Religion is a very difficult topic. On the one hand, it gives meaning to millions of lives and allows them to push forward through tough times. On the other, many powerful people have used the good faith of people to do selfish acts. Many awful deeds have also been done in the name of religion, all to make yours the only one around. These practices are not exclusive to the big religions, as cults are pretty infamous for this. Conflicts between cults arise, as the debate of who is right and who commits heresy continues. These themes lie at the center of Massive Monster’s newest rogue-lite: Cult of the Lamb. Pledge yourself to this game, and you might find yourself enthralled, with little hope of escape…
You play as the titular Lamb, a traditionally sacrificed animal, who is sent to the slaughter. On the command of the four Bishops of the Old Faith, your head is cut right off. However, in this time of need, a deity called The One Who Waits grants you mercy. It allows you to return to the land of the living, as long as you form a cult in his name. With the power of the Red Crown bestowed upon you, you set out to grow your cult, and slay the 4 Bishops. All so The One Who Waits may rise again…
While not a story-based game, Cult of the Lamb has an undeniably powerful hook. There are only 2 plot twists that can be considered major ones, but it doesn’t need them. The story does what it needs to do, and there are a few snippets of lore to seek out. While there is some lost potential in its worldbuilding, the story makes for an amazing setting for this rogue-lite.
Cult of the Lamb is a fusion of 2 gameplay styles, which complement each other perfectly. On one hand, you have the rogue-lite dungeon crawling to gather resources. On the other, the building/simulation portion where you grow your cult to become more powerful. Before we start talking about gameplay, be aware that there are major free updates along the way. Bear that in mind when I discuss things that could’ve been. Let’s start by discussing the Crusades.
When you venture into the lands of the Old Faith on a Crusade, you head into one of the 4 regions to track down bosses, resources, and followers. Most rooms are combat challenges, where you have to slay every enemy to progress to the next room.
Combat is straightforward: you have a basic attack and a roll. Slain enemies drop fervour that you can collect, and you can consume some of it to perform a Curse (a special attack). At the start of every run, you get one weapon and one Curse, however, you can get the opportunity to change it during your run.
The last aspect of combat is the tarot cards, and they form the biggest factor of randomness during your runs. When exploring the level, you may stumble upon Clauneck, who presents 2 cards to you. It’s up to you to pick which card you want to take along. These give buffs such as healing, blue hearts, extra damage, and much more. These cards only give boring stat buffs when starting out, but get more interesting later. This prevents the combat system from ever getting boring, but may not be enough to satisfy some people. Don’t expect levels of customization like Hades.
Slaughtering heretics feels so smooth that you’re likely going to have a blast crusading. Movement feels snappy and fluent, and any death feels like it’s fair. Lastly, tarot cards feel weighty enough to make any choice matter. Combat might not be the game’s main highlight, but it still feels fun at the end of the day.
Crusades & Progression
After clearing one area, you’ll be presented with a map of sorts. This gives you a preview of what the next couple of areas will contain, like resources or a specific challenge. However, you’ll need to make a choice about what path to go on. It’s important to plan ahead, keeping in mind all the resources you need to develop your cult, making each Crusade feel impactful and thoughtful. But no matter what, a boss fight will always await you at the end. Assuming you’ll make it with all your lamby-limbs still intact, of course.
Each of the 4 Bishops hides out in their respective region. To gain access to a region, all you need is a certain number of followers to open the door. If you’ve fully completed 3 runs in that region (i.e. defeated 3 bosses), the fourth run will have you fight the Bishop. But before you’ll be strong enough to battle them, you’ll need to draw enough powers from your flock.
Building A Cult
All the resources you gather in the Land of the Old Faith can be put to use in your very own cult. These include poor, lost creatures, captured by the Bishops or stranded in the wilderness. If you find them, they’ll be yours to indoctrinate into your cult. They can then be set to work to gather more resources and construct new buildings. There are many different buildings to make, like farm plots, lumberyards, decorations, etc. Many of these buildings allow you to automate some actions you’d normally have to perform by hand, like cleaning up poop or tending to your crops. One of the most important buildings is the shrine, where your followers can worship you to generate Devotion. When you have enough, you unlock a Divine Inspiration, which allows you to unlock new buildings. This in turn allows you to upgrade your capacity for new followers.
There are 3 main stats to manage: faith, hunger, and cleanliness. The latter 2 are straightforward: they can be kept up with cooking food and keeping the place clean respectively. Faith is a bit more complicated. Doing things like your daily sermons, being victorious in battle, completing quests, etc. keeps it up. On the other hand, doing things that displease your followers, like waking them up at night, failing quests, murdering a fellow cult member, etc. lower it. If it gets too low, you’ll have a dissenter on your hands. That cult member will spread lies throughout your cult and eventually leave it. You can deal with them diplomatically, or murder them. Or sacrifice them. That’s the same as murder, actually. It’s up to you.
