The One Who Waits has been trapped by four Bishops of the Old Faith, the same four Bishops that killed you. Fortunately, this is only the start of Cult of the Lamb. Whether it’s out of service to the dark god for his help, for revenge or just to survive, your mission is to release The One Who Waits.
The Crown Sits Upon His Head
Cult of the Lamb starts with the last lamb’s death. Killed by the Bishops due to a prophecy, The One Who Waits revives you and passes along a portion of its power through The Red Crown. Along with power, he sends Ratau, a former crown bearer, to get you out of there and explain how everything works.
You are taken to a ruined temple to start your own cult. It may not look like much, but over time you can build facilities and spruce the place up with decorations. This camp area is your base of operations and where players spend much of their time alongside their NPC followers.
Venturing out into the world, each Bishop has an area that you can go on campaigns in. Areas are broken down into sets of rooms, with each room containing a variety of monsters to slice up and use special attacks to take down. Some rooms along the way contain resources and even new followers to recruit.
The gameplay loop is nothing new on the surface. Campaigns let you find resources and followers to build up the camp. In turn, the camp has a variety of ways to make you stronger and more effective during campaigns. While this isn’t anything shocking, Cult of the Lamb pulls it off surprisingly well at all stages. The base-building element and combat aspects are both just good.
Temple of the Lamb
Every cult needs a home. After all, if we’re going to be recruiting a dozen or two followers, they’ll need food, shelter, and a place to give you their unending praise. That said, if you don’t make one that’s good enough or handle them well, that praise might not be so unending.
It starts simple. A place to cook meals, a bedroll to lay their head, and maybe a plot of land to grow berries. But the bedroll keeps breaking and berries aren’t exactly the best diet. Luckily divine inspiration often strikes and gives you ideas for improvements.
The centerpiece of any base in Cult of the Lamb is a place to worship. Your followers can be assigned to spend their time worshiping your greatness, rather than mining for stone, cutting lumber, or tending the farm. This gives you points to unlock blueprints of new facilities for the base, from farm improvements to outhouses to decorations. A balance is needed, but I found my followers spent most of their time worshiping or farming.
Risk management is needed here or else you’ll end up with dead and upset followers. Take on too many followers and it might not be possible to feed them all or you might just spend too much time cleaning up after them; It seems that some of them don’t know what an outhouse is for, even after building it. But if nothing else, it’s a cheap source of fertilizer.
As time goes on, you can choose to unlock ways to make life easier, such as mostly automating the farming, or you can go in other directions such as a prison to hold and reeducate any followers who go against your will or ways to increase the amount of devotion from them.
Church of the Lamb
Each day you can hold a sermon in the church. This not only builds the loyalty of all your followers but also gives you points to unlock new abilities, weapons, and special attacks. It works as a separate skill tree to the base building unlocks. This is good and helps that feeling of progression, but there’s something even more interesting in the church.
One of my favorite parts of Cult of the Lamb is the inclusion of rituals. These can be learned via unlocks. This is where you start to see the more occult powers, with the ability to ritually sacrifice your followers, revive them, make all crops grow, brainwash followers, and more. It’s a really interesting set of powers and there are even some choices to make about which rituals you want to unlock along the way to keep replays interesting.
I found it particularly useful to occasionally kill and resurrect some of the most useful followers, essentially giving them eternal youth and never-ending service to the Lamb. I may have also cruelly killed off the aging servants who didn’t work anymore. Everyone loves a good ritual sacrifice and they weren’t doing much anyway.
Followers of the Lamb
Followers are nothing without a shepherd to guide them. In Cult of the Lamb, they’d probably die off without one.
Along with the base building, followers need to be taken care of so they can be productive. Their loyalty needs reinforcing or they’ll leave, they need to be put to bed when sick and they can’t cook for themselves. They’re useless in many ways, however helpful they are at gathering resources.
This might sound tiresome, but it’s part of that satisfying feeling of progression. Building better sleeping quarters, mostly automating farming, building sick bays to more quickly cure followers and more is gratifying to see over time.
Beyond their use at the base, there’s one more aspect that I enjoyed. You can temporarily turn followers into demons to take into combat with you. At first none, then one at a time until a total of three as you progress with the base building.
Follower demons come in a few different types, with each type having different sorts of abilities. Only one of each type can be taken along. To give an example, my normal team consisted of DK who attacked enemies with melee attacks, Kuro who sends out ranged attacks, and Pieman who fetched health items for me. This had me focus on increasing the level of these specific followers through loyalty building, as every level boosts their demonic ability. That said, keeping track of specific followers can be difficult when you get a lot of them.
Loyalty can be boosted by interacting with them once a day, sermons once a day, certain items, or performing quests. The quests range from fetching something to performing a ritual to the more unusual. One follower asked me to make them a meal made of poop.
