Published by Devolver Digital and developed by Massive Monster, Cult of the Lamb is an action-roguelike dungeon crawler and a management simulation game rolled into one. After being given a second chance at life, players are tasked with starting a cult of critters in the woods devoted to The One Who Waits. When you aren’t cultivating your cult following, you will be battling rival cult leaders, slaying heretics, indoctrinating converts, and squeezing in a few rounds of Knucklebones.
In Cult of the Lamb, you start out as a lamb being sacrificed on an altar by the Bishops of the Old Faith, who are the main antagonists you will face throughout the game. Upon death, you are greeted by a chained figure known as The One Who Waits, who offers you a chance to return to the world of the living in exchange for starting a cult in their name. You will be given a special Red Crown that allows you to possess supernatural powers that will help you manage your cult.
With your special crown in tow, you will bleat back to life to begin your new existence as a prophet for The One Who Waits. Your goal is to venture out to the forest to find and indoctrinate new followers into your cult. Most of this occurs during dungeon runs, where you will delve into a section of forest to collect resources like food, wood, stone, and coins. The forest consists of four main regions, one for each of the Bishops of the Old Faith, who are the main bosses of each area. The randomly generated forest regions are full of surprises, including other NPCs that reveal new areas of the overworld map.
Baaa-ttle With Bishops
Combat is challenging yet satisfying in Cult of the Lamb. Despite playing the game on PC, I chose to play using a controller, which the game recommends. You are given one melee weapon and one special Curse ability to equip at the start of each run, with potential opportunities to swap or enhance your weapons along the way. Weapons are mostly limited to axes, swords, and claws, which can feature their own buffs and effects. The Curses seem to offer more variety in terms of offensive and defensive capabilities.
Randomly drawn tarot cards provide buffs that aid you for the duration of each run. Some rooms contain resource troves, while others contain merchants that sell various wares, including decorations for your home base. This is also where you will often find new woodland critters that are ripe for indoctrination.
There will be plenty to keep you occupied at your camp after finishing a run. From conducting daily sermons to shoveling worshiper poop, there’s no shortage of work to be done around the campgrounds. Once you are able to build some new structures and get a few upgrades, you can offload most of the busy work onto your followers, who will tend to whatever tasks you assign them. This helped me free up more time to leave the camp to collect resources and visit other areas.
Forest crusades aren’t the only way to get new goods for your flock. Players can eventually unlock access to a fishing pier, where they can not only obtain fish, but also buy new decorations and tarot cards from local merchants. I also enjoyed sneaking away from the cult to visit Ratau for a few rounds of Knucklebones, a simple yet fun minigame involving dice rolls.
Keeping the Faith
As your cult grows, you must also tend to your followers and ensure their basic needs are met. This is where the management sim aspect of Cult of the Lamb comes into play. Your cult starts humbly, as you will only have enough resources to provide food and sleeping bags for your followers at first. As you embark on more trips through the forest, you will accumulate more resources that will help you build new structures and upgrade various parts of your camp. Eventually, you can assign your followers to do all of the heavy lifting on your behalf, freeing up more time for you to battle the Bishops.
Aside from food and shelter, you will need to maintain the faith and loyalty of your followers. Failing to do so can lead to dissent amongst followers, which can lead to skepticism spreading throughout your cult. To prevent this, cult leaders must perform daily sermons as well as rituals that can help keep the faith and abate the non-believers. As their benevolent leader, you can offer gifts and blessings to individual worshippers to boost their level and strengthen their devotion to you. You are also capable of reading the thoughts of each follower to learn their traits, feelings, and opinions to help inform how to better meet their needs.
Am I Not Merciful?
Cult of the Lamb gives players the freedom to be as benevolent or as sinister a cult leader as they want to be, with consequences to match. Dissent, disease, and death are as much a part of cult life as worship and devotion, and how you choose to deal with such situations can send a ripple effect through your cult. Harvesting dead followers for meat might save your cult from starvation, but some cult members may not approve, for example. The faith of a dissenter can be restored, but it may be more efficient to secretly murder them instead. The choices you make may be for the greater good of the cult, but you will have to be prepared for the consequences. Though you are encouraged to do what needs to be done to cultivate a following for The One Who Waits, your cult’s ability to thrive is ultimately up to your discretion as cult leader.
Cult of the Lamb seamlessly combines the gameplay from action roguelikes and management simulations into one cohesive experience. The interplay between these two genres in Cult of the Lamb makes for a gameplay loop that is both engaging and satisfying. There were times when delving into the forest to fight heretics felt like going on a trip to the grocery store, but with a hostile twist. While each dungeon attempt runs the risk of failure, the desire to fulfill the needs and expectations of my followers motivated me to face each challenge head on. I eventually fell into a rhythm between tending to my flock and leaving for forest crusades, and my cult thrived as a result.
Cult of the Lamb is both wicked and wonderful, with a lovely visual aesthetic to boot. Underneath its adorable veneer lies a game that is full of sinister surprises. As someone who doesn’t particularly prefer roguelikes, Cult of the Lamb’s innovative genre-splicing has made me a convert. I am eager to see what additional post-launch content Massive Monsters has planned.
This review is based on a Steam copy supplied by the publisher. Cult of the Lamb releases on August 11, 2022 on PC, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S.
Cult of the Lamb
- Cute visual aesthetic
- Challenging yet accessible combat
- Satisfying gameplay loop
- Lots of secrets and surprises
- Weapon variety could be better
- Not enough time for side activities