The Bishops of the Old Faith made a crucial miscalculation at the start of Cult of the Lamb. As they offer you up as a literal sacrificial lamb to try to avert a terrible prophecy, they fail to realise that death is actually just the beginning in some other religions. Instead of staving off the dire portents, they invite them in, sending you to a rival god to their own who swiftly returns you to the mortal realm to bring the bleat down with your all-new occult powers.
You are tasked with two goals within Cult of the Lamb: to raise a cult in the name of The One Who Waits and to use the powers this grants you to kill the four Bishops who have imprisoned him beyond the veil.
While you’re not told of the proverbial beef (surely that should be lamb or mutton?) between these god-like beings, this all plays out over the course of the story, as you ascend from sacrificial lamb to a god-like being in your own right. How you use said powers is entirely at your discretion, as is who you ultimately bend the knee to, if anyone.
For all its ichor, what follows is a surprisingly cute and fun cult management simulator, and a game that instantly clicked with me.
Both sheep and shepherd, the balance between fast-paced roguelike runs, picking up new members to indoctrinate and then chilling with them back at base works incredibly well. New recruits come not only in the form of those you save from occultists spread throughout the dungeons, but also from defeating the bosses who serve the Bishops. As you spare and then convert them, you bolster your powers by stealing them from the enemy.
This all forms part of the typical things that come with running a cult – you have to build a base and give sermons to raise your flock’s faith. You also have to keep them fed and rested at the same time, or they will simply die or dissent. It’s a bit of a juggling act at first, but one that becomes easier as you get more acolytes that you can send to chop wood, clean the base and eventually gather tithes. With a bunch of materials to gather to build your base further, many hands ( and paws and hooves) make for light work.
As you raise your faith, you unlock new weapons and curses, helping get you through the dungeons quicker and easier. This also unlocks diving inspirations, which lead to upgrades such as being able to bury your dead, start a farm and even turn your followers into demons to help you on your runs.
Is Dave not worshiping you hard enough? Turn him into a demon that shoots projectiles at the enemy when they get too close. That’ll teach him.
The runs are exciting in their own right. You start with a weapon and a curse — melee and projectile, for the most part — and run through a procedurally generated dungeon. As you go, you come across new characters to visit in the overworld, resources for your base, Tarot dealers to give you buffs for your run, and the occasional weaponsmith to swap either your weapon or curse. That, of course, is on top of fighting the aforementioned monsters and gathering potential recruits.
And as you grow your community of cultists in the deep dark woods, you can’t help but grow quickly endeared to your followers, with the bouncy happy 2D visuals and upbeat music juxtaposing beautifully with what is otherwise a super dark theme.
Just as the light and shadow play off each other, you quickly find that the meditative base-building and fast-paced dungeon mechanics come together incredibly well. I’ve played a lot of roguelikes and cult sims in the past few years, but this game feels genuinely different in a way that I never knew I needed.
The difficulty in this game mostly stems from the management side of things, although the difficulty slider does affect both player and enemy health, and the levels of your followers’ faith. For me, the trickiest part wasn’t keeping them fed or happy — it was the juggling act of sacrificing those reaching old age and then resurrecting them for a steady supply of compliant followers. Once you get that treadmill up and running though, you’re basically into the home stretch.
Although I did have a few dissenters in my flock, these were mostly added through side missions given by my followers in exchange for extra faith. If you’re struggling with those neigh-sayers, you can easily sacrifice them — or straight up murder them, if that’s how you want to build your cult. It’s your call which doctrines you want to pass on to your followers, so if you’re cool with murder, who are they to argue?
It’s also worth noting that for those who care about customisation, you can change the names, looks and features of each follower, showing that you’re the kind of generous soul who takes in the disaffected of all sheeps and sizes. You can pick up new variations in chests in dungeons, and by doing things in the overworld, which are pretty standard in games of this ilk. It’s the only thing that doesn’t really fit thematically, but that’s extreme nit-picking.
There’s not a great deal that I can criticise here other than performance issues and the end game being a little watered down. There’s a little scratchiness to the game’s warming wool.
Playing on a mid-range PC, I had issues with dropped frames at the dawn of every new day — an issue that got progressively worse the more stuff I had in my home base. Come Day 60, I was reliably losing around three to five seconds’ worth of frames per day change.
The game also crashed enough times to be worth noting in this review, that we hope will be resolved with a day one patch or shortly after release. Thankfully the autosaves would only set me back 5 minutes and never occurred inside a dungeon for me. It’s also worth noting that the load screen comes with end-game spoilers that only the most unobservant will miss. That really should be rectified ASAP.
In terms of the end game, I found that around a third of the unlocks for my base were simply worthless; I could have ground out extra faith to unlock further divine inspirations, but what am I going to do with an upgraded lumber mill that seems more costly to make than beneficial to use, or an upgraded toilet when the normal one works just fine? This is a woodland cult, not the Ritz!