Platforms: PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch
Release Date: August 11, 2022
Cult of the Lamb is more than one game. It contains the powers and possibilities of many titles and genres, while learning from their mistakes and avoiding most of their faults. While Cult of the Lamb draws inspiration from games such as The Binding of Isaac and Animal Crossing, it also puts you in a position of power — and gives you the ability to kill anything and anyone to snatch up more of it.This cycle of gaining power is at the heart of Cult of the Lamb’s gooey, hellfire center, and also what makes the game so addictive.
Cult of the Lamb was an easy game to review, even when things got difficult, simply because I didn’t want to stop playing. Every action connects to the next so smoothly that it’s hard to put the game down, let alone find a reason to do so. Read on for our full Cult of the Lamb review.
Cult of the Lamb review: Gameplay
Cult of the Lamb has two distinctive gameplay types: combat, and management simulation. They’re both fun, and they benefit each other. Every part of gameplay feels meaningful, even if you're just going fishing.
While at your encampment (called Cult of the Lamb by default, but you can name it anything you want), you’re in charge of a few big tasks that you must manage with care. However, you can choose how sinister or holy your methods are.
Cult members need sleep and food, which means maintaining living quarters for each little guy, and a big enough garden for consistent meals. You can also get meat and fish while on combat crusades, but more on that later. You’ll also need to make sure every member is praising your name and earning you devotion, a crucial resource needed for helpful upgrades.
There are a few off-duty places for the lamb to blow off steam, including a fishing spot and a place to enjoy friendly gambling with other characters. The fishing mini-game is especially enjoyable. It's easy but fun, and it helps in meal preparation back at the camp.
At times, I found myself getting so invested in fishing and gardening that I would almost forget about the crusade aspect, even though the combat is incredible.
Cult of the Lamb review: Combat
The other half of Cult of the Lamb's gameplay focuses on "Crusades," which are essentially roguelite combat sections. Every time you leave your camp and run through one of the four realm portals, you enter a procedurally generated level, full of enemies to fight and items to collect.
The game features a variety of different enemies. Critters will dash, crawl, fly and everything in-between as you make your way through the labyrinth of rooms in each realm. Most foes take only a hit or two to defeat, but the challenge comes from learning their patterns and planning your response. A lot of your strategy is dependent on the weapons and abilities you find in any particular run.
Each run starts with a weapon and an ability. The weapon won't break, but you're stuck with its damage and speed rating. This is where you'll have to develop your own strategies. At first, I found myself doing better with faster, weaker weapons, as well as abilities that shoot homing projectiles. Eventually, though, other weapon/ability combinations forced me to get more comfortable with different strategies.
Staying alive and taking out standard enemies isn't terribly difficult. And snatching up treasure as you clear each room is fun. But when you face off against the minibosses and the bishops, you'll need more structured strategies.
After defeating a miniboss three times, the lamb moves onto the realm’s bishop. Each bishop is a true test of combat strength and reaction time, especially if you get lazy during the leadup to the final room. This is easy to do after dying a few dozen times.
Dying is a natural part of Cult of the Lamb, but it’s just a minor interruption. You have to pay a resource penalty upon death, but you can go out and earn more. When you start a new run, you'll get a different weapon, which might make combat easier or harder for you. Enemies, hazards and entire room sequences can be completely different.
As for the bishops, each one is a pretty tough battle, you can defeat them with upgrades you earn back at the camp. This helps to tie Cult of the Lamb's combat and management aspects together. Over time, you'll get better starting weapons and more powerful abilities. You’ll also get better with each consecutive run, which gives the game a satisfying sense of progression.
Cult of the lamb review: Story
In Cult of the Lamb, developer Massive Monster establishes an intriguing power dynamic. The game starts with players walking past their captors, making it clear the whole time how much smaller and weaker the lamb is. The powerful, aggressive enemies tower above you. And then, the game transports the player right back to the executioners. Now, the lamb has acquired powers from a dark deal, struck on the cusp of life and death, between the Lamb and The One Who Waits.
The story follows the possessed lamb as they follow through on their debt to The One Who Waits, who entrusts the Lamb great powers and immortality in exchange for building up a powerful cult in the One's name.
Your mission is to destroy the four heretic prophets, and to do so for the glory of the Cult of the Lamb. And this engine of violence and power transcends absolutely perfectly between the Cult of the Lamb’s story and gameplay loop.
And while the story isn’t really the focus or biggest point of Cult of the Lamb, it’s still a fun vehicle for the cult management sim skeleton and combat-fueled crusade guts.
Cult of the Lamb review: Technical issues
Cult of the Lamb is almost a perfect game in terms of mechanics. Unfortunately, there are a lot of bugs and glitches. Some of these can shut down the whole game; others can simply ruin a combat run. There were at least a dozen times when the game forced me to abandon a run when I was almost done, just as I was ready to take on the boss.
You will lose your progress. And it’ll happen a lot. But just like the lamb, struck down at the beginning, you’ll come back stronger and more capable than ever.
Cult of the Lamb review: Visuals and sound
Cult of the Lamb has a striking, colorful art style. Despite the game's grim themes and situations, the game always looks beautiful, even if you are burying a dead villager, or about to harvest their meat for the day’s dinner. The only thing smoother than the game’s presentation is its soundtrack, to which I'll continue to listen long after I'm done playing.
The electronic beats, flute-fueled melodies and bass-heavy undertones help highlight the mayhem and horrors of Cult of the Lamb. It’s playful and bouncy, which feels so right alongside the near-constant dodge rolls in combat.
Still, there’s an uncomfortable feeling lurking behind even the happiest melodies, and it works so well. Even after I’d clear a room of every enemy, something would still feel off. And that's because something is off. The lamb leads a cult that’s dedicated to destruction, and every living thing needs to either join my cause or die.
Every track of Cult of the Lamb is a bop, but the nightmares never subside. There’s not a moment that sounds normal or pure — and it’s perfect.
Cult of the Lamb review: Verdict
Cult of the Lamb is one of the most addictive games I’ve ever played. The engine of destruction never stopped or slowed down, even when I died and would have to find my footing again. The cult management part of the game is a delightful list of chores, which constantly works to build up the player's power and abilities. No matter what, your success is ultimately guaranteed.
Cult of the Lamb isn’t the first roguelite to get the formula right, but it sits near the top of the genre's ranks, having learned from the successes and missteps of its contemporaries. Cult of the Lamb is not only a must-play roguelite, but a must-play game, period.