Originally published at: https://xboxera.com/2022/08/10/review-cult-of-the-lamb/
Cult of the Lamb is fantastic. It’s a combination of Binding of Isaac style roguelike runs and one of the funniest and most satisfying community sim builders that I’ve ever played. It is the biggest surprise of the year and has immediately jumped up near the top of my favorite games released in 2022. You are the lamb and after getting sacrificed by a wicked cult you are resurrected to enact vengeance upon those who wronged you. Tight controls, gorgeous visuals, excellent music, and a ton of variety all combine together to make something truly special. Let’s get into it.
The Hills, Like Lambs
Cult of the Lamb is a game about sacrifice and power. You start out on the wrong end of the former and are brought back seeking the latter. After your death and resurrection at the hands of the seeming lord of the underworld, you begin your quest. After you name your commune, mine was the Cult of the Cabesa of course, you are introduced to the first few mechanics of this community sim. Everything is powered by your followers, and you will need to feed them, provide proper shelter, and do everything possible to make them happy so that you can gain their faith and devotion. It’s a clever system that makes every single thing you do have purpose. There are a lot of meters to raise but they are introduced slowly and clearly enough that it never felt overwhelming.
The main pillar of your commune is the idol, of yourself of course, in the middle. Followers can pray here to give you devotion. Once that meter ticks to 100% you get “divine inspiration” which is an unlock tree for every major building you can fill up your commune with. The first of these is your temple, and to build it you’ll need stone and wood which you can find both within your commune or during the roguelike runs you’ll go on. Keeping up with the commune is a lot of work to start, but slowly over time, you’ll unlock various buildings that make things like cleaning up your follower’s poop after you cook for them an automated one. The power ramp for your character comes through all of these various leveling processes as well. Every day you can call a sermon inside your temple in which you get yet another currency depending on how many followers you have and what their loyalty levels are. This will unlock new weapons, spells, and give you general damage upgrades over time as you work your way through the game’s 4 main environments. We’ll cover the combat in a bit because there is so much more to talk about with just the commune and surrounding few areas you can visit.
Every follower has a few randomly generated traits such as being a skeptic or getting afraid when someone dies. This all ties into the faith system, which is one of the main things you’ll focus on. Every action can have positive or negative consequences for your follower’s faith and keeping it as high as possible is a rather easy but never-ending balancing act. A lot of it is done through your interactions inside the temple. You can set new doctrines, which are a series of 4 choices in a few different categories that let you customize how things like burying a dead follower or choosing to eat them instead makes your still living followers feel. To make these doctrines you’ll need three pieces of a stone tablet, which you generally earn every time a follower’s loyalty level is raised by one bar which happens naturally through your many varied interactions with them.
The other main things in temples are the Rituals. There are sacrifices, funerals, feasts, dances around bonfires, and more are here to help you control your flock and raise their morale. Every ritual will require a different type of currency such as the bones of your enemies that you gain during runs or even the followers themselves if you want to sacrifice one or ascend them to heaven. You’ll need to make tough choices like this because your followers will age as you play through the long day and short night cycle of the game, and eventually after they become elders, they can die at almost any time from old age. Will you bury them in body pits/funeral plots or chop them up and serve them to their former friends? It’s up to you and almost any action can be a positive depending on the makeup of your cult. You can even marry your followers, as many as you’d like, which sounded really creepy at first, but this game’s hilarious personality somehow kept it funny instead of terrible.
You’ll find multiple areas with various minigames as well such as playing knucklebones with your master’s former follower or going to the dock and learning how to fish alongside a man who is definitely not a fish with a fake mustache and nose glued to the side of his face. There is so much more to find both in the commune and the areas around but it’s best to do so on your own knowing as little as possible going in. It’s extremely well balanced overall and I never felt like anything was a grind outside of the very end where it turns out you needed 20 followers to go to the last area and I only had 13. Still after an hour or so I was good to go and finished things up. Right now there isn’t much of an endgame but that is the top priority of the team for its post-launch content. Let’s get into the other half of this game, the dungeon runs.
