In Cult of the Lamb, you are placed in control of the sacrificial lamb. A being whose death is spared by a mysterious old god, simply referred to as “The One Who Waits”. To repay your debt, you are tasked with killing the bishops who sentenced you to death, while growing a cult in your honor.
Thus begins a cycle of crusading, building, and growing your cult. Each run will see you fighting through rooms of various enemies. Each one swinging, biting, jumping, and shooting at you in an attempt to please the bishop they serve.
To beat Cult of the Lamb, you must make it through four different areas, four times each, and defeat the bishop that is waiting at the end. There are a wide variety of enemies and each area feels wholly unique, which makes for a fresh experience on every run.
It’s a game that has given the phrase “like a lamb to the slaughter”, a whole new meaning.
Each area is broken up into sections and the progression is actually very similar to that of Slay the Spire – a deck building roguelite that is also fantastic. Once you make it through the last room, you are brought to a map tree of all the sections in that run. You choose which path to take to get to the last room. I crossed paths with enemies, shopkeeps, story NPCs, and even cryptic statues.
Upon finishing a run – or dying – you get brought back to your cult. And it’s the cult management that truly sets Cult of the Lamb apart from other roguelites. Each NPC you recruit on your crusades joins your cult; each with their own traits and an appearance which can be customized. I color coordinated mine. White fur and red cult markings signified a follower had positive traits. Other colors meant they either had negative traits or weren’t worthy of being marked as a high quality follower.
I’m no monster though. Each follower got their own sleeping arrangements, and they all got fed proper meals which I had to cook. Except that one time another follower asked me to make someone eat poop.
The statue at the center of the cult can be worshiped at by your followers, and it generates devotion. Devotion in turn is used to unlock new buildings and to upgrade your cult level, which makes the statue even larger and ensures more upgrades become available.
You also have a temple, another essential building to use when progressing in Cult of the Lamb. The daily sermons bring in your followers and the more you have and the more loyal they are, the more energy you generate. This energy can be used to upgrade your weapons, as well as unlock new ones that will spawn throughout each run.
The temple is also where rituals are hosted, such as funerals, feasts, and even tithe collections. As follower loyalty is upgraded, you can pass commandments that dictate what kind of cult leader you will be. You can choose between offering your followers a day of rest which makes them love you more, or you can force them to work extra hard. There are pros and cons to every choice, and I found myself often selecting the options that made my followers adore me. After all, I had to make up for making that one follower eat a bowl of poop.
There are a plethora of progression systems weaved into Cult of the Lamb, and they never feel overbearing. I love any game that incorporates any kind of base management into it, and other roguelites, like Hades, typically do this with set cosmetic upgrades for your starting hub. Those are fun and I love Hades too, but Cult of the Lamb allows the chance to actually build and manage a base, while offering a fun combat loop. It’s truly a unique game that I struggled to stop playing.
But for all of my love of the game, sadly, Cult of the Lamb is plagued with bugs. Early on, there is a quest that requires you to perform a ritual, and the game is locked off until you complete it. Normally, this is no problem. However, the game glitched and reinitialized the quest, while the ritual was still in its cooldown period. This meant I could either sit around and wait, or I could restart with a new cult.
Since it was early on, I started my cult over and managed to avoid the glitch on my second run. There were still some issues that I faced, but I believe many of them are due to a memory leak problem. Essentially, a memory leak problem is when the game isn’t clearing data it no longer needs, which leads to processing errors. The first day I played it, I binged it hard. The longer I played, the more bugs I encountered. However, as soon as I quit and restarted the game, many of the issues resolved themselves.
Despite the issues, Cult of the Lamb has made a follower out of me. Roguelites make up one of my favorite genre of games, and Massive Monster has done a phenomenal job of merging those elements with base management. Recruiting followers, building a base, and running through a gratifying loop of fighting, looting, and dying all merge into an incredibly satisfying game.
If Cult of the Lamb had launched without any bugs, I would’ve been tempted to give it a perfect score. Massive Monster has announced they are working on patches for all versions of the game, and hopefully they come soon. Even with issues, I still managed to play through to the end, and I had a great time in doing so.
Cult of the Lamb is available from the Xbox Store