Friday, Sep 30, 2022

Review: Cult of the Lamb

Amazing fusion of bite-sized roguelite activity and comfortable cult management Cult of the Lamb describes what happens when snappy, roguelite,..


Amazing fusion of bite-sized roguelite activity and comfortable cult management

Cult of the Lamb describes what happens when snappy, roguelite, dungeon-crawling, meets freaky animal management and base building, and it's an intoxicating, wild fusion.

It can be difficult to combine two different genres in one cohesive way. Each part must feel satisfying and fit into the larger picture. But, the risk is worth it. Massive Monster's developers did it. Straight away, it's clear this is a tortured, sinister-yet-weirdly-cute world worth getting to know. Surprisingly, the core "slice-and-build" loop was so captivating.

We have played roguelites who outlive their welcome. We have spent countless hours on town builders. Cult of the Lamb does not eat more than it can chew, despite all odds.

Cult of the Lamb (PC [reviewed], PS4, PS5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S Developer: Massive Monster Publisher : Devolver Digital Publication: August 11, 2022 MSRP $24.99

This game can quickly make your hours disappear if you don't take care. Cult of the Lamb, on the other hand, is very considerate of your time as busy players.

After a brief but powerful intro, to establish the stakes and four major bosses, it's time to create your own cult. You'll play the role of a literal sacrificial Lamb who has been brought back to life in an unsettling way by The One Who Waits. You'll take revenge on your mysterious benefactor, biome by biome and bishop by bishop. It is nice that the overall path has been established so early.

The core loop is so captivating

You will start from scratch in your new base and harvest natural resources. Although there is little to do initially, you'll need to be able to cut trees and mine. As you progress, you'll have many more cultists available to help you manage the bulk of the cult's activities while you concentrate on the bigger picture expansion and making seedy decisions. Keep the faith.

You'll be fighting in the roguelitedungeons, which you can enter at any time. There are randomized rooms that you will have to navigate with lots of dodge-rolling and sword slicing. The end result is a mini-boss. These "runs" usually last about 10 minutes.

Cult of the Lamb can be broken down into four biomes. Each one is led by a conspiring Bishop. You'll need to complete three runs in each zone before being able to embark on the fourth run to overthrow the ruler.

This is the basic progression loop. However, base-building is the only way to become strong enough to face these challenges head on.

If everything goes well, 16 runs are the minimum. Plus some extra stuff at the end. It's strange to frame the game in this manner, but it's something I think it's worth stressing. This is a rough estimate for anyone suffering from roguelite fatigue. Don't expect to be beaten every time you play Rogue Legacy 2 or HadesDead Cells. Cult of the Lamb simplifies everything to avoid repetition.

You'll find gold, food and followers out in the field. All of these will go back to your cult-raising efforts. You may also stumble across strange people, some of whom will allow you to explore areas on the globe map. They are just a click away. It's possible to find a quick-fire fishing game, a dice-rolling contest against multiple NPCs or a lair of a gold-obsessed maniac. It's a vibrant world.

It's not difficult to tend the flock.

Cult of the Lamb is a smart simulation game that keeps things simple to prevent you from being overwhelmed with too many details. This bit-by-bit approach to introducing concepts continues throughout the game. It keeps things fresh and doesn't feel overwhelming. Once a concept is properly explained and introduced, you won't be held responsible for it. Although you may eventually manage a dozen or so animal cultists in the end, the journey to that point is easy.

It's also when it's not. When a bishop curses you flock with sickness, and they poop all around town while you're running dungeons, or when someone dies from old age and you forget about taking care of their body, or when a snake in the grass emerges, and you fail to imprison or "re-educate" them -- that's part of the fun. My cult was never too entangled, even though I experienced all those mishaps and more. Expect some funny Tamagotchi vibes.

