used in gameplay, from the likes of Deathloop and Returnal. Cult of the Lamb takes clear inspiration from this and adds so much fun to it. Whilst one of your main jobs is to run your own cult, you will also need to fulfil the wish of ‘The One Who Waits’. After all, he is why you are still alive and bleating.
The game is split into four regions to represent each of the four bishop’s you faced at the beginning of the game. It will require you to complete each region four times before facing off against the bishop himself. Each time you complete a section of the four, the environment and the enemies you face will be procedurally generated again. Lamb will also be given a weapon and a curse at random at the beginning of each section too. This creates quite an interesting dynamic. There were times where I would actually fly through the series of mini-rooms to get to the end mini boss, and other times when a lot of timing and skill would be need to be used to make sure I didn’t die before reaching the end.
Dying comes with not only the consequence of needing to start that section again, but also having your followers see you as weak and lose faith. However, you will then have the advantage that your weapons change when you next retry, but you could end up with something weaker than your previous run. You’re partly at the mercy of the RNG gods.
There will be times where players will need to get everything back in order in their cult. Combat sections can vary in length and there were many times I ran into difficulty where my sections would take multiple in-game days, meaning time would not be on my side. Someone from my cult would die of old age, ensuing a barrage of sickness from the rest of the camp. This meant I had to get back as quickly as possible before I came back to the sight of multiple car sick toddler’s in a fast car. Far from being frustration, this was quite fun. A balancing act of sick, blood, poo, cooking soup and remaining a God in the eyes of the most adorably cute followers. What more can anyone want from a game?
Saying that, Cult of the Lamb has essentially indoctrinated myself into the rogue-like genre. This is so much fun, and much beyond my assumptions of rogue-like I previously had. I’ll not jumping into Bloodbourne tomorrow by any means, but I certainly won’t switch off when met with that type of game description again. If you’re usually turned off by the words “rogue-like” like I was, I urge you to try Cult of the Lamb and see how you feel. It’s a wonderful introduction to the genre with a mix of other genres that offset that feeling of one note combat and killing that players can be turned off with about rogue-likes.
Players will have some control in what they face when visiting the regions, as after a few small rooms of the section, a choice of pathways will appear. Players can choose the path they will take to lead them to the end. Depending on what the player may need at the time could determine the route the player takes. Some routes will be more resource heavy, whereas others could include gaining a follower or battling more enemies for resources. At the end of each room, before moving on, a small chest will appear with coins and resources which can be used at the cult such as lumber or rock.
Each region has a bit of an environmental theme from forest greens, to dusty rock, underwater caverns, and spider caves – wild guesses what kind of boss that section has. To add an extra element to the RNG of the battlegrounds, players can be boosted with Tarot cards that can either be found along the way or chosen from the Tarot shop in one of the rooms within a section. This can allow players to adapt their style with a bit of luck on their side. Tarot cards focus on survival, so they will either buff your health or weapon, or can have effects around resource gathering.
Enemies are varied and with 9 mini-bosses and at least four main bosses, you have a brilliant progression structure here too. The art style is wonderful and takes inspiration and brings a flavour of Hades I know people miss. Who knew something so cute could be so deceiving and flailing a giant bear claw around decapitating jellyfish or sword-wielding wizards. Mini-Bosses and main game bosses are never the same, and each boss takes its own look and ability you will have to crack. Each enemy uses a different style, movement speed and ranged attacks with other ways to catch you off guard. In late stages prepared to be met with tens of foes in a room, all trying to trophy your demise. Quick-paced and precise, I never experienced any lag, or hitbox problems that can be common encounters in other heavy volume combat. The soundtrack is satisfying in every piece of music that is introduced and shifts rhythmically the pace of the game. It uses drums and synth-like sounds, whilst at other times having more harsher instruments denoting the need for urgency.
Chops for Dinner
Cult of the lamb doesn’t stop at battling and ‘culting’. Lamb will need to travel to many different locations to complete missions, seek resources and even compete in the immensely addictive mini game ‘ Knucklebones’. With a similar but simpler premise than The Witcher’s ‘Gwent’, players must roll the dice and place their dice rolls within columns and rows of 3×3. Your competitor will be trying to knock your dice off by matching the value on their side. If you roll the same value of a dice you already have on the board and place it in the same column, the value of the column will multiply. Players with the highest score at the end win. It’s convoluted to explain, but incredibly easy to play. If Yatzee and Gwent had a baby, it would probably be Knucklebones, and if Massive Monster released this as a dice board game, I would purchase it immediately.
Cult of the Lamb for me was a breath of fresh game air. In a year of remakes, sequels and a hell of a lot of delays, this game had that awesome ‘new book smell’ feeling. I’ve been playing the game post release for a few days now and I am glad to see it looks to have received the hype it’s worth. I however also noticed that a lot of people complained about problems and bugs embedded within the game. I managed to get away pretty unscathed, to the point I boasted to a friend that I had come away clean of any glitches in the matrix. Safe to say I soon ate a giant slice of humble pie.
Whilst my experience of Cult of the Lamb was for the most part clean as a whistle, and probably up there with the most fun I have had all year, I’ve hit quite the gamebreaker. As it stands, my game constantly freezes at the end of every ritual, meaning I lose everything from wherever it last autosaved. As previously mentioned, Rituals are pretty important, and will boost the belief in your cult significantly, saving you a lot of time and energy trying to save your cult from completely revolting or starving. It also helps with devotion to upgrade weapons. The longer you are into the game, the higher upgrades you’ll need. As I am not able to upgrade my weapons, as I can’t do rituals to get the upgrade devotion, I die very quickly in the last section of the game.
If I make it through all the rooms, it’s by the skin of my teeth and the mini-boss destroys me as I am hanging on by a thread of a half heart of health left. It’s going to take a hell of a lot of luck and RNG on my side to get through that section but it is near impossible. My cult also went from having nearly full belief to nearly none with no explanation other than the day changing which had never happened before. Without a ritual this is going to be hard to bring back quickly. To add to this, one of my followers just asked me to perform one of the newer rituals in my arsenal, which I won’t be able to fulfil, leading to them losing more belief in the cult. So it appears I am circling the drain, drinking the kool-aid and being sacrificed on the alter of a game breaking bug.
It seems that the later players get into the game, the more the game tears at the seams. However, it needs to be said that the developers are aware that there are some significant bugs and glitches that have prevented a huge player base from either playing, Platinuming or completing the game. It does look as if they are working effortlessly to fix them on all platforms. Even with these bugs, this game still has every opportunity to become a ‘Game of the Year’ contender for me, but I’ll need to actually be able to finish the game before that decision is made. With that in mind, I can not in good faith score this any higher than an 8/10 and I hope a patch comes in soon so I can jump back in and finish the final area. With 11 hours invested and an estimate of 13 hours needed to complete the campaign in full, I feel confident that once these bugs are ironed out, it’s going to be difficult for anyone to find a reason not to play Cult of the Lamb.
Dividing its time beautifully between rouge-like dungeon crawler and cult management simulator, Cult of the lamb is everything you would want and need from the mix of genres. A fantastic soundtrack and incredibly moreish gameplay, this is a big recommendation for anyone who is in awe of the vibrantly cute aesthetic it presents. While it’s currently harrowed by some glitches preventing certain aspects of gameplay from shining, once these are ironed out this could easily be ‘Game of the Year’ material.
Cult of the Lamb is available now on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5 (reviewed), Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, Nintendo Switch and PC.
Developer: Massive Monster
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional copy of the game. For our full review policy, please go here.
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