Cult of the Lamb by developer Massive Monster and publisher Devolver Digital looks like a fun cutesy animal town builder on the surface. However, it is anything but. It’s very similar to Happy Tree Friends. Something that looks like it’s going to be about cute animals, but quickly becomes twisted. I was given a chance to check out the first hour of Cult of the Lamb thanks to Devolver Digital. And in that first hour… I got to see just how eldritch horror-y it could get.
In Cult of the Lamb, you play as the last lamb. In an attempt to stop their demise, four old gods are trying to execute the lamb. How can the lamb stop them if there are no lambs left, right? Well, in an attempt to stop their downfall, they actually served you up on a silver platter to their enemy. Because now, you’re not only still alive, but the new prophet of The One Who Waits. And you’re about to take out every other cult to free your master.
What stood out to me the most was not only how fleshed out the cult/town-building part was but also how great the rogue-lite aspect is too. But a lot is thrown at you. In my one-hour playtime, the game taught me a lot of ins and outs of the core mechanics which did get overwhelming at times. Particularly when it came down to managing my cult. Several critical pieces felt like they needed more explaining, or at a minimum needed easing into. For instance, cult members’ health maintenance. There are several factors that go into a cult member’s well-being. If your cult members start to feel bad, you run the risk of them leaving. Or worse, dying. So you need to manage their sleep, their food intake, if they’re near dead bodies, etc.
But even if I didn’t feel like I had a good understanding of what I had to do at times, it never felt overwhelming in a punishing way. All thanks to the number of cult members I had, the tasks like the ones I mentioned above felt manageable. There was no huge wave of cult members joining me, at least not from what I’ve experienced. I controlled the rate at which my cult grew. That let me set the pace of how I got to experience the game. Plus, the cult/ town-building aspect is kept separate from the dungeon-crawling rogue-lite part.
To get resources, like more cult members, rare items to give as gifts, or building materials, you go on crusades (yes, they’re actually called crusades). You venture into other cult’s lands, all to slaughter their members, free captives, and slowly break the constraints on your master. What I loved most about these moments, so far, was how much choice I had. These parts felt like a great mix of past rogue-lites. Like Hades with weapon and ability pickups that change your playstyle. As well as from Inscryption where you chose the path you go down that may be most optimal for you to succeed.
With ranged and physical weapons, as well as cards, and an ever-changing landscape each crusade, there was a lot that made each run feel fresh. To be honest, though, I found myself having the most fun with the greataxe and a ranged ability that summoned a massive pool of acid. Even the enemy types are varied enough that different hordes of enemies were always challenging. Not because there was too much to manage; rather it took a minute to read everything on screen before they all attacked.
Cult of the Lamb is set up to be something truly special. After only getting a one-hour taste, I am craving more. Even as someone who isn’t normally a fan of town/ people management games, I can’t wait to continue building out my cult. Plus, it’s a tasteful mix of cute and macabre that we don’t normally get and yet really works here!