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What happens when you mix Animal Crossing with some creepy demigods, disturbing rituals, and hack-n-slash gameplay? You get Cult of the Lamb, a roguelite game in which you gather devoted followers and vanquish mysterious evil deities on behalf of a resentful and equally wicked god.
BACK WITH A VENGEANCE
You start the game as, quite literally, a sacrificial lamb being slaughtered to prevent the return of The One Who Waits. Unfortunately for them, the aforementioned deity brings you back to life as a vessel for retribution, and all it asks is that you to start a cult in its name.
As with any other roguelite, you start off as a complete weakling with nothing but a set of basic weapons and spells. If you’re skillful enough, you can probably go far with just this loadout, but death (or at least leaving a dungeon) is inevitable.
The game features a handful of different weapon types ranging from daggers to hammers, and these can be upgraded to have passive effects, such as a chance to poison enemies on hit or heal yourself with every kill. You can also find a wide range of both defensive and offensive spells, including various projectile-based attacks, an invulnerability barrier, and knockback abilities.
There are also a few fleeces you can unlock, and each of them provide bonuses in exchange for some sort of penalty (e.g. the Golden Fleece increases your damage per kill, but this resets whenever you get hit. You also take double damage.)
It’s probably fair to say that the action-oriented part of the game somewhat resembles Hades, though the dungeon crawling here mostly boils down to collecting a few stat bonuses and abusing the dodge mechanic whenever you can. While I do enjoy the gameplay, it admittedly becomes incredibly repetitive and easy after a while (even by roguelite standards), and this could be a bit of a turn off for players who are looking for a more challenging experience.
Another key difference between this and games like Hades is that each run in Cult of the Lamb directly ties into its camp management aspect, as crusades, for the most part, are going to be your primary method of resource gathering and cultist recruitment.
What sets Cult of the Lamb apart from other titles in the genre is its base management component, which is also how you unlock new weapon types and abilities, among several other things. Throughout your journey to kill those who wronged your master, you’ll also be finding blueprints for all sorts of structures, ranging from resource gathering and refining stations to practically useless but aesthetically pleasing decorations.
You’re required to grow your community of loyal followers in order to progress through the game. To do this, you have to go through each of the four different levels and fight your way through randomized rooms until you happen to run into some unlucky souls about to be sacrificed by your enemies. Gathering a bunch of followers is just half of the battle, however, as you need to take care of them as well.
The game features a day/night cycle, and the passage of time is something that you should always pay attention to. Not only do your followers age, but they’ll also eventually die of hunger or illness when neglected. Apart from cleaning and cooking, you’ll also have to keep your followers happy by fulfilling their requests (which are basically randomized side quests) and occasionally giving them gifts.
Fortunately, as you gather devotion from the gigantic shrine in the middle of your camp and establish new doctrines within your cult, you’ll gain new rituals and structures that can help solve issues such as starvation, dissent, and just general unhappiness and lack of faith among your followers.
There are several doctrines that you can unlock throughout a single playthrough. Depending on your choices, you can make it so that everybody loves it whenever you sacrifice a follower, when they would normally be horrified by the thought of getting taken by whatever eldritch abomination you’ve been sending them off to. Combined with the doctrine that enables cannibalism, you can turn ritual sacrifices into twisted pseudo-feasts that’ll keep everybody full for at least an entire day.
Once you beat one of the main bosses, their levels can be looped, and it’ll get harder the longer you stay there. You can also start a rematch against each boss whenever you want. This can be great if you wanna challenge yourself and see how long you can last in a single run, though I’d imagine that most people will move on shortly after beating the final boss, which, to be fair, does take quite a bit of time to reach.
Despite its charming art style and music, the gameplay loop can start feeling like a chore once you’re several hours in. Thankfully, the game doesn’t overstay its welcome, as there is an ending, though it lets you play afterwards. For completionists out there, it shouldn’t take too long to get all of the achievements, as I managed to 100% it on Steam shortly after the epilogue.
Overall, it’s still a fantastic entry to the ever-growing list of roguelites, as it innovates just enough to distinguish itself (in a good way) from other hack-and-slash type titles in the genre. For something that’ll last you at least around 15-20 hours, I’d say it’s well worth the asking price.