Cult of the Lamb Review

Three things I like about this game, and one I don't

Cult of the Lambe

By Paul Hunter

There's something I find irresistible about Cult of the Lamb's signature mix of ridiculously cute woodland animals that perform the most unholy of acts. If you've ever wanted to play a game with the charming aesthetics of Animal Crossing: New Horizons combined with the cruel nature of The Binding of Isaac—this is the one for you.

Over the past week or so I've been busy converting sweet little animals into my diabolical cult where eating poop, murdering dissenters and ritualistic pit fighting have all been codified into law. And sometimes we even bring dead followers back to life with a resurrection ceremony just to do these disgusting and heinous deeds all over again. Yeah, Cult of the Lamb is a twisted game, but that's its appeal. Let's dive in to find out more, here are three things I liked about the game...and two I didn't.

Liked: A Diabolically Delicious Story

Cult of the Lamb's story is simple and effective and had me chuckling because of its absurdity. You play as the land's last living (and oh-so-adorable) lamb who's been sentenced to a ritualistic slaughter by four bishops out of fear of an ancient prophecy that says one day a lamb would slay them. After the lamb's execution, it's sent to another dimension where it meets the One Who Waits, a hidden fifth bishop eternally bound to its realm by four chains. This powerful deity saves the poor lamb from annihilation, by placing a dark crown on its head, but now the lamb has to repay its debt by building a cult and destroying the four false prophets.

That's really the bulk of the story, but I thought it was equal parts devilishly cute and hilariously ridiculous. Over the remainder of the roughly 15-hour campaign, you'll meet (and need to destroy) the four bishops that are masters of all things nasty, like pestilence, plague and famine. Further playing into the game's main theme of evil mixed with comedy, characters all speak in gibberish akin to Animal Crossing meets the Minions. As you defeat the bishops one-by-one you'll also get transported back to the One Who Waits who bestows your lamb with more nasty powers and evil thoughts. I laughed a lot during all these story moments and they're certainly a major highlight of the total experience.

Liked: The Gameplay Loop

Cult of the Lamb's gameplay has two major components: base building and roguelike dungeon crawling. It's the first time I've played a game with this unique mix and it totally helps to keep the gameplay fresh. Dungeon missions (called Crusades) take about 15 minutes for each run, and I typically spent about the same amount of time during each base-building segment, making each complete gameplay loop last roughly half an hour.

Both gameplay components are highly interdependent, too. During dungeon missions in the Lands of the Old Faith, you'll discover resources like lumber, stone and coins used to construct new buildings back in your base. But moreover, you'll come across new followers to convert into your cult—some that may join you willingly while others you'll need to indoctrinate by force.

When back at your woodland cult base, you can build a temple to perform sermons to draw Devotion from your flock, which can then be traded in for new crusade runs. Perks include adding a half heart to your life bar, the ability to find Bane poison weapons during missions or increasing the total amount of Fervour (used to cast magic curses) you can hold. This symbiotic relationship where you go on crusade runs to gather resources and followers, and then leverage them back at your base to make your lamb stronger for future crusade runs, is a very engaging gameplay loop. Best of all, since you only ever do base building and dungeon runs for 10-15 minutes at a time, neither mode wears out its welcome over the duration of the campaign.

Looking more closely at the crusade phase, each run takes you through a couple dozen rooms that range from battle rooms to areas with NPC helpers or merchants to resource spots where you can snag lots of goodies. At the beginning of each crusade, you'll be given a weapon, which could be a sword, axe, dagger, gauntlet or hammer, plus a curse projectile that's fuelled by your Fervour (a.k.a. MP) meter.

Combat is simple enough, you hack away at enemies consisting of demonic versions of bats, centipedes, spiders and weapon-wielding cultists, and it all feels very satisfying. You can also dash roll with plenty of i-frames to help get you out of sticky situations fast. There are around 20 curses you can discover—but you can only hold at a time—which are mostly different types of fireballs, knockbacks, giant melee strikes and floor eruptions. While curses are powerful, I actually mainly just used them on bosses; I found that in regular combat your weapon was fast and efficient enough. It only takes about two or three swings to kill most enemies. While the combat never does add much complexity over the game's four dungeons, it's easy to get into and it's fun slicing your way through enemies.

