There have been many games that have simply been a mash-up of two genres and even many gaming genres that have simply been a combination of two distinct gameplay styles. Many love the rogue-like genre and I think Cult of the Lamb is a very interesting case of combining this beloved game style with that of a base management game. So does Cult of the Lamb live up to the expectations of being a good combination of two genres or will this blood-soaked cake mixture not sit well? Time to find out!
The story of Cult of the Lamb stars you as the titular Lamb. You are about to be sacrificed to a series of dark gods by their followers when you are mysteriously greeted by another unknown dark god that offers to revive you and grant you incredible power in exchange for starting a cult in it’s name and killing the bishops that hold the chains in place which keep this god contained. You of course accept and so it is now up to you to build a flock, kill religious leaders and adventure all in the name of your evil patron. The story concept is a bit silly and it being contrasted with the cutesy artstyle and animal-themed characters makes the whole game seem a bit absurd but it’s enough of an interesting push to keep you going. The four bishops you must defeat are the main bosses of the game and they are all interesting enough characters that provide an extra look into the lore of the game and exactly who the dark god you serve is. Aside from that your Lamb is simply an extension of your will and will have many other creatures join your commune to help build the love of your lord and while some of the animals you recruit have interesting interactions they don’t have much of a personality aside from the occasional quest they ask you to do. It’s a bit of a short game so the story doesn’t go anywhere particularly interesting but overall the narrative is amusing enough to keep you intrigued until you can finally free your god.
The presentation of this game is perhaps it’s greatest strength as it truly is the most striking thing about it. Duality is a word that springs to mind as not only are the cutesy visuals being contrasted by the horrifying acts that you commit but it also transitions into the theming and the gameplay itself. The cartoon animated visuals are genuinely a treat to watch and seeing how everything is nicely animated and constantly bobbing around gives the game a sense of energy that is fun to just watch. Even just whilst inside your cult commune seeing all your members interact, perform jobs and pray to your god makes it all look so alive and interesting. This can be a detriment at times however as sometimes things can get too busy on the screen, especially so in the combat encounters as bullet-hell attacks litter the screen and can cause a real sense of confusion in the heat of battle. The music is absolutely lovely and I even find myself just sitting at the menu and closing my eyes listening to the soft tones of cult-like angelic music… no I’m not weird, you’re the weird one! I also adored all the sound effects included such as the intelligible chatter between cult members or the praying sounds at your altar. Elements such as this show a real sense of care into the creation of the game and helps to elevate it past a simple cult simulator experience.
Gameplay is also where duality really sets in. As mentioned before it has two distinct gameplay elements; rogue-like dungeon crawling similar to The Binding of Isaac and a base-management part which sees you manage your cult members, build facilities and perform rituals. These two elements are very distinctive and rarely overlap with each other leading to bit of a strange dichotomy between these two gameplay systems. On the one had I enjoy having the diversity in gameplay styles that allows me to go do some dungeon crawling if I’m sick of dealing with my cult members that day but on the other hand it also creates a lack of focus on each of the gameplay systems leading to a lesser experience on both parts. I found the dungeon crawling and combat to be fun enough and fluid which led to a fast-paced experience however it felt a bit samey over time and eventually I simply wanted to get through these parts just to reach the end rather than actively seeking them out to enjoy. For the base management it was the more fun aspect to the game in my opinion but it did lack a certain amount of depth as being unable to change things such as the colour of your follower’s outfits or even customise the look of buildings or decorations led to a bit of ‘simple home-base syndrome’ in which I simply went back to the base to perform tasks and keep resource bars up. It was fun enough that I kept going back to it of course and finished it however I could definitely see this being a bit too simple for some people’s tastes. The developers have noted that they will be adding new content via free updates and DLC over time so this may perhaps simply be the foundation to a much bigger game and experience similar again to how The Binding of Isaac started out. Here’s hoping.
My main criticisms of the game actually come from the technical side of things. I encountered a few bugs and while they weren’t major and by the time this review is out I’m sure a few of the things I encountered will probably be fixed but I did have to do at least one hard-reset and the little things just annoyed me over my experience. This game also is very much not Keyboard and Mouse friendly as while the control options are there the developers even state that the game is designed to be played on a controller and they weren’t kidding. I often found great difficulty in selecting the things I wanted with the mouse controls and during combat I often didn’t even know which way I was facing due to the mouse pointer being obscured by particle effects. This led to frustrations and meant many times I was simply swinging my weapon wildly in the hopes of hitting the enemies. I also found selecting cult members in particular to be a painful experience as if multiple objects or cultists are standing near the same area it’s a gamble as to which thing you would select when you clicked the interact button. This is even more so the case when trying to build things or accidentally interrupting a conversation between cult members causing them to lose faith in you as you continue to annoy them. Ironic. Still as mentioned before I’m sure many of these little frustrations will be patched out over time and will lead to it feeling like a more competently made game in the end.
Overall then I enjoyed my time with Cult of the Lamb. It’s a bit short for a rogue-like and for a base-management game but for what it’s worth despite the issues I had with it I felt compelled to finish it to the end, perhaps that dark god DOES have powers after all. If I was to give a concise summary to this game it’s The Binding of Isaac combined with Animal Crossing with not as much depth as both of those titles. Take that for what you will, though I’m happy I played it and I can’t wait to see what the future of the game holds. Now if you will excuse me I have animals to sacrifice!