Welcome back to The Backlog, a column where we review various video games. The last issue from this column was all the way back in April 2021, run by Brandon Barzola. Now I, Desirae Sin, get to unload 20 years of gaming knowledge that my friends are tired of hearing. Each month will have a designated theme for the games I cover. For October, all gaming reviews will fall under the spooky category, starting with “Cult of the Lamb.”
One of my favorite genres of games is dungeon crawlers, and “Cult of the Lamb” combines the cute aesthetics of “Animal Crossing” and the action of an RPG like “Diablo 4.” “Cult of the Lamb” was released on Aug. 11, 2022, and was developed by Massive Monster, a studio based in Australia and the United Kingdom. The game is available for purchase on various platforms such as Steam, PS4, PS5, Nintendo Switch and has been optimized for Xbox Series X and S.
Despite the adorable graphics, “Cult of the Lamb” contains dark imagery and tones. This is due to its inspiration pulled from religion and myths. One obvious example is that the player is a lamb, a common symbol in Christianity that represents Jesus Christ. Not to mention that the word “cult” is in the title. Yet gamers have fallen in love with the indie title because of its engaging, roguelite system of fighting. As players journey on their crusades, enemies and weapons are randomized to ensure that no two playthroughs are exactly the same.
As far as gameplay goes, the roguelite aspects are combined with a system of building your cult and indoctrinating followers. As players upgrade their base, it allows them to gain better weapons and skills for battles. Unfortunately, this part can be tedious, as I personally found myself spending the first few sessions of my playthrough cleaning up after my followers and struggling to stop them from starving. But once a certain level is reached where the base can work basically autonomously, it’s smooth sailing from there.
Spoilers for “Cult of the Lamb” story beyond this point!
The story begins with a very grim tone as players are a tied-up lamb being sacrificed by a menacing cult. Yet the lamb is saved from death by a stranger, bound by chains named “The One Who Waits.” You are given an item called the Red Crown by a mysterious stranger and must defeat the Bishops of the Old Faith in order to free him. The story is straightforward, but there are characters that you meet along the way that build upon the world. Not much is known about them, but the vendors were quite useful during crusades.
The main vendors are the siblings Clauneck, Kudaai and Chemach. Clauneck grants tarot cards with varying effects. Kudaai offers the player weaponry and curses — I like using swords and daggers the most since they have the fastest attack speeds. Chemach is the oddest of the trio. She gives the player relics, or artifacts, that are capable of performing special attacks or actions when fully charged. The dialogue is limited as each character has only a handful of lines that are repeated unless confronted with a quest or if the player has made progress in the story.
The vendors are not the only siblings in the story. As you progress, you learn that The One Who Waits was previously one of the Bishops of the Old Faith. Each area corresponding to the bishops represents their roles. Darkwood is a forested area controlled by Leshy, the bishop of chaos. Next is the swampy desert Anura, which is home to the frog Heket, who represents famine. The third is the squid, ironically named Kallamar, who rules Anchordeep and represents pestilence. The final of the bishops is the spider Shamura, the embodiment of war in the area of Silk Cradle.
The designs of each character are both haunting and endearing. Each of the bishops brandishes bandages covering some sort of injury caused by The One Who Waits when they imprisoned him. While it is not central to the story, it gives each of the bishops a sense of personality, especially when paired with their dialogue. The best example is Shamura, whose skull is split and their exposed brain is bandaged. Descriptions from their siblings and from their own dialogue reveal that while Shamura is the eldest of the four, the trauma from their injury has left them speaking in riddles to both the player and their family. Even a detail as small as this expands all of the bishops. When Heket and Kallamar speak to Shamura, they are doing everything they can to defeat the lamb in order to stop their older sibling from worrying and to allow them to rest. While their family is definitely dysfunctional and murder-happy, “Cult of the Lamb” succeeds in making the player feel a bit sorry for murdering them.
Overall, “Cult of the Lamb” is a short game, but this isn’t new for an indie title. It makes up for this in the replayability. Once the first playthrough is done, players should go back and replay the game on harder difficulties and try to build a cult with different rituals and doctrines each time.