In-game cycles are only daily, not weekly. You don't need to eat or sleep as your followers. It's best to preach, prepare food, clean up messes and fulfill villager requests before you leave town. A good number of them will spend the day praying. Cult of Lamb offers a variety of technology trees.

Your follower's devotion will fuel the main tech tree, which is the largest one. It contains many unlockable blueprints and lots of building plans. This is how your cult will become more automated. You can also create a skill tree to help your lamb get new weapons and combat abilities. It will also give you better stats for your starting weapon stats.

There are also unlockable rituals that run on a cooling down and doctrines that are permanent for the entire playthrough. Rituals are able to restore faith, revive the dead or fill empty stomachs. You can even get married with them! You can do it multiple times! These are interesting conundrums that Doctrines can present to your villager. They are unlockable traits that you can use to make them more useful. You can be selfish if you wish; the game will not judge you. I tried to not be too cruel as I learned to care about my cultists, which you can name individually.

Cult of Lamb makes it easy to digest all the elements. You won't be bombarded or pampered by your screen. You won't get punished if your screen is too busy focusing on the activities of your cult. Even in panic moments, I found the base-building sim to be very relaxing.

Roguelite dungeons are almost always open.

Instead, stress manifests itself in roguelite actions. There are many problems. I chose "Medium" because it was the most affordable. The developers also do. Before I lost my run, I managed to make it through Cult Of The Lamb. I must have wiped at least four to five times. You can set yourself up for success if you are a planner.

Apart from increasing your attack power and weapon type in the random pool (my favourite is a huge slow-hitting Hammer), you can also preach to gain a health boost, or complete multi-part NPC quests for alternate fleeces. For things like higher crit chances or better chests, I prefer to wear a tunic which gave me four random cards at the beginning. Other tunics can be risky, but they are powerful.

The Binding of Isaac provides some good clues, including permanent and temporary hearts as well as AI "demons" which follow you into battle with different abilities. But don't expect to be able to create crazy item combinations or snowball your inventory. Combat is quick, efficient, and simple. You are likely to dodge-roll their projectiles and swipes if you aren't actively attacking an opponent. It is often a race for the top-priority threats to be eliminated and to clear out destructible parts of the environment to make more space. The skeletons and spiders can easily overwhelm.

It is important to be careful and not take too many papercuts. Cult of the Lamb's bosses are far more difficult than the common foes and anything strategy-oriented in the base-building gameplay. Even though you have enemies in each area to help you get to the mini bosses, and mini-bosses that telegraph what to expect from the boss of the biome, the bishop fights require concentration and quick reflexes.

I was fighting a bishop every time I failed to run. The penalty for using your collected resources isn’t too severe and there are many ways to cheat death. Would you give your life to a cultist? It's a harsh world and I still feel guilty.

Dozen hours is not enough

Although I appreciated the simplicity of the action, by the end I was bored. It was short enough. This might not be the game for you if you are looking for different character builds. I was able to keep the village simulation fresh with constant updates and unlocks. I spent 13 hours reading the story and digging for hidden secrets. Except for general mop-up there's not much incentive to stay after the credits. However, you can -- it sounds like post-game content may be in the works.

It would have been nice to see more variety in the roguelite action, including a distinct enemy, weapon and ability. Despite this, the design feels very deliberate. Cult of the Lamb doesn't have a long play time, but it is still fun. This is especially true considering how fast the runs can feel. It's possible to fly through rooms which helps keep the pace tight. The only problem with the cult-raising is sometimes things get a bit crowded. This is usually only a problem if you want to interact with specific objects or villages. Worst, I could just hold down the meditative fast forward-time button for a few moments and the crowd would move along quickly.

Cult of the Lamb is a great combination of roguelite action and city builders. It combines many of the best elements of these genres and places them in a unique world. Then it charts its own course. It is difficult to put down. This game is easy to recommend, despite the potentially dangerous subject matter and player fatigue. Spread the word!

[This review is based upon a retail version of the game that was provided by the publisher.]

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