Devolver Digital has always been on the lookout for some deliciously weird gaming experiences. He plays like an ape escaping his captors while freeform jazz plays in the background. He robs pretentious rich men as con men in 18th century France. He guts houses full of thugs as a drug-addicted ninja with PTSD. The latest in this long line of memorable releases from the publisher, Cult of the Lamb puts you in the role of an adorable fluffy lamb that harbors the soul of a sinister eternal deity. It’s intense, cute, stressful, and absolutely a must try.
You start your journey being sacrificed by a forest cult that is killing the poor creature because a prophecy said that a lamb would be the vessel for which The One Who Waits would make their glorious return. The four resident Elders weren’t really fans of the One Who Waits, so they imprisoned him in another dimension to consolidate his power over the forest creatures.
Little did they know that sacrificing their little lamb actually sent it straight to The One Who Waits, who resurrects it and grants it spooky powers in exchange for its undying loyalty and commitment to slaying the other four gods, thus freeing The One Who Waits. . Therefore, your lamb sets out to form a cult of his own in the name of his patron Eldritch Abomination, building spiritual power to aid him in the long quest for revenge. Although there are story bits sprinkled in there that explain more about the conflict between The One Who Waits and his four brothers, the story mostly takes a backseat to the excellent gameplay after the first few hours.
The game is part survival simulator and part action roguelike, clearly divided between your duties of tending your “flock” and your efforts to fight your way through the forests of heretics. The roguelike half of the game follows many of the genre’s expected pitfalls; You start with a basic weapon and a limited-use active skill and work your way through room after room of enemies on randomly generated maps. A full run through the dungeon should only take about ten minutes, and you’re sure to pick up plenty of loot along the way to help build your commune.
On normal difficulty, the combat manages to strike a nice balance where you’re always kept on your toes, but never overwhelmed. Most weapons except the dagger can take enemies down with just a few hits, and you also have a very useful dodge roll that grants you some precious I-frames. Weapons run the usual gamut of axes, swords, gauntlets, etc., while your curses generally give you some kind of AoE attack like a long-range sludge bomb or blast that knocks away nearby enemies. Although you start each run with a random weapon and curse, you can later acquire new ones to trade as a reward for clearing a room.
We appreciate how this Cult of the Lamb dungeon crawler manages to always feel fresh without ever sticking around longer than expected. New skins and equipment make each race unique, while intense and chaotic battles demand your full attention. Plus, each race is only 10-15 minutes long, meaning you’re in and out before things get too stale. There’s not that much variety of enemies in any of the biomes and apart from tarot cards, which give you temporary passive buffs for the run, you don’t have much rope to ‘build’ your character. The combat is simple, then, but it fills the niche it needs in the overall game cycle nicely.
Whether you kill the boss at the end of your run or get invaded at some point beforehand, you will always return to your cult’s commune and this is where the simulation elements come into play. Occasionally, you’ll meet new cultists in a race or ‘force convert’ them after beating them in a fight, and they’ll then join your growing flock. All cult members can work to help maintain your community, such as helping with farm chores or going down to the mines for resources, or they can sit around the shrine in the center of the camp and worship it, which grants you Devotion. Once you have enough Devotion, you can invest it in improvements for your commune, like better dormitories or a cabin from which you can send missionaries.
However, as your population increases, you’ll need to make sure you can keep your overall Faith level high, as it’s steadily declining. Keeping your flock fed and repairing structures as they crumble is critical to keeping people believing you, and little faith will increase the chances of dissidents rising up among you. Of course, you can always put dissidents in jail and ‘re-educate’ them, but this means one less set of hands working for you. If your faith is getting too low, one way to get it back up quickly is by staging a ritual, such as a mass feast that quenches everyone’s hunger, or drugging your entire herd with psilocybin to keep them in a euphoric haze for a few days. The only drawback here is that all the rituals have pretty strong cooldowns, so you have to be strategic when you choose to cast them.
