I still remember the highlight of Gamescom 2021 was a little indie title, produced by Devolver Digital, who are currently on an amazing hot streak for kick ass indie games. Of course I’m talking about Cult of the Lamb. A dungeon crawler, roguelite that meets cult management sim. All developed by a small little team in Melbourne, Massive Monster.
The premise is simple, you play as a little lamb, the last of its kind and the 4 bishops of the old faith are looking to sacrifice you to prevent the re-emergence of “The One Who Waits”. Of course this all goes horribly wrong and “The One Who Waits” ends up saving you. Eternally indebted to this shackled being, they instruct you to form a cult and take out the 4 bishops and free them from their prison. And so the game begins.
The merging of two genres.
Cult of the Lamb is broken down into two core components. Managing your cult and going on crusades. Let’s start with the latter. Crusades or dungeon crawling in Cult of the Lamb will feel just like home for any roguelite veteran, and for those new to the genre, the Massive Monster team ease you into it and remove any of the usual frustrations that come with the genre. The controls are reduced to 4 simple things, movement, dodging, attacking and special attacking. And runs can be completed in around 10 minutes.
As is tradition with these sort of dungeon crawlers, each run is slightly different from the last, with map and enemy groups changing each time you enter. On top of this, at the start of each run, you are given a different weapon and special attack, also known as a curse, to try out. This is a nice little touch, as with games such as Hades, it’s easy to fall into the trap of just sticking with the same thing over and over.
On top of the nice mix of weapons and curses, you’ll also meet the tarot card reader, Clauneck. They will offer you a choice of two tarot, these cards will enhance your stats for the current run, either by increasing your health, damage or upgrading another aspect of the lamb. As you unlock more areas in the world, more cards and power ups will be made available to you.
Pray the pain away.
Dying in roguelites is also usually a massive pain point as when that happens usually all progress is lost and you have to start again. In Cult of the Lamb you have a literal deity on your side who simply resurrects you back to your cult and the only thing that is lost is a little bit of dungeon progress. The dungeon gameplay loop is also simple in design too. Complete 3 dungeons and defeat the 3 minibosses to unlock the boss dungeon run.
When you’re not out slaying heretics, managing your adorable cult back at base is where you’ll be. Cult management is simplified to 3 things, faith, hunger and cleanliness. At the start of the game, you’ll mostly be manually looking after these stats yourself, but as the game progresses you’ll be able to get your adoring worshipers to do the hard work for you. In addition to looking after your cult’s needs, you’ll harvest devotion and faith. Using these two currencies you can level up your weapons and unlock new buildings for your cult. Making future crusades just a little bit easier.
As you play through the game you’ll also unlock Commandment Stone Fragments, take 3 of these and you can dish out a new commandment to your cult to follow and unlock buffs and rituals. Maybe you’ll teach your cult that death is ok and unlock ritual sacrifice? Or how about opening a fit pit so followers can resolve their differences?
Sounds to slay heretics to.
From a performance perspective, the game ran like butter. Cult of the Lamb runs at a nice 60fps and I didn’t encounter any lag or framerate drop throughout my play through from start to finish. It’s worth noting I have only played on PC but I have heard and seen that Switch users are encountering lag and framerate drops. Here’s hoping a swift patch can remedy that.
Visually, the game looks as if a cartoon series could spawn from this. If Cuphead got his own show, I really hope that Cult of the Lamb gets theirs. All of the little animations remind of an old late 90s internet show, Happy Tree Friends. One of my absolute favourite things about this game is the soundtrack track. River Boy (Narayana Johnson) knocks it out of the park with the entire score. From chilling out with your cult, to facing down one of the bishops. The entire soundtrack just slaps from left to right. It’s got such a good beat and I haven’t been able to stop listening to it since it landed on Spotify.
As far as completion time goes, I’ve beaten the game and I’m missing just 3 achievements. (beating 3 of the bosses without taking damage). This was all done in about 14 hours over the course of 2 weeks. And unfortunately, I think that’s as far as my playtime goes. At the time of writing this review there isn’t much replayability and unless I’ve missed something, I can’t even go back and fight the main, big bosses of the game. The developers have said that there’s at least 2 pieces of DLC on the way, but no time frame was given. Having said that, the 14 hours I’ve put into this game were an absolute blast.
Still, coming in at a $35.95 price tag, I still think this game is worth every penny. I’ve already preordered the ultra-collectors edition on Special Reserve games and got a second copy of the game when I went to the launch party. Cult of the Lamb is an excellent first step for anyone into the roguelite genre who feel the likes of Hades and The Binding of Isaac is a bit hard and overwhelming. For those on the Switch, I would say hold off and see if any quality of life patches drop. For those on the PC, this should be an instant pick and a definite runner for Game of the Year.
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