Cult of the Lamb (Switch) Review
‘Dad, why is the reindeer sick?’
It’s a question my 4-year-old son asks as he peers over my shoulder.
‘Well, because he ate some poo,’ I say.
‘And now he is sick?’
‘Why did he eat poo?’
‘Because I told him to.’
‘Because the game told me to.’
‘Hah – that’s funny!’
It may be funny, but it’s also put me in a pickle. Now, every time I’m playing Cult of the Lamb, my son asks me where the reindeer is and if he is feeling okay. He makes me check around the small farm lot to show him.
‘See, there he is, resting.’
‘Oh, that’s good. He looks better now.’
How do I tell him that I’ve unlocked the ability to sacrifice followers?
I only let him watch me when I’m doing cult farm stuff. I don’t let him watch me slice through monsters in tight dungeon spaces. He doesn’t understand the dark humour of the writing, wherein you are always encouraged to consider your cute followers as resources first, to be fattened, utilised, and discarded as needed.
Framed as resurrected revenge, you play as the amusingly divine lamb, gifted with life for as long as your goals align with The One Who Waits. Cult of the Lamb is a game of two halves, but like a healthy brain, the connection and interplay between these hemispheres is strong and complimentary. It is surprising how the needs of a management sim can so easily apply to randomly generated combat stages, with resources as rewards and sacrificial hostages peppered throughout for you to save and indoctrinate. Each dungeon run stays interesting because you’re always in need of more victim bones, grass, seeds, reward coins, or all manner of other resources. The random weapons, special curse moves, and tarot card perks layered on top give you a tight sense of agency.
Once back at your little cult farm, you can talk to your followers, read their thoughts to better manipulate them, and then assign them tasks such as gathering resources, worshipping you and so on (eating poo). Once per day, you can hold a sermon to extract a few more drops of worship juice, as well as dance around and perform rituals. There are small but satisfying unlock trees of worship and doctrine, which generally comprise of things to build and commandments to unlock. This keeps the first few hours busy and interesting, even if (like me) you don’t generally enjoy management sims. The fact that your followers may become unhappy and cause dissent amongst your followers provides the impetus to do well as a cult leader, though this soon becomes almost untenable as dissatisfaction invariably spreads and you must make some tough decisions to cut out the rot.
The thing I find most pleasurable about Cult of the Lamb is its interesting art style. Comedically cute and almost stop-motion in nature, there’s an appreciable flair in the detail and artistic design. The visuals are conveyed with an effective simplicity that serves both gameplay and aesthetics. The only issue I sometimes had is that with a lot going on in tight spaces – enemies with varying attack animations and timings – I often found myself getting hit without realising why or where from. I’ll admit, though, that this is likely my own deficiency in ability, and I found that once I was aware of this I did my best to keep moving and rolling about and taking care not to overcommit to attacks in one spot for too long.
While no one aspect of Cult of the Lamb is too deep, it offers enough variation that you don’t feel locked into a single style of gameplay. As well as the main two tiers of cult juggling and dungeon bashing, there are discoverable locations that you can travel to, some of which contain mini-games. I quite enjoyed the dice one, which has you assigning rolled dice against an opponent to try and negate their rolls while at the same time gaining the highest overall score. It is simple yet addictive.
I’ll admit that the deeper I got into the game, the less I enjoyed the crowd management side of things. I felt a bit frustrated at not quite having enough resources to build things or not understanding how to get my followers to seed and water crops themselves – or clean up poop! But this comes down to my personal apathy for that side of the game. You will get as much out of it as you put in and I’ve seen players sharing well-organised farms that are far more beautiful than my weed-filled plot. The thing is that you can glance off this aspect if you want to and still stumble through, albeit as a somewhat shabby leader.
There were several combat runs where I knew from the outset that I would fail, mostly due to the random weapon I was offered at the start. I never managed to get good with axes, their slower swing a real hindrance against the faster attacks of numerous smaller enemies, especially in the later stages. As you progress, there’s a strong lean towards helping the player in the randomisation, particularly if you begin to fail, with more generous heart drops and tarot cards that give you greater chance of healing as you attack.
I appreciate how developer Massive Monster chose not to embrace endless content. Everything feels intimate and achievable as a result. I like the fact that this is a title where everything can be unlocked and explored within a reasonable play time. There’s nothing stopping players from restarting from scratch if they feel like they want to experience it all again.
The only Switch performance hiccups I’ve experienced are exactly that: small hiccups that are obviously load/memory hitches. This only ever happened once during a boss fight, and I still ended up beating it. Every other slight pause was during an unimportant moment, action wise. Load times are unavoidable, given how the game is broken up into sections. These can feel on the long side but have not gotten to the point where I’d rather play it on another system.
I’ve enjoyed the duality of cult management in between bouts of action, even though the former isn’t my usual jam. Being on the farm is the part that I can play when my son is around as the violence is implied rather than explicit. Cult stuff by day, fighting by night. A bit of fishing. Some dice games to boot. And the poo-eating reindeer? Well, he died of old age. I carved him up for meat and fed him to my followers. Couldn’t see it go to waste.
Cult of the Lamb works because it weaves two halves into a complimentary collection. This creates a comforting and meaningful flow between all-out action and cerebral stock management.
+ Two halves communicate surprisingly well
+ Darkly funny
+ Impressive art and animations
- Action can get lost in tight dungeon rooms
- Cult management may not appeal to everyone