What use is a cult without being able to benefit from it? Performing your daily sermons allows you to gain power through your followers, allowing you to upgrade a skill tree. It mainly allows you to find more powerful weapons and various Curses during Crusades. It’s a bit of a shame that only a few abilities upgrade your power directly. As a result, it doesn’t feel like the Lamb gets stronger, just their gear. At the temple, you can also use the bones of fallen enemies to manipulate your cult through Rituals, with bonfires, feasts brainwashing, or sacrifices.
Cult management is undoubtedly where this game shines. The rogue-lite signature “one-more-run” gameplay style is undoubtedly addicting, but it’s not as engrossing as just running around your cult. From chatting with cult members to collecting resources and cooking, it’s so easy to immerse yourself in your cult. It was so engrossing to me that I’ve spent hours upon hours just chilling around the place, sometimes forgetting to go on Crusades. However, a few elements to directly power up the Lamb would’ve been great.
When on Crusades, you might encounter some NPC’s who show you the way to a new explorable area from the world map. This gives you access to some shops to get new tarot cards, side quests, and minigames like a dice game and fishing. These side quests often have you do specific things like gathering loot to obtaining new Fleeces. These Fleeces buff you during combat, but with a caveat.
Your followers might also give you quests to do. These tasks include taking in a few more people, doing a ritual, putting someone in jail, or fetch quests. Fetch quests are already unpopular in gaming, but Cult of the Lamb made them worse. Namely, you can’t give your follower items from your inventory. If they ask you for some flowers from the Darkwood, you NEED to go on a Crusade in the Darkwood and beg that you can find enough flowers to please your acolyte, no matter how many you have in your inventory.
Speaking of Crusades, if you’ve beaten the Bishop in a certain region, you can return there to face more powerful monsters. Additionally, after beating a boss, you can choose to stay in the region. This allows you to keep your build and stay in the dungeon as long as you like, until you bite the dust of course. However, the game doesn’t encourage this, as it’s dangerous to leave your cult for long, and there aren’t a lot of benefits from doing so as far as I’ve found.
When I booted up the game, saw the title screen and played through the prologue, I was immediately gripped by this game’s atmosphere. “Creepy but cute” is the term used by the developers, and they’re spot on. There might not be a better way to describe the art style of this game.
Visuals & Music
This game nails creating an atmosphere. The way sprites are drawn is undeniably cute, yet it contrasts with the dark imagery, like blood and pentagrams. The regions you visit on your Crusades feel foreboding, and your cult feels comfortable and home-like. Of course, the latter depends on how well you’ve decorated it. This is only strengthened by some great character—and—monster designs, making Cult of the Lamb a visual delight.
The tunes are amazing, too. The songs during Crusades feel ominous, and the song playing at your cult sets you at ease immediately, empowering its visuals. If you’re not compelled to join the Cult of the Lamb for its presentation alone, you truly are a heretic.
The game may be beautiful, but it’s not as optimized as it could be. During my journey to kill the Bishops, the Switch’s hardware was one of my greatest foes. If your cult grows too much, you might see your framerate dipping a lot. I’ve mostly noticed it when transitioning to a new day, as my game would freeze for a second or less. Once, I’ve seen that low frame rate during a Crusade, which is a big issue during combat. Combined with a few UI glitches, forcing me to restart the game, the performance does hold this version of the game back.
Nevertheless, it was never deal-breaking, aside from the game losing my playtime record at one point. It still runs fine for the most part, and this version is being patched over time. If this really sounds like a dealbreaker to you, you probably aren’t used to playing on the Nintendo Switch.
The time has come, dear disciple, to join the Cult of the Lamb. Come home to a welcoming cult environment, where you’ll feel relaxed and can work to your heart’s content. Then, set out on Crusades for engaging action-packed combat, but be happy with the customization you get. Just power through the fetch quests, as they do not occur frequently, oh don’t worry my dear disciple. Just bear through the performance issues, and all will be okay. As the time is nigh, my follower, to join us on this amazing journey to smash the heretics. Get ready for the resurrection of The One Who Waits.
Prepare yourself, you MuSt S̶̪̙̯̭͎͖̻̤͋̒͒̾̇̋͐̎͛͆̒̓́͝Ā̷̻̱̠̐͋C̵̰̩͓̗͕͖̄̊̈́̍̒̊̈̕Ṟ̶̦̹̃̓̌̇͒I̷̢͖̖̱̝̯̳̙̗̬͎͈̾̄͆͗͛̇̋̐͊͗͘̕͠F̵̗̫͍̤̥͙̫͙̞͇̏̏̂̈́̌̒Į̸̡̬̖̗̘͙͙̩̹̌̅͗͆̿̊͋̽̌͝Ć̷̨̨̙͖͖̗̳͇̱͜E̸̠̎̋͠͠.
Cult of the Lamb gets a 9/10.