Back at your base, your main goal is to diligently tend to your very demanding flock of followers. Your animal farm can contain a whole range of adorable animals including pigs, horses, giraffes, foxes, elephants, deer and my fav, crocodiles. I was amazed at how demanding your anthropomorphic cultists can be: one minute you're sweeping up their golden poop, and the next you're cooking them a nice bowl of poop with a 50% chance of giving them diarrhea. Your followers can puke, get sick for days, or even die. And if you don't lavish your flock with adequate lodging or keep up their faith with sermons, unhappy followers can rise against you and persuade others to leave the cult. In hilarious fashion, to get your flock back in order you can try to gently re-educate them on the ways of the Lamb or go all-out evil and put dissenters in medieval pillory prison.

What I love most about the base building is you get full control over the type of cult you wish to create. You can set the cult's doctrines that govern how everyone lives their lives. Will you nourish your flock with elaborate communal feasts or will you let them become cannibals and eat meals made from follower meat? Will you honour your dead followers with commemorative graves or will you grind up their bodies for fertilizer? I'm laughing while typing this because these are serious decisions you have to make and it's all so funny and absurd. For the record, my cult doctrines are benevolent—I outlawed prisons, allow marriages and bless the dead through funerals—but I'm already planning my second run where full-fledged immorality and chaos reign supreme.

Liked: Glorious Hand-Drawn Graphics

Talk about melting my eyes with wonderful visuals. Cult of the Lamb features a sumptuous blend of 3D environments mixed with 2D sprites that are all exceptionally animated. Every time my lamb bats its eyes or wiggles its cute little ears I just want to jump into the screen to give it a big woolly hug.

The dungeons look so impressive, too, with their soft cartoony aesthetics and vibrant range of colours. From glowing purple toxic swamps to red-hot boiling lava pits to harsh underwater turquoise depths, the range of scenery is as impressive as they are gorgeous. And then there are the cute-yet-grotesque minibosses you'll face, like a flesh-eating worm straight out of Tremors or gigantic spiders that are like The Muppets meets The Lord of the Rings.

All four of the dungeons culminate in a dramatic boss battle against one of the four bishops, and wow do they look amazing and are so well animated. I won't spoil their appearances, it's better you experience them for yourself, but they are such visual stunners. Ditto goes to all the many NPC characters that help you on your journey, from Clauneck the Tarot card reader to Ratau your guide and mentor to the silly Fisherman who isn't sure if he's more fish or man. Heh. Without a doubt Cult of the Lamb has some of the best hand-drawn visuals I've ever seen in an indie title.

Didn't Like: Hard to Focus on Building with Style

The one downside to my experience with Cult of the Lamb is I found it difficult to focus on my base's overall vibe and style. And that's because there are just so many urgent matters to attend to, most of the time I was either in a rush or panic.

The main reason why you're always scrambling is because your followers move around in real time even when you're doing a crusade or playing mini-games with NPC characters. A typical return to my base after a crusade would entail discovering that my followers pooped everywhere, one of them died and everyone barfed around the corpse, a tent or two collapsed from the bad weather, my followers are starving, a dissenter is fighting with the other cultists, and their faith level is dangerously low. So you've got to hustle to clean up the poop and barf, bury the body, repair your structures, cook a dozen meals, settle the arguments and perform a sermon to bring their collective faith back up. I enjoy rushing to get my community back in order, but it leaves virtually no time to actually plan the look and feel of it.

If you enjoy sim games like Animal Crossing or Harvest Moon know that Cult of the Lamb's building is way more hectic. I was way more focused on constructing essential buildings and scrambling to place them down than I was on actually building a town that looks nice and is well organized. There are even dozens of decorations, like potted bushes, piles of skulls and flower arches that I would have enjoyed building, but I ignored them all to focus on the critical issues at hand.

You can, thankfully, eventually start automating some of the monotonous grunt work, such as creating an outhouse to collect all that poop, but I didn't even bother to focus on my community's aesthetic until a least ten hours in. You get more freedom once you complete the main campaign and have far less pressure to go on crusades, the pace naturally slows and allows you the freedom to build out your community the way you want. But really, it shouldn't take that long before you can focus on leisurely enjoying your cult building.

The Verdict

Cult of the Lamb is a naughty and evil game that had me laughing and enjoying myself the whole way through. If you've ever dreamed of creating your own personal animal cult where it's perfectly fine to brainwash, cannibalize and unnaturally resurrect your followers—this is the game for you. It has a splendid mix of roguelike dungeon crawling and base building that keeps the action fresh and fun. Devolver Digital is known for their wacky titles, but this one might just be their most dia-baa-lical one yet.

Final Score: 8.5/10 - Great

Cult of the Lamb details

Platform: PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC
Developer: Massive Monster
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Genre: Roguelike, Simulation
Modes: Single-player
ESRB Rating: T (Teen)

A key was provided by the publisher.