I Will Fear No Evil
The roguelike side of Cult of the Lamb takes place over the course of four different areas, each of which is capped off with a battle against a Bishop. These are the four who imprisoned your master and then killed you. Every run takes place in a series of procedurally generated square rooms that are connected through locked-off pathways that become available once you clear the room of all enemies. Every run starts off with a weapon and a curse. Weapons range from quick daggers to incredibly slow hammers and through the Temple’s upgrade system you’ll unlock multiple variants. Vampiric weapons have a chance to heal you on hit, Bane ones will occasionally poison foes on contact, and more.
The curses are your spells, and you have a few to choose from at first with the Temple upgrade system again coming into play. By the end of my playthrough, I had a ton of possible curses to choose from and they started to hit really hard. Using a curse requires fervor which is a red mote of energy dropped from enemies whenever you kill them (or just hit bosses). Another major component of runs is the tarot card system. These are much like the relics used in a game like Slay the Spire and offer per-run bonuses ranging from a few extra hearts of life to faster movement or attack speed.
There is just enough variety in everything that it kept things from being stale, but not too much so that I rarely saw my favorite items. The game’s combat is primarily built around the dodge button which gives you a quite generous amount of invincibility frames and can be used seemingly at any time even during the heaviest of hammer swings. Everything feels snappy, with little to no input lag, and rarely did my deaths feel unfair. Combat is crisp and clean, though it does feature a lot of screen shake. Thankfully you can lower that setting in the accessibility options and I’d recommend doing so right away.
After each section is complete you’ll be shown a small grid of potential ways to proceed. Icons denote what to expect in each area and if you see things like resources early on go for them! Getting wood and stone in a run will help you build up your commune far more quickly than waiting on trees to regenerate. If you die during a run you will lose a small number of your collected resources along with 10 or so faith from your followers as they abhor any weakness. Complete a run successfully though, especially against a boss and you have the potential to gain extra resources and faith. Everything works in concert beautifully and the balancing act done here between all of these different systems is incredible.
You Are Altogether Beautiful
Cult of the Lamb is a gorgeous game. It’s not the most technically impressive thing but the art style and overall aesthetic work together to create something that I loved. While you’re playing in a 3D space all of the textures are more of a 2D cutout and the lighting system helps sell a depth that isn’t really there. Colors are vibrant, animations are smooth, and everything is clean. I played on PC as console codes weren’t available until much closer to launch and I averaged roughly 300 FPS so I can’t see the Series consoles having any issue maintaining a steady 60.
Such dark and disturbing content is made hilarious and silly because there are no humanoids in the game. Everything is animal-based from the protagonists and antagonists to your randomly generated followers. You can fully customize your flock but after making multiple real-life friends and family and then being tasked with killing them for power-ups I just let the random names stick. The various biomes in the game have a set theme. Whether it’s “the mushroom place” or “the spider place” you’ll know what to expect and the music that accompanies it all is excellent. The Temple theme in particular is one I’ve listened to a lot since getting the game, pausing the game just so I could keep hearing the music without having in-game time pass by.
The voice acting is a mix of gibberish that meshes well with writing. The tone of the game is set immediately in this weird goofy yet serious vibe that they make work because you’re doing these ridiculous and terrible things, but everything is so bright, cheery, and happy all the time. Early on you’ll get a lot of cutscenes to set things up and I didn’t skip one because the story, while not complicated, is so well done. I always try to keep things as spoiler free as possible, so just let me say that it’s not always obvious where things are going to go, and I loved it.
Graphical and Accessibility options weren’t numerous but what is there did what I wanted, and I ran into zero bugs while playing the game through a review build on Steam. I’ll update this review if the console version has any issues but sadly, I won’t get to play that one until the game is released.
In The End, It Leads To Death
Cult of the Lamb is awesome. The game offers up beautiful visuals, hilarious dialogue, is damned smart and plays like a dream. It is one of the best roguelikes mashed together with one of the best community builders I have ever played.
|Reviewed on||Windows PC|
|Available on||Xbox, Playstation, Switch, Mac, and PC|
|Release Date||August 11th, 2022|
|Rated||T for Teen|