Cult of the Lamb presents you with a cutesy world and then encourages you to be evil.
It’s another normal day in my cult – the Lambists – and I just cooked up one of my followers and served him to his best friend. An honest mistake, I didn’t read the meal descriptions before I started cooking, you see. Now my little follower – a ginger cat with two stripes on its forehead – is a bit peeved. As you would be. Oh, and now he’s pooping everywhere and my other followers are getting sick. Great.
Cult of the Lamb presents you with a cutesy world where characters are called things like “Klunko and Bop”, then encourages you to be evil. In it, you play as a sacrificial (and bipedal) lamb who’s saved from death by a demon. You’re granted powers and told to head out for revenge against the Old Gods who wanted your chops. What they don’t realize is it’s you who’s gonna be doing the chopping.
It’s a roguelite with a structure similar to that of Hades or Moonlighter. There are a range of biomes you need to fight through, and a bunch of modifiers that make runs feel different, from random weapons and curses (magic spells, essentially), to tarot cards that grant various buffs. The aim is to battle through all four biomes and defeat the boss at the end of each.
Combat is crunchy and fast-paced, built around simple attacks, curses, and dodges. Everything in the environment reacts to your swings, and there’s plenty of screen shake, lending the action a sense of raw power. There’s also plenty of enemy variety, forcing you to adapt your tactics to deal with, for example, frogs that spit out homing flies, or glowing insects that explode when hit. It’s nowhere near as punishing as Hades, but there are tougher versions of each dungeon to complete if you want a challenge.
What makes Cult of the Lamb special is what you do between these combat crusades. As the name suggests, you’re the leader of your very own cult. You get resources, erect buildings, give sermons, and indoctrinate new followers. As your followers grow in loyalty, you grow in power, unlocking new abilities, new weapons, and more to use on future crusades. That means you have to tend to your flock. If you don’t see to their needs, they die, they dissent, they poop everywhere, and make each other sick. It’s like a twisted Animal Crossing.
The genius of these systems is how they force you to think of your followers as resources. You’re encouraged to bond with them, to tend to their needs, but you’re just fattening them up. You’re able to perform a range of dark rituals at your church, including ritual sacrifice. The higher level a follower is, the more power you rip from them when you send them to oblivion. Since your followers can die of old age, it’s often best to spend their whole lives being kind to them, then suck the essence out of them at the very last moment.
At one point, I had a follower begin to dissent – this horrible little frog git. I put him in the stocks, reeducated him for a few days, then I murdered his best friend and made him eat them. That sorted him right out. See, even your mistakes can teach you things about being a good leader.
You also get to set your own doctrine, choosing which beliefs you want your cultist to follow. Do you want traditional funerals or the option to bring dead cultists back to life? Do you want to be able to marry your cultists or force them to battle it out in ritualistic fighting pits?
Then there are the rituals themselves, powered by the bones of your enemies, which allow you to bend the rules. Choose marriages as part of your doctrine and you can betroth yourself to any of your followers. But every time you marry a new one, your original spouse becomes more and more jealous. Unless you decide to brainwash them with mushrooms first, that is. It’s a nasty little game, but it feels good to be bad.
Cult of the Lamb is one of the year’s best games. I love everything about it. I adore how your little lamb’s idle animation has them wide-eyed and innocent, but their eyes narrow and their face goes mean as soon as you start walking. I could spend hours just playing Knucklebones, a moreish dice minigame. I could spend ages fishing or expanding my base, just because. Everything you do here is low-effort and immediate. It’s an absolute joy to be the worst creature alive. Things might be slow in the triple-A gaming scene right now, but this indie game will make you a believer. Wake up, sheeple.
Written by Kirk McKeand on behalf of GLHF.
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