I WAS admittedly a little bit skeptical about the entire premise Cult of the Lamb before I got my hands on it, as I assumed the cult-themed rogue-like would be either a little all over the place or entirely too dark for my typical style of game, but I’m genuinely overwhelmed to say: I couldn’t have been more wrong.
After the first thirty minutes of game-play, I could already tell that Massive Monster were onto something I, along with the rest of the gaming world, would lose ourselves in over the course of the next weeks-to-months.
As the hours passed, and progressively more and more depth, game-play elements and difficulty spikes were unlocked I found myself genuinely lost for words with how good of a time I was having. Throughout my time with the game thus far, I’ve played to completion three separate ‘flocks’ (which is what the game refers save slots as) and I still want to dive back in and start all over again.
For those unfamiliar with the game, Cult of the Lamb can best be described as a rogue-like, action-adventure, town-management game with a gruesome yet ‘cutesy’ aesthetic (if you ever watched Happy Tree Friends, it has these vibes through and through). It draws similarities to ‘Don’t Starve‘ in its visual presentation, alongside aspects of town-management, which might explain why I sunk so much of my time into the game, combined with the sheer amount you have to do in the game-world.
Story-wise, we as the player fill the hooves of a recently possessed lamb who’s life is now in debt to an all-powerful demon known as ‘The One Who Waits’. To pay back our debt, we’re asked to establish a cult with a loyal following in honour of said demon, by recruiting a broad array of charming, cute and down-right odd forest creatures, while at the same time defeating four bishops (bosses) that have locked away the demon from returning to the mortal realm.
Gameplay from this point can be divided into two distinct areas; town-management and dungeon crawling. The former is at first, a relatively straightforward process. For every follower you recruit to your cult, you need to assign a distinct role which can range from collecting wood & stone, maintaining your farms for food, or simply worshiping your holiness at a nearby shrine. Each of these tasks benefit the town, but also enable you to unlock a variety of increasingly complex skill-trees with continue proving how functional and independent your cult is. As an example, at first you need to clean up the waste of your followers on a daily basis or they’ll get sick, but if you progress enough into the skill tree without failing, you unlock the equivalent of a port-a-loo, so you don’t have to get your godly hands dirty.
I can’t stress this enough, the amount of depth in the town-management side of things is staggering, and it’s only half of the game play! Additionally to this, as your following and worship grows, you also get to progress through a multitude of skill trees that benefit either your cult’s identity, or the dungeon runs you have to individually set out own. In your temple once it’s established, you have the chance to run a Sermon on a daily basis, which helps you unlock a variety of bonuses and weapon types for your dungeon runs (the further you progress in this tree, the easier your runs will be due), or alternatively, progress your cult down the path of your preferred play-style. As someone who typically feels a lot of guilt in my in-game decisions, I found it remarkably easy to progress my cult down the path of believing food wasn’t a a daily necessity; despite how many people were starving (and this is only one of countless paths you can do down).
Massive Monster cleverly incorporated a customization option for the followers of your cult as well, which encourages you to play a lot more of the game to unlock every potential follower customization option (I admittedly fell into this pit, as I wanted to see each woodland creature type that I could recruit into my amassing following of fish-folk). If you’re willing to really let yourself get sucked in, a real sense of belonging and genuine care forms with your cult, as you get to engage with each of your followers in whatever way you want. You can offer them daily blessings, personal gifts or even help them on personal quests. I found myself genuinely starting to get attached as I watched my followers age, get sick; or pass on (or the odd sacrifice here and there) – which has made me extremely excited to see how this all integrates with Twitch (which will be available at launch).
On the other end of the game-play side of things, is the rogue-like dungeon crawler that you progress through to defeat the four bishops introduced in the opening epilogue. This is a much more straight-forward process to explain, as you fight your way through randomized stages in uniquely themed biomes (that correspond with each bishop), to eventually reach a boss-fight. Although initially slow-paced and relatively easy to progress through, the difficulty curb really kicks in as you progress, as you have to start ensuring both your unlocked weaponry and skills is on-par with the requirements of the enemies you’re pitted against. In my first play-through, I was far too invested in the town-management side of things to realize how much my arsenal was lacking for the dungeon-runs, which resulted in a lot of repetitive and necessary deaths (which I quickly attended to).
The unique approach thrown at the rogue-like formula from Cult of the Lamb lies in the option to optionally collect materials or additional recruits to your cult on your runs, which really added to the complexity of the decision making process. I constantly found myself battling with the opportunity to collect some much needed stone for my followers, rather than fighting my way through another monster room in hopes of regaining some health with my vampiric wolverine-claws (that’s not at all what their called, but it’s the best way to describe them). Each and every choice you make really seems to matter in the grand scheme of things, which just sucked me in more and more.
There’s a lot to really love about what Cult of the Lamb has to offer, and I haven’t even touched on the score or visual design yet, but they can only really be experienced once your in the game (I’ve downloaded and frequently listen to the soundtrack that plays while your in the town-management side of the game, if that’s saying anything), which I highly encourage you to do so. As a quick threw additional throw ins, there’s a fishing mini-game (what’s not to love), a dice-based gambling mini game, and a slightly disturbing monster that loves collecting mushrooms (which you can innocently collect, or harvest from a neutral NPC if you decide to kill them – which route do you think I went down?).
All in all, for me; it’s the goofiness and randomness of the town-management that I truly can’t get enough of, and is what I think separates the game from its counterparts.Take my first play through for example; one of my earliest flock-members was a seemingly innocent donkey named Harold. He was a relatively useful chap, who for some peculiar reason became fixated with the idea of me feeding ‘poop’ to poor Philip (a porcupine themed member of the cult) as a practical joke.
At first, the inner child at me jumped at the opportunity, because it was just too great a prank to not pull, and of course; Phillip wasn’t thrilled with the outcome. But, surprisingly that didn’t satisfy Harold’s terrifying fixation. Again and again, he kept coming back, asking to prank Philip with the exact same gimmick. It wasn’t funny anymore, and I; as the all-powerful leader of the cult, was starting to become terrified of Harold. It’s all he ever wanted, and I started to wonder if he truly even cared about the fictional values I was instilling throughout my growing community.
After another insistent request I’d had enough, and conveniently had just unlocked the ability (and quest) to sacrifice a member of the flock, so Harold was promptly dealt with. I am never going to not love re-telling that story; and I feel it’s a perfect representation of why I’ve absolutely adored my time with this game
I truly haven’t got this much fun out a game in quite some time, and simply can’t recommend Cult of the Lamb more. I can’t wait to hear my fellow cult-leaders stories about their followers, and am eagerly awaiting to hear more about the two substantial content updates that have been teased. I’ll also take the time here to sincerely apologise for the horrible pun in the title, but I couldn’t help myself; I just have a baaaaad sense of humour.