Talk about a deal with the devil. That’s the start of Cult of the Lamb, Massive Monster’s roguelike darling with a dark side. You’re prematurely sacrificed in the name of a cult’s selfish desires to eliminate your kind. Tears are dribbling down your face as you helplessly accept your doom, and the ax chops through your neck.
Just before the end of your life, you’re given a deal that you literally can’t refuse. Will you perish, or will you wear the Red Crown of The One Who Waits? This so-called “sacrificial lamb” goes rogue after accepting the power of this banished god.
Once they don the Red Crown, the lamb mercilessly slaughters their persecutors and escapes. With the help of Ratau, a guide who was once a “chosen vessel” long ago, they build a base in a safe, lush domain. The lamb must cultivate a following and ultimately free The One Who Waits, who is currently held back by the four “gods.” In the process, the lamb slaughters nonbelievers and asserts its dominance as the ultimate cult.
Cult of the Lamb implements randomized dungeons and cult management for its main gameplay loop. Dungeon diving means progressing the story, taking down rival cult leaders, and finding new followers. It’s a roguelike, so there are literally surprises at every turn. You might find anything from an unwelcome miniboss to a much-needed powerup. Thankfully, at least in the demo, these aren’t sprawling floors of dungeons. You only need to survive a couple of rooms at a time, which means you won’t have to wait too long to return to your cult.
It’s not enough to be strong. You also need to be a benevolent leader. Followers gather resources, build homes, and complete chores to enrich your cult’s life. However, followers can grow bitter if you don’t keep them happy, fed, and safe. The city building part — as strange as it might sound — is similar to Fire Emblem: Fates checkpoints, where the player has to check in with their soldiers to work through supports and upgrade their equipment. In this case, Cult of the Lamb encourages you to feed followers, assign them chores, and give them sermons.
What is it like? Well, it definitely gives off some Binding of Issac vibes, considering the grotesque monsters, cursed backstory, and cartoonish graphics. However, it’s not quite as layered an experience as Hades, which involves building an entire set of combos to slay foes. Cult of the Lamb incorporates one weapon and one ability, which are mapped to two buttons. Other upgrades don’t show up until later. For example, you can sacrifice followers to grow more powerful, though it does limit your clan's growth.
The animal characters and hideout greenery also heavily resemble Animal Crossing: New Horizons. You can chop wood, mine rock, pick berries, and build your city (cough, cult, cough) to your liking. It might not have as many customization options as Animal Crossing’s pixel art, ramp and bridge-building, and foraging options, but the general gist of scavenging and building is there.
In short, Cult of the Lamb is an adorable yet disturbing roguelike city-building game that hooked me in with its premise in a mere 20 minutes. Its distinct visuals and bloody premise complement the game in a way that makes it more than just a roguelike hybrid. A definite recommendation to anyone who enjoys roguelikes or games with cute cartoon graphics. It doesn’t even bother me that it’s full of blood, guts, and sacrifice — it’s worth it.
Cult of the Lamb is set to launch sometime in 2022 for PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and Nintendo Switch. You can wishlist it on Steam now.