Cult of the Lamb on the Nintendo Switch has a frankly overwhelming amount of systems and I have no idea how they interact, but I am hopelessly devoted to it.
- Title: Cult of the Lamb
- Release Date: August 11, 2022
- Price: $24.99
- Suggested Audience Age: Rated T for Teen by the ESRB
- Availability: Switch, Steam, GoG, PlayStation, Xbox
- Recommended for fans of: Action Roguelikes, Management Sims, Adorable Animals, and Ritual Sacrifice
Geek to Geek Media was provided with a review copy of this title.
There are a few things that will always get me interested in a video game. A cute art style is a great place to start, and I am always down to try out something that claims to have Hades-like combat. Oh, and if your game has a weird, absurdist sense of humor then I am willing to check it out. Coming from a publisher I trust, like Devolver Digital, helps too.
Cult of the Lamb manages to hit every single one of these bullet points, which means I have been super excited to dig into it since it was announced. After spending several hours with it this weekend, I am surprised at how much of my time was spent managing my elder-god-worshipping cult, rather than venturing out into the action gameplay.
There is a lot of town-building, management-sim style gameplay systems in this game. Like, a lot a lot. There are so many different currencies and upgrade paths and progress bars that I'm honestly overwhelmed by them. I have no idea how all of the little pieces work together… but I'm still enjoying working through them!
Start a Cult, Pick Weeds, and Decorate Your Village
Before I delve too deeply into Cult of the Lamb and its many systems, I want to offer a word of warning. This, dear reader, is an absolutely adorable game that you'll probably see many people compare to Animal Crossing. Yes, you read that right.
Like in that series you spend a lot of time picking weeds and decorating in order to try to make happy little anthropomorphic animals happy but do keep in mind that the premise of this game is based around cults.
You are a cult leader who is indoctrinating these villagers into your cult in order to release an imprisoned god. Sometimes you make your happy little animal friends love you by preparing to build them a little cottage to rest in, and other times you bring your community together to sacrifice an unbeliever and then turn him into gruel that everyone feasts on.
It's very, very cute. It can also be very, very unsettling.
The Fighty Bits
With that out of the way, let's talk about the action side of Cult of the Lamb. I'm starting here because I feel like I actually understand these systems, and it's the part of the game that most closely matches my expectations. Unlike Animal Crossing, there's real combat. You don't just bonk villagers harmlessly with axes or shovels.
Each time you venture out of your village you start a run that will feel very familiar to finds of rogue-lite action games. You start with a randomly selected melee weapon and ranged attack, then venture through a series of rooms full of enemies. You'll also find resources to take back to your cult, tarot cards that augment your gameplay for that run, and new weapons or spells you can swap out.
Where things feel fresh is that each run isn't an attempt at beating the game. Instead of trying to make your way to a big bad final boss, you are working your way through one of four environments, each one ruled over by a different elder god.
I actually got up to the boss room on my very first attempt, and I was surprised that I'd apparently cleared the whole first world in one go… but then I didn't get to go fight the boss. Instead, I took all those resources I had gathered back to my village and could start a new run all over again.
It turns out that you have to reach the boss room four times in order to unlock that boss, then you have to beat that boss to unlock the next world. This gives Cult of the Lamb a little bit of a different flavor than most roguelikes because you will end up with “successful” runs – that is, runs that don't end with your death – way more frequently than you do in any other procedurally generated game I've played. It also means that there is a much more linear sense of progression than you get in most of these games, which I really kind of adore!
The Culty Bits
Between the runs through Cult of the Lamb‘s action gameplay, you'll spend your time in the lovely clearing that is the home of your cult.
Here you can chat with your cult members, recruit new members who you rescued in your adventures, and build new buildings.
You can also manage individuals, sending them to work on lumber or ore or farming, then you can cook meals for the cult, and establish new doctrines that change the way your community functions.
Of course, you can also check in at the shrine in the middle of the village to suck up the spiritual offerings of your cult members, and you can give them gifts to make individuals more devout, and you can pick up the poop and vomit that everyone seems to just leave lying around.
Sick cult members should get sent to bedrest, while you should keep an eye on those whose faith is waning to see if you can reeducate them or are better off killing them and hiding their bodies in the night. Daily sermons help the community come together, while rituals can make a big change all at once.
There are upgrades available for your cult's beliefs, designs for décor, and functional buildings in the community, and you can unlock new weapons to be discovered on the action side of things.
If you're a fan of minigames, then you'll definitely spend some time shooting dice and catching fish. What benefit do these have on the game? I don't know!
Too Many Systems
The only real criticism I have of Cult of the Lamb is that there is just way, way too much going on. There's all of these different systems and currencies and stat bars and exchange rates and I just… I can't process all of it!
Do I go around every day and offer a blessing to each of my cult members? Of course I do! Do I know what tangible benefit I get from that? Heck no! It's just cute and seems like the right thing to do!
All of these little tasks feel nice and are accompanied by enough cuteness to keep me engaged with them, but I honestly struggle to keep track of which things do what. I just run around my village doing everything I can and then every once in a while the games like “Hey, do you want to sacrifice that jerk Jerry who is going around talking smack, and in exchange maybe you'll get a new sword or something” and I’m like, “Okay, yeah, let's do that I guess?”
I'm in over my head over here. I'm just like the little lamb in Cult of the Lamb, except instead of creating a religion to free a demigod I'm out here following around a bunch of checklists getting little tiny rewards for menial tasks that make me feel better about devoting my time to a bunch of systems I don't understand!
… or wait. Maybe that's just it. Maybe Cult of the Lamb is exactly what it says on the box. Maybe I'm not just playing a cult where the devotion of adorable little animals empowers a supernatural being, maybe I am an adorable little being who has become devoted to a cause that is empowering a supernatural being. I mean let's face it, if any publisher was going to bring about the end times via a viral game, it'd be Devolver Digital, right? Oh man, I've gotta stop playing this game, WE HAVE ALL GOT TO STOP PLAYING THIS GAME!
But I'm just going to do one more run and then check on my Cult members again real quick because it's really dang fun and I think I might unlock some cool stuff soon.