Crusades of the Lamb
While the base building is extremely important, in the end, it’s to support your crusade.
Cult of the Lamb uses randomization similar to many roguelikes, leading you through several sets of rooms until reaching your destination. The rooms are random, the weapons and powers are random and so are a set of tarot cards that change several general bonuses. This leads to each run feeling quite different, though I always felt it was possible to complete a run, even with bad luck.
While options are influenced by unlocks, each run starts with you getting a weapon and a power. More of these may pop up along the run, generally being more powerful further in, though not always better for the player.
From quick but weak knives to slow but powerful hammers, there are several types of weapons. They come in different varieties too, such as ones that absorb health, poison enemies, or are just extra powerful. Each weapon has a strength of its own and a slightly different playstyle. Daggers, gauntlets, and swords I usually dodged about a lot and got in multiple hits quickly, while axes and hammers lean to a more smash and then back off playstyle. But then again, other aspects might change it too such as a tarot card that speeds you up, a variable that doubles enemies’ damage, or a power that shields for you a couple of seconds.
The combat feels incredibly fast-paced at times and controls tightly. I found myself often making changes in the middle of a decision and suddenly canceling a dodge to attack. It never feels unfair. There are always indicators of when or where enemies will attack. It can be chaotic and feel like there’s too much to keep track of though.
Enemies of the Lamb
Combat is a lot of fun by itself in Cult of the Lamb, but the enemies are worth mentioning specifically.
There is quite a wide selection of enemy types here and it’s not just in looks, but how they fight too. Some burrow underground, some jump at you, some send fireballs and some just come at you directly. Different types may have similarities, but patterns and abilities vary. Some even seemingly use the bushes and grass to obscure their path as they run to attack you.
The bosses are particularly great, with one being found at the end of each area and then again on additional runs. They seem to use many of the same tactics of enemies found in the area which was interesting to see, but some throw out so many ranged attacks that it can feel like a bullet hell at times. Pattern recognition is the key here as you can tell what they will do and then take action, but I found each of the bosses challenging and fun. The sole exception is the final boss, who I enjoyed fighting but was unexpectedly easy, despite several stages.
While I can’t call it a downside as such, I do wish it was possible to replay the main bosses. If nothing else because there’s an incredibly difficult achievement to beat them without taking damage and I’d love to take it on as a challenge. The game does lean toward more time spent at the base, so some extra combat activities wouldn’t be unappreciated.
Style of the Lamb
Before I learned anything about Cult of the Lamb, I was instantly interested due to the visuals reminding me of Don’t Starve, a game I’ve spent many an hour playing. That said, it’s much more colorful, despite the similar gruesome themes and clear horror inspiration.
In terms of style, from the writhing tentacles that burst out of the ground to the rather cute followers, there are some rather striking differences. It only serves to emphasize the dark nature of the themes here. While there are only four main areas, each one looks unlike the other which keeps things visually interesting too.
It’s worth noting that much like in the rest of the game, you have choices when it comes to followers – at least visually. Each follower can be customized between a rather large number of choices, colors, and sometimes patterns. Again this customization is something that can be unlocked through progress.
Bugs of the Lamb
As much fun as I’ve been having with Cult of the Lamb, it’s not perfect. I’ve heard that a variety of bugs exist, but I’ve not experienced too many serious ones.
The worst of these in my experience was suddenly not being able to interact with any of my followers. I ended up quitting the game and losing progress because of it. Not a huge amount fortunately as it seems to autosave often, but it was still annoying.
Another notable issue was when followers just decided to start ignoring one of my three farms. Luckily it resolved itself on leaving the camp and returning, but it did cause me to lose out on a good amount of food.
Other than that, it was mostly very minor issues. A health pickup rolls out of the area we can move within, a single follower getting stuck on the eating animation all night instead of sleeping, and things like that. Your experience may vary of course, but I can only rate it based on my own.
Cult of the Lamb was one of those games that I just couldn’t put down. I completed it in about seventeen hours, but each time I played it started as intending to play for an hour and then not realizing that hours had passed.
The combat is fun and always feels fresh. The base-building aspects give tons of choices in how you grow. More importantly, Cult of the Lamb ties these together in a way that kept me wanting that next improvement or to defeat the next stage.
CULT OF THE LAMB IS HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
If you would like to read about rogue-like games, you might be interested to read this review of Monster Train.
Many thanks to Devolver Digital for a PC review code for this title.
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A gamer since the days of Amstrad and DOS and someone who has dabbled in a variety of professions. He enjoys a wide variety of genres, but has been focusing on visual novels and virtual reality in recent years. Head Editor of NookGaming. Follow him and the website on @NookSite.