That’s right – Cult of the Lamb takes all the difficulty of a rogue-like and pairs it with cutesy characters, base-building, and sim-like mechanics. The art style and soundtrack give the game unique appeal, but there’s more behind the would-be sacrificial main character than meets the eye.
Let’s dive into the game to see why Cult of the Lamb might appeal to more than just fans of games like Binding of Isaac.
Story, setting, & tone
The setting of this game is very simple in that it’s established from the beginning moments of the game. You are a sacrifice to other-worldly gods for something called the “Old Faith.” Except, you aren’t quite sacrificed; instead, something calling itself “The One Who Waits” revives you at the cost of creating a cult in its name.
To that end, you roam around various areas controlled by Old Faith followers, recruiting people to your cult and slaying heretics. This may not have Warhammer levels of lore, but the game establishes its story much more by “showing” than “telling.”
Characters, though their existences seem bleak, have personality and a certain whimsy about them. The pairing of this levity with darkness keeps the narrative from feeling too overbearing or simplistic.
Cult of the Lamb performance
Massive Monster built this game on the Unity engine, so it runs very smoothly. The only hiccup I encountered was when I first loaded into the game. It did not natively detect my monitor’s aspect ratio and I had to set it manually. In the grand scheme of things, however, this is not a deal-breaker.
Most computers should be able to run it well along with the consoles on which it is available:
- Nintendo Switch
- Xbox One
- Xbox Series X/S
- PlayStation 4
- PlayStation 5
Cult of the Lamb gameplay and functions
Since Cult of the Lamb is rogue-like, players do “runs” or attempt to beat the game until they run out of life. When that happens, they must start all over at the beginning of the game. However, as you progress through the game, you’ll get more powerful spells, weapons, and other perks. This can help you progress through the game.
But the other facet of Cult of the Lamb is the cult management simulator aspect. The player must take care of their “flock” so to speak, by feeding them and providing for them regularly. However, this works to your advantage as your followers can aid you in battle.
UI and interface
The UI for this title is uncluttered and straightforward. As with most rogue-likes, it’s best played with a controller. This might make the building aspects a bit cumbersome for players used to the freedom of a mouse and keyboard, but Cult of the Lamb smartly approaches this challenge.
As you can see above, players can place their structures in set places. The red squares indicate occupied spaces (by resources in this case) while the green spaces indicate buildable land.
When it comes to combat and inventory, there is a simple radial menu players can access that displays whatever items they are using at the time. You can upgrade or swap out your weapons and spells/curses throughout the game as you discover them.
Cult of the Lamb offers multiple control schemas for different playstyles. The default is a fairly standard setup, but you can customize it if desired. Again, this game is experienced best with a controller.
Key mechanics & combat
Players have three core mechanics for combat:
- dodge roll
- unleash curse
The enemies are very mobile from the very beginning of the game, so you’ll need to learn how to time your dodges. The penalty for missed attacks can also be pretty punishing if you don’t time things right. In that vein, the game rewards players who take the time to learn enemy movements and tactics.
Beyond that, there are the Tarot Cards players can unlock as seen above. These provide buffs such as additional hearts, damage modifiers, and more. If you played Hades, think of it as the buffs you get from the various gods in the game.
Cult of the Lamb world, sound, & character design
It isn’t often that you get a beautifully colorful world with such a dark mission in a game. After all, you are running around as an inter-dimensional god-powered prophet slaying non-believers and recruiting followers at any cost. But you’re such a darn cute little innocent lamb!
Therein lies the crux of the game’s core design intent.
Sound design: pivotal to the experience
Many early reviews have raved about the phenomenal soundtrack in Cult of the Lamb. It’s almost a requirement of any good rogue-like game at this point since players spend a great deal of time exploring the game world. Though the game is procedurally generated, it ultimately has players treading similar ground.
The soundtrack keeps things fresh and provides adrenaline boosts in key moments during big fights. It can also set the atmosphere while you are constructing your cult camp. See if you can identify musical motifs for different characters.
The characters speaking different languages is another detail that can’t be missed. It adds to the feeling that these are real people in a real-world dealing with…terrifying cult monsters.
Character design: behind those cute smiles are sharp fangs
Despite being an adorable farm animal, the protagonist is a murder machine. Every character exudes this juxtaposition in Cult of the Lamb. There is always just something a bit off about many of the characters that the player meets. Clauneck, for example, seems welcoming and helpful. But why is this dude chillin’ in a forest infested with zealous cultists handing out buffs?
The Old Faith gods are also quite the sight. They invoke classic themes of horror like spiders, eldritch creatures, and more. Again, there is a juxtaposition to the player character (a lamb) who will one day defeat them. And that requires followers.
Part of the fun of the game is playing with how you build your base and care for those followers. You can also customize them, give them unique names, and deal with various positive and negative traits.
World design: a lived-in, beautiful disaster
Though there isn’t a dedicated overworld, Cult of the Lamb still has a lot to offer in terms of world design. The individual encounters, while simple in their setups, keep things interesting with different set dressings, enemies, and obstacles.
The cult camp you can create is also highly customizable. Though a bit flat, the character that your followers bring to the space does a ton of work to make things feel more chaotic (in a good way).
This, in tandem with the four different areas of the Old Faith realm, offers the player lots of variety to experience. Overall, the whimsy, color, and richness of the world design help the characters feel all the more real.
Verdict: Cult of the Lamb is great for any gamer
The combat may prove a bit frustrating at times, but this game is meant to be played over and over again. Ideally, you will get farther each time you play it. And with a game so easy to pick up and put down, it’s simple to do just that.
- Fantastic art style
- Incredible soundtrack
- Straight-forward control schemas
- In-depth tutorial system
- Great replayability thanks to procedurally generated maps and customizable builds in each run
- Useful, but limited accessibility features
- Rogue-likes aren’t for everyone
- Fans of keyboard and mouse sim games may find the controller more cumbersome
Developer: Massive Monster
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Game Modes: single-player