Review – Cult of the Lamb
Have you ever pondered the significance of sacrificing an innocent life to satiate the ravenous desires of a bloodlust-fueled deity? Have you ever wondered what would happen if the sacrifice was spared and given an alternative? Was there ever a time where you contemplated the moral ambiguity of offering to save others in similar dire straights through potentially horrific means? No? Well that makes two of us, because I had never considered these notions either until Cult of the Lamb from Monster Massive and Devolver Digital brought them to the forefront of my mind.
The premise of Cult of the Lamb is basically what I mentioned above. You play as a lamb (the last of your kind), who is to be sacrificed by four bishops of the Old Faith in order to prevent an ancient deity from escaping its prison. However, the ritual doesn’t go quite as planned, and the deity, known as The One Who Waits, summons the lamb to his location instead. He then makes you deal: he will return you to the land of the living if you agree to serve him and recruit others into a cult worshiping him. Obviously, you agree and the fun begins.
Cult of the Lamb combines dungeon-crawling roguelite combat with base-building strategy aspects. It’s a glorious match made in
heaven hell. Think of of it as a blessed union between games like Hades and Animal Crossing, with a macabre twist. I would never have thought two such vastly different genres would work so well together, but Cult of the Lamb proved to be the exact type of game I didn’t know I needed.
Every cult needs followers, right? Well that’s not an issue for this little lamb. There are plenty to rescue while exploring the four different main areas, each ruled by a different bishop of the Old Faith. Each time you venture out and start a new run (called Crusades in this game), you’ll have a different experience, thanks to a procedurally generated world. This is where Cult of the Lamb delivers its dungeon-crawling roguelite elements.
Combat during your Crusades is an absolute blast. The controls are tight and responsive, making for an engaging time. The moves are fairly simplistic, with the lamb being able to attack, dodge roll, shoot projectiles, or issue a curse on enemies. Although, that doesn’t mean that there’s little variety to be found. Cult of the Lamb will start you off with a random weapon and random projectile at the start of each Crusade. Not all weapons are created equal though, which like any roguelike/lite is part of the fun. Will start you off with a vampiric axe that delivers powerful blows while leeching your enemy’s health, or will you get the basic gauntlets with almost no range and little strength? All you can do is pray that luck is on your side.
Followers aren’t the only thing your lamb protagonist can find across these lands either. Along the way you’ll also pick up gold, tarot cards, new weapons, and tons of supplies for your base camp. New weapons are introduced periodically throughout each Crusade and provide the option to switch out your current weapons for something better, if you need them.
Tarot cards provide your lamb with various stat buffs for the duration of your Crusade and can be applied after drawing one from a tarot card reader found at random within each run. More tarot cards can be found through purchasing from vendors, in treasure chests, or as rewards for completing various sidequests. The more tarot cards you find, the better options you’ll have for stat boosts.
The majority of what you’ll find while on a Crusade are gold and supplies, which are crucial for building up your cult’s base camp. At the start, your campsite will just be an open patch of forest, which you’ll have to clear in order to make room for various structures. In the beginning you’ll only focus on the most bare-bones essentials, such as sleeping quarters, a cook fire, and farming plots. Eventually, you’ll unlock more elaborate structures for your base, such as a demon summoning circle, a sick bay, and shrines. The more you build up your base, the happier and healthier your followers will become.
Keeping your followers healthy and their faith in you high is extremely important. Why? Because the happier and healthier they are, the more of their life energy you can harvest for your own dark purposes! Each time a follower’s faith in you is maxed out, they’ll give you a Commandment Stone fragment. Once completed, Commandment Stones can be used to dictate new Doctrines to your cult. You’ll always be presented with two different Doctrines to choose from: one leaning towards a more benevolent stance and the other a more diabolical position. This gives Cult of the Lamb a nice replayablility factor, since how you run your cult can become drastically different between playthroughs.
However, keeping your cult faithful to you is easier said than done. Cult members can lose faith by not completing sidequests, letting your camp get too unsanitary, letting members starve, or engaging in cult practices that they don’t care for. If your cult’s overall faith in you becomes too low, you’ll have dissenters who will speak ill of you to other followers and potentially turn them against you as well. If they lose their faith in you, they will eventually leave the cult for good. The less cult members you have, the less faith you’ll receive and the less powerful you’ll become.
Always be sure to keep your members believing in you, whether that involves keeping on top of the puddles of vomit, completing their sidequests, making them eat bowls of poop when asked, or petting them while lovingly referring to them as your “dog”. Cult followers’ faith can also be increased by holding daily sermons in your church, or by performing rituals. The rituals are absolutely outrageous, in the best possible way. They can range from holding a feast to celebrate your glory and fill your members’ bellies, or you can sacrifice a cult follower to some tentacled monstrosity. The rituals are widely varied, and like the Doctrines, are either more generous or sinister depending on which you choose to enact.
As if the concept for Cult of the Lamb wasn’t wonderfully ridiculous enough, the art design further sells its bizarrely twisted nature. The character sprites have an aesthetic found in games like Paper Mario and Bug Fables, which is a marvelous design choice for this type of game. Seeing the adorable paper cutout sprites partake in hilarious depravity, is just fantastic and never gets old. My only complaint is that the visuals can look stretched and blurry when the camera zooms in close.
Well, I shouldn’t say my only complaint. Unfortunately, I did run into several bugs and glitches while playing Cult of the Lamb. Most of them weren’t too serious; things like characters teleporting or disappearing, freezing when entering a new land, or not updating a quest right away. Although, there was one bug that was pretty serious and very nearly prevented me from progressing.
When attempting to finish converting a new recruit in my camp, the camera would zoom in on him and the game would lock onto his face instead of bringing me to the new recruit menu. It did this every time I tried restarting my save file. Eventually I discovered that I could technically still navigate the menu during one of my restarts, I just had to do so essentially blind. Thankfully, this was the only time I encountered that particular issue.
Like everything else in Cult of the Lamb, the sound design is well done. The soundtrack ranges from plucky and upbeat when you’re in your camp or a neighboring settlement, to heart-pumping energetic tunes when you’re on a Crusade or battling a boss. The sound effects are appropriately wacky and cartoonish, as is the gibberish chanting the cult uses to communicate.
I had been eagerly anticipating Cult of the Lamb for quite some time now, and I’m thrilled to say it’s as good as I’d hoped it would be. It even surpassed my expectations in several ways, namely its tight combat and bonkers ideas. Who knew roguelite dungeon-crawling could work so well with a base management sim? I certainly didn’t. Cult of the Lamb is an absurdly delightful time, with fun gameplay, unique ideas, and a fantastically sick and twisted sense of humor. Get on your knees and praise Cult of the Lamb right now!
A vibrant color palette, with adorable Paper Mario-esque sprites. The only issue is that the visuals can looked stretched and blurry when the camera is zoomed in.
A wonderful blend of a dungeon crawler and a base-building game, with various minigames mixed in. The combat is fun and responsive, and there is an extensive assortment of modifications you can make to your base. Leveling up is done in very creative ways. Unfortunately, there are lots of bugs and glitches.
The sound design is well done, with great sound effects, soundtrack, and multitudes of wacky animal sounds.
A combination of Animal Crossing and Hades, with a dark twist, Cult of the Lamb is a true delight in just about every way. The numerous bugs and glitches prevent it from achieving greatness though.
Final Verdict: 8.0
Cult of the Lamb is available now on PC, PS4, PS5, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and Xbox Series S/X.
Reviewed on PC with an i7-9700k, RTX 2070, and 16gb RAM.
A copy of Cult of the Lamb was provided by the publisher.