Cult of the Lamb feels like one of those Mad Libs transformed into a video game. You play as a cute lamb surrounded by adorable animal friends…that worship you and the cult you run by a Lovecraftian God. The game tries to pull off both a rogue-lite and a light city builder, but the game reminds me of the title Moonlighter in that the whole is not greater than the sum of its parts.
The Cult and the Combat
You play as the lamb, the last of its kind who has been destined to bring about the arrival of an ancient god. When you are sacrificed to prevent that from happening, you are instead transported right to the being who gives you your life back in exchange for founding a cult in its name. Your mission is to build your cult and followers up to the point where you can take down the four bishops who killed you at the start.
The game is split down the middle between the cult management side and the action rogue-lite elements. Your cultists will need food, a place to sleep, and belief in your powers to keep them going. By keeping them happy they will provide you with faith that can be used to unlock new structures and resources to make the management aspects easier. By giving a sermon you can raise their belief level in you which will unlock new weapons and spells that can appear when you’re in the rogue-lite mode. You can also choose between different commandments that act as cult modifiers, and perform rituals of varying effects.
When you are ready to fight, you’ll go to one of the four different regions run by the bishops for some action gameplay. While fighting, you can attack, dodge, and use curses/spells to kill enemies. Your goal is to make it to a miniboss fight and defeat it to make progress in the area. Do it three times, and you’ll be able to take on the bishop in that area. During these sections, you can find food, resources, and additional followers you can take back to the cult side. The only combat upgrades you can find are additional weapons and spells, and tarot cards that provide passive modifiers for the remainder of the run.
This is all happening while there is a constant day-and-night cycle that affects your followers. They will sleep when it gets dark, eat when they get hungry, and will die of old age among other things. Besides the improvements for both the cult and the combat, you are gated from unlocking different areas based on your max number of followers.
Cult of the Lamb has an interesting mix of designs, and I love the aesthetics of it, but they don’t feel as harmonious as you would think.
A Restrictive Religion
As I said at the start, Cult of the Lamb reminds me a lot of Moonlighter (a game where you ran a shop by day, and by night you delved into nearby dungeons to find the items you would sell in the shop) that tried to be a spiritual successor to one of my favorite games Reccetear. The problem is that the split focus between two different game systems leaves us with neither one having a lot of depth to them.
From the cultist side, the actual base management is very simple and more grindy than you would think. Instead of unlocking structures and tools that add depth to it, you’re simply unlocking things to remove the annoyance of constantly babysitting your followers. Just allowing them to grow and gather food from your farms is a mid-to-late-game unlock, and there is no way to set a standing order to cook food. At times, it feels like you’re running a hotel as opposed to a cult with the number of things you have to do personally.
For the combat side, there aren’t enough variables to keep things interesting or different from run to run. There are only a handful of weapon types, with the knife the worst one due to it having the lowest damage. After you completely clear an area of its bishop, you can return for a kind of “endless run”, but you still have to make sure your cult is okay and not starving to death.
Ultimately, it doesn’t feel like I’m playing one interconnected game, but two separate mini-games where there isn’t enough meat on the bone for either one.
A Culty Conundrum
Cult of the Lamb is a game that has a lot of charm to it, but the gameplay never grew beyond the initial concept presented at the start. Much like Moonlighter, there are going to be people who enjoy the basic loops. For me, I had far loftier goals for my eldritch cult than being the cook and the manager.
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