If there’s one word that feels best to describe Cult of the Lamb, it’s stressful. There is an endless cycle of day and night at play and it always feels like you can barely keep up. Maybe you don’t have enough money to pay for a new sleeping bag for your new cult member. Maybe he’s out of food and half of his camp is starting to get hungry. Maybe someone just died and you don’t have the resources to dig a grave for the body. So going to a dungeon is usually a somewhat tense experience, because you let knowledge that you will return to a camp much worse than you left it and you may not be able to find the resources you need while you are away.
In light of this, sometimes you have to get creative in amusingly dark ways. If a follower dies of old age, for example, you can desecrate their body while everyone is asleep and use the meat for the next day’s food, or you can turn it into fertilizer to make your crops grow a little faster. If a new maverick speaks and your prison is full, you can kill him when no one is looking. If Faith is getting too low, you can always marry another cult member to boost everyone’s beliefs. It is your cult after all, and you have a right to be as unethical as you have to be to get the results The One Who Waits needs.
Cult members themselves can level up through Loyalty, granting you more devotion and a new Doctrine piece after they pass another milestone. The more loyal members will prove to be better workers and once you have three pieces of Doctrine shards you can declare a new doctrine in the church which unlocks a new ritual for you to use or a new passive effect that applies to all members of the church. worship. We particularly appreciate this doctrine system as it goes a long way in making management easier as your herd grows.
As you progress through new biomes, you’ll also slowly unlock other locations besides the forests and your commune where you can interact with other NPC cults and take part in special activities. Head to the lighthouse, for example, and you can play a fishing minigame to collect food for your flock. Visit Ratau’s and you can bet money on a creative dice game that cleverly balances luck and skill. Meanwhile, the mushroom people have a shop where you can buy new blueprints for decorations around the camp or new tarot cards to potentially appear in future dungeons.
All of this feeds into a nice sense of progression and synergy that runs through almost everything that happens in Cult of the Lamb. For example, your exploits in the woods will have a direct impact on your ability to maintain and expand your community, while your efforts to keep your herd happy will have direct benefits to your fighting ability in the woods. Regardless of what you choose to do with your limited time, you can be sure that there will almost always be another unlockable blueprint, skill, or recipe just around the corner. Of course, you can’t do everything you want, so you have to prioritize what’s most important. now, but we appreciate how nothing feels unnecessary in the gameplay loop. There’s a nice balance to all the activities that offer attractive incentives no matter what you do, which can make it very difficult not to play for ‘ten more minutes’ and suddenly lose an hour.
Unfortunately, one element that’s decidedly lacking here is Cult of the Lamb’s performance on Switch, which is underwhelming to say the least. The frame rate stays consistent as long as there isn’t too much going on on screen, but it gets really choppy as things get busier and frame drops led to many cases where we took unnecessary damage or lost a race. Worse yet, Cult of the Lamb crashed into us once and crashed several more times, forcing us back to the title screen. In between all this, we also noticed loading screens that could last up to 15 seconds – not devastating by any means, but enough to become irritating during longer sessions.
It appears that not all of these issues are exclusive to the Switch version and the developers have already announced that patches are in the works for all platforms to address some of the technical issues. Still, Cult of the Lamb is in a pretty shabby state at the moment, which is a real shame given the excellent underlying gameplay and design on display here. It never feels good when a glitch or performance issue directly drags down a noticeable part of the gaming experience and the issues with Cult of the Lamb right now are rampant enough that you’re sure to find something the more you play.
Presentation-wise, Cult of the Lamb manages to impress with its visual style, vaguely reminiscent of the dark 2D art style seen in Don’t Starve. Everything from enemies to cult members to patches of grass have a flat, hand-drawn look and everyone faces the camera, which has a fixed perspective. Also, there’s an interesting fusion of cute and hideous here, as you have things like smiling, bright-eyed animals taking part in a blood-soaked midnight bacchanal. There is nothing here that we believe qualifies as truly disturbingbut that ongoing contrast of light and dark remains exciting throughout the 15-20 hour campaign as you encounter new biomes and characters.
To match the ‘creepy but cute’ aesthetic, the soundtrack mixes various chants and whispers with tribal-sounding music that has a somewhat primitive vibe. Most of the soundtrack is low-key and relatively ambient, the kind of music that is discovered rather than announced, but some of the main music takes things to more exciting heights.