Praise Be! Hands on with Cult of the Lamb Preview
It is kind of rare for a game to look one way, but play totally different, but that is what we have with Cult of the Lamb, a game that on its surface looks like a cute animal game, but below all of that, beats the heart of a diabolical rogue-like, with more things to manage than a town of Sims. The best part though, is that it balances things out so well, nothing ever feels like it takes precedence, at least in what I have played.
Devolver Digital were kind enough to allow me sometime with this unique game and going in I knew what to expect, but at the same time, I was totally unprepared for what it would require of me. The game is best thought of in two parts, there is the rouge-like portion where you enter an ever-changing world, where each time you go in, there will be new locations to discover, enemies to fight and more. The second part is the management side of the game, where you have to assign your followers to tasks, hold sermons, pass down edicts and grow your camp. While you might think that each part is independent from the other, they are actually entwined in such a way that when you venture out into the world, you have to ensure things can happen on their own in your little camp and sometimes that is not as straightforward as you might think. Before we dive into the portions of the game, it is best to take a moment to explain how you become the leader of your very own cult. Simply put, you are a lamb being lead to slaughter, in the hopes of destroying a prophecy, however upon your death, you are spared by the Being Below, a creature of unknown origins, who has elected to save your life and in turn requires you to help free them from its chained existence.
The camp is where you are going to spend a lot of your time, you will help your followers clear land, make food and increase their devotion. Each activity that you can undertake is fairly simple, you want to cut down a tree, just walk up to it and start cutting. Cooking food isn’t that much more challenging either, you just need to select the recipe and as long as you have the ingredients you can begin to cook. Even holding a sermon inside the Chapel that you can build, you don’t need to choose the words, you just need to start the sermon and off you go, it’s all really straightforward. Where the complexity comes in is in managing the health and well-being of your followers, you have to ensure that they are fed consistently, that they are assigned tasks that they can perform, and that if they are sick or being below forbid, dead, that you take care of the unsanitary conditions. None of this stops while you’re away, so if your camp is running low on food and the metre says that your guys are hungry and you had off on an adventure out into the wilds, you can come back to some pretty nasty surprises.
Of course when you are adventuring out in the wilds, things become a little more uncomplicated, at least once you compare it to back at camp, you still have to contend with your supplies, weapon management and other things like that, it just isn’t as demanding. The basic goal when you venture into one of the realms, is to make it to the end and defeat the area boss, before making your return to camp with your plundered goods. Once you’ve cleared the small section of world you first appear in, the game will offer you choices, and here is where you will define what type of leader you’re going to be. Some of the choices will reward you with more timber or stone, some will provide you with food or access to a little town and there are even those that will let you stumble upon a sacrificial altar, with a follower just waiting to be saved. Making the decision here can impact your camp, if your camp needs more timber and you opt to save a potential follower, you might get some more devotion, but at the cost of buildings you need in the more immediate future. Once you have made your decision, you had best be certain, as you can’t go back and as some of these roads can also then lead two or more decisions down the line, you have to really think ahead. If you want a particular room at the end of your run before the final encounter, you have to scope out the options and then make the best choice, that will let you get to that place, even if that choice takes you through a more dangerous route.
When you have completed your run and you’re back at your camp, you need to get back into the management of things, in most cases this will likely be going around and cleaning up the poop that your followers are just leaving all around the place. Beyond that, it will be listening to your followers and seeing what they desire, some will want additional food options, some may want beds and while you can work on multiple things at once, with each follower having different levels of devotion, there will be some prioritisation to your schedule. Devotion is the core economy in the game, you can assign followers to worship all day at the altar, when you host a sermon or passing down edicts, each can earn you more devotion and then once you have enough you can spend your devotion unlocking new options for your camp. You can even use your devotion to unlock new ways to earn more devotion, with things like rituals and events, now I didn’t get into that in my time with the game, but I can see how it will add another layer to the management of your camp, as you’ll have to balance the need for new buildings over more devotion.
With multiple realms to explore, each filled with places to discover and potential followers to save, the adventure portion of the game, could have been enough on its own. However when you combine your actions there, with the requirement to manage and grow your little group of devout worshippers and seeing to their needs, Cult of the Lamb is one packed game. How everything comes together, at least in the early stages, feels quite natural, each action you take will impact the other side of things and ignoring one can be disastrous. My time with the game has turned me into a devout believer and I can’t wait until the full scripture of release is upon us, praise be to the being below.
The version of the game that we got to play was on PC, but the game is launching on Switch on August 11, along with other platforms.