Picture this: a hellish cult, bloody satanic imagery coating the walls, filled with sacrifice and morbid rituals disregarding your cult members’ well-being, its leader feared by the rival gods of other cults because of their actions. You wouldn’t think the leader of this cult would be an adorable tiny lamb with unholy power bestowed upon him by an elder god trapped in limbo, hellbent on revenge against his brethren for betraying him, would you?
A lone lamb, the last of its kind, is sacrificed before four unholy entities. Following its death, the lamb appears before a chained deity named “The One Who Waits” who bestows the creature with his crown and his unholy powers, he also resurrects the lamb, and in exchange, it must start a cult in the deity’s image. After escaping, meeting your predecessor (and future gambling buddy) Ratau, and rescuing your first follower, you begin to build your cult’s campsite. Constructing a shrine of the lamb for your followers to worship and a temple for them to pray in. A pleasant start isn’t it?
In terms of gameplay, Cult of the Lamb is a rogue-like, dungeon crawler best described as a combination of ‘The Binding of Isaac’, ‘Enter the Gungeon’, and ‘Animal Crossing’. Sounds like a drink that’s mixed together on a Halloween dare, doesn’t it? But in this case not only can you keep the drink down, but you’d also ask for another round.
Now the term “rogue-like” is thrown around a lot, often debatably, but Cult of the Lamb lives very much up to the genre. Much like most religions that get out of hand, to get more resources, followers, wipe out your enemies, and also progress in the story, you can partake in the odd crusade. At the beginning of every crusade, you pick up a melee weapon and abilities known as ‘curses’ to protect yourself.
In stages reminiscent of bullet-hell gameplay you dodge your way past enemy fire and slay any non-believer who dares to stand in your way, with the goal of taking out one of the four boss entities known as “Bishops” per area. But if you die? That’s it. Back to the cult’s campsite with half of everything you’ve earned on a crusade taken. Including any followers you may have recruited on the way. Sorry if your new recruit isn’t inspired by their saviour if you perish during the same quest you rescued them on.
Cult of the Lamb may lure you into a false sense of security with its cute imagery of the adorable animals working together in a camp. But that sinister element is always lingering, you’re leading a literal cult, You’re an evil idol worshipped by those who are desperate and don’t know any better, and your followers survive or perish on your whim. Are you a benevolent leader or are these wilful servants just a tool for you to exploit? Either way, someone has to tend the crops and gather building supplies while you’re spreading the good word of the lamb through waves of dissidents’ flesh.
Now it isn’t all doom and gloom, the lamb and your animal followers are all so adorable, you may confuse Cult of the Lamb with an overly violent Build-A-Bear Workshop. You can completely customise every follower you indoctrinate however you wish. It’s your cult after all and they’re your loyal followers, why shouldn’t you be able to transform their bodies against their will? Now it’s time to get to work! You can also assign every follower a job and it’s up to you to manage them, but beware, every follower has unique traits, both positive and negative, that affect how they behave in the cult.
Such as; one follower’s faith may be harder to raise overall and another may be slow while working, while another may maintain their faith in you even when sick, and another may be so dedicated that their faith could remain unshaken when killing off any dissenters. You can manage these traits in your favour per who you allow to join the cult, but it might be worth keeping someone who doesn’t have any particularly useful traits, as you might need some meat come dinner time.
Although it may feel like babysitting at times, all this effort will pay off with you receiving upgrades. Not just for your cult’s village but also with the combat too, with access to new powerful abilities and weapons. So keep at it! What, you think an efficient cult is built in a day? Of course not! It takes hard work and sacrifice! No really, literal human sacrifice to the eldritch monsters that drag cult members to a gruesome fate. So don’t get too attached to your followers.
The world outside of your cult’s camp and the crusading routes is diverse and plentiful. Take a leisurely stroll to the southern coast to relight an old lighthouse and take up fishing with an experienced fisherman showing you the ropes… who is also a fish. Try not to think about it too much. If fishing isn’t your style then head north to your old buddy Ratau’s place for a game of ‘Knucklebones’ a complex yet addictive dice game where you can gamble some gold away, and if you tire of Ratau you can find up to three more Knucklebones opponents during your crusades to send to his house to face a greater challenge.
Head southeast to caves literally dripping in gold where a mysterious idol is running a dubious sacrifice-for-profit scheme. Set your sights northeast for a grotto filled to the brim with mushrooms which you can visit with an ant named Sozo who is a little too eager to teach you about the magic of mushrooms. Okay Sozo, you do you, man. Last but not least, head west and you’ll find a derelict pirate’s cove housing a grouchy grasshopper selling tarot cards and complaining about his mother-in-law. Did I mention that most of these NPCs have their own quests?
Though its members are desperate for a safe haven in this dangerous land, wouldn’t you be slightly questioning when asked to join a literal cult? Aww, but who would say no to an adorable little fluffy lamb?