REVIEW: Cult of the Lamb is heavenly, yet needs divine intervention
Even a great sheep needs shearing
When presented with the opportunity of reviewing a Devolver Digital-published game, I couldn’t pass it up. Devolver has released some of my favorite games ever, which is why I jumped on Cult of the Lamb, even though I didn’t know anything about it! Did I find Cult of the Lamb worth my time? Let’s start a cult and find out!
Follow me into appreciation
With the very first trailer for Cult of the Lamb, you know you’ll get an incredible-looking game. The artstyle is like a beautiful pop-up book, reminiscent of games like Paper Mario or Bug Fables. These visuals push you to keep playing, exploring, and unlocking content, as you simply want to see it all!
The main theme of the game, which centers around religion and violence, may appear insensitive and crude to those on the outside looking in, but it’s actually presented in a tasteful way. Most of the characters have an adorable and unique design that honestly makes you forget that you can sacrifice them in cold blood. On the flip-side are the main antagonists, which have a much more nightmarish, yet somehow angelic appearance. This may sound like a clash of styles, but it feels like a perfect compliment to the game’s quieter moments and action-packed elements. This vibe bleeds into the environment as well, with peculiar locations that help foster a gloomy atmosphere. The habitants of this foreboding world make the most with what they have, despite living among the constant threat of danger from the cults around them.
In terms of the game’s soundtrack, composer Narayana Johnson (AKA River Boy) has crafted something that expertly matches Cult of the Lamb’s numerous mechanics. Quite simply, having enjoyed this game’s soundtrack, I am now a firm believer that music heaven exists. Cult of the Lamb’s music, which is both cheery and relaxing while also eerie and sinister, keeps you immersed in the experience the whole time. There’s not a single track I don’t enjoy listening to, and you can bet I added it to my playlist of study music.
For a perfect union, we pray.
Without knowing anything about the game other than what I saw in the animated trailer, you can imagine my reaction when I found a mix of what’s essentially Animal Crossing and The Binding of Isaac. If you are familiar with both of these franchises, you may wonder: how on earth do these two combine? The first thing established is the game’s two different styles: management simulation and action rogue-like. These elements are core to the experience, and you can’t choose one over the other. Sometimes you’ll be managing your cult and run out of resources, which means you have to explore to find what’s needed. If you don’t handle that in an expeditious manner, you’ll suddenly see your followers deserting. You’re constantly working on things, and the game keeps you with a sense of urgency that makes things very exciting. I personally loved this, as it helps me stay focused.
The simulation part of Cult of the Lamb is quite entertaining as well. I chose to be as pacifist as possible, but sometimes you’ll have to make some sacrifices, literally! This comes up when your followers will ask to be sacrificed for the good of the cult. In any case, it’s up to you how peacefully or violently you want to manage your cult; however, you do need to have followers to keep advancing, so keep that in mind!
The action sections are very exciting, taking inspiration from games like The Binding of Isaac, Enter the Gungeon, and Nuclear Throne. To explain further, you have a run with a set number of areas to explore where you can find different types of rooms, such as enemy gauntlets, safe rooms with Tarot cards (power-ups) or NPC rooms where you can unlock even more side areas for resources or sidequests. These runs are fast, and the gameplay is fluid and snappy. It keeps you on your toes as you battle enemies, look for upgrades and try to stay alive. If you die, you lose some of the resources you gathered and your followers’ faith in you goes down.
Cult of the Lamb presents you with 4 levels of difficulty that you can switch whenever you want (easy, normal, hard, and extra hard), which certainly keeps things from getting overwhelming. I tend to always choose hard mode on games because I like the challenge, and Cult of the Lamb definitely provides that, with followers getting hungry or sick faster and room-clearing rewards being rarer.
A sense of discordance
There’s a lot to cover in this topic, but I can safely say that you can enjoy most of Cult of the Lamb without major problems. Most of the issues you may run into do not impact core gameplay, but when they do, you are probably going to struggle considerably. For example, you can see the game stutter when a day ends or begins, when you finish building decorations, etc. but never in the middle of doing something important. This makes the performance hiccups jarring, but they can be mostly overlooked. There are some visual glitches as well, like textures not rendering properly, cultists not showing the correct facial expression at times, or some characters appearing where they shouldn’t. These aren’t issues that would make me want to stop playing, and personally, I could continue without paying them much mind.
In terms of bigger bugs, I experienced issues like unlocking a decoration that ended up permanently glitched on the menu screen. This made it impossible to craft, a rock mine stopped working altogether; and some cultists stopped doing their assigned tasks. These issues were resolved after a few restarts of the game, which can be a nuisance, but they never stopped me from playing.
The largest glitch I experienced came about in the fourth quest area, and it would cause the game to crash for no apparent reason. This happened at least 4 times, and actually prevented me from seeing the game through to the end. I haven’t read of other people getting hit with this glitch, so it may have been an issue unique to me. Here’s hoping a patch will come soon so I can finish the adventure.
Sadly, the game seemed to get progressively more buggy as I continued, which might mean issues were tied to the number of structures or characters on screen. Besides the last glitch, none of the others stopped me from enjoying Cult of the Lamb, and despite all the issues, I still had a really fun time.
Thank you for this glorious bounty
Cult of the Lamb is a unique experience full of secrets, interesting characters, and areas that are a joy to explore. The amazing mix of gameplay mechanics along with the artstyle and music really make Cult of the Lamb a work of art. Though there are quite a few bugs and glitches in the Switch version, most of them won’t stop you from enjoying the adventure. Whether you choose to play Cult of the Lamb in its current state or in the future, know you’ll be getting a game that may eventually be considered a cult classic.