‘Cult of the Lamb’ builds sequel on Lovecraftian humor

Devolver Digital is no stranger to edgy yet inventive games. He released titles like “Genital Jousting,” which is about as NSFW as you’d expect, and “Card Shark,” which was a brilliant but flawed take on card tricks, gambling, and the intrigue of the French aristocracy of the 18th century.

The company’s latest release, “Cult of the Lamb,” is in that vein. As the name suggests, players take on the role of a Lamb who founds his own religious sect after surviving the sacrifice of the Bishops of the Old Faith. An imprisoned god called the Waiter spares the acolyte and gives him the mighty red crown. But the deity also entrusts the humble Lamb with a task: to foster a cult to fuel the acolyte and use that devotion to destroy the rulers of the Old Faith. It would release the Waiting One, who has been imprisoned.

Players lead one religion to destroy another. It’s basically the Crusades, except in this elegantly crafted video game it’s one Cthulhu-inspired faith battling another. The developer, Massive Monster, takes on the dark Lovecraftian subject matter with its ingenious character design. By making the protagonist and followers cute zoo animals, it highlights the absurdity and humor of leading a fanatical religious cult.

The “Worship of the Lamb” is divided into two parts. One focuses on combat and dungeon diving and the other puts players in the role of a cult leader building a religious community. (Digital Developer)

BOTH SIDES OF THE GAMEThe “Worship of the Lamb” is divided into two parts. The first focuses on building villages, and the success of this lies in the indoctrination of followers and their loyalty. The Lamb can rescue new recruits from Old Faith cultists or come across them on adventures.

Once recruited, players essentially build a commune. Think of it as “Animal Crossing” on acid, as members build the basics such as a temple, sleeping quarters, and a kitchen. They will have to send their followers to collect stone and wood. Players use these resources to build farms to grow food to feed the burgeoning population. They will also need to build hospitals, outhouses, and maintenance sites to make sure the disease doesn’t spread through the hamlet.

If players do this, they can slowly use their followers’ devotion to construct more advanced buildings to increase their effectiveness. It can be difficult to do chores around the village harvesting crops, cleaning up their poo, and fixing broken facilities. The beauty of the more advanced projects is that players can delegate work to villagers.

DEFENDER OF THE FAITHThis gives the Lamb more time to tend to the faithful, and using their fanaticism, the protagonist gains abilities that will aid them throughout the second half of the game: rogue-lite dungeon crawling. If players can maintain the loyalty of their followers, they can earn Red Crown bonuses such as more health, better weapons, and powerful curses.

The Lamb takes advantage of these advantages in procedurally generated dungeons filled with Old Faith monsters and cultists. This is where players can gather some of the rarest resources for higher level projects. It’s also how players progress through the campaign as each journey through the four dungeons brings the Lamb one step closer to defeating the bishop deities Leshy, Heket, Kallamar, and Shamura.

Combat is simple and requires players to read enemy patterns and dodge attacks so they can counter. The lamb’s dive roll makes the protagonist invincible for a few seconds and it’s the key to surviving fire, poison, and swordplay from enemies. Fighting isn’t too difficult, but it takes patience to read an enemy and attack with the blade in hand.

Worship of the Lamb Fighting a Bishop
Players will face Kallamar, one of the Bishops of the Old Faith, in “Cult of the Lamb”. (Digital Developer)

Players must also learn weapons and curses as each has its own strengths and weaknesses. The hammer takes a long time to strike but it is powerful. Meanwhile, curses such as ichor can splash enemies with poison, but this temporarily taints an area. Part of the fun is mastering the combat so players can handle any combination of swords and sorcery they come across. All weapons they pass through are randomly generated.

The two halves intertwine cohesively and look like one of the game loops from “Stardrew Valley”. Players run through the dungeon and if they die along the way, they start over. He Who Waits keeps the Lamb alive, and players can use their experience and upgrades from the faithful to start with more powerful gear when entering a dungeon.

Along the way, tertiary characters appear that can help players earn more gear or more money to fund their religion. (Hey, leading a cult is expensive.) Other allies unlock new rituals, which help boost religious fervor so the Lamb can dive into dungeons without keeping followers.

Despite the predictable plot, everything else about “Cult of the Lamb” is enjoyable. It starts out great and sucks players in with the village building and quirky sense of humor, but towards the middle of the game it turns into a grind as learning the finer points includes a lot of trial and error . Players may run out of a vital resource for a needed building, or, by delving too long into dungeons, a village may become rebellious with dissidents, resulting in the need for jail and re-education.

Although it can be painful, setbacks never stop players from moving forward. The only frustrating issue I encountered was the constant bugs that crashed the game. “Cult of the Lamb” crashes with glitches towards the finale, and it forced me to do a dungeon or two a few times and some boss fights multiple times. Sometimes an enemy needed to clear a room would disappear or my character would run endlessly and the game would become unresponsive.

These issues spoil an otherwise entertaining experience worthy of adoration.

“Worship of the Lamb”

3 out of 4 starsPlatform: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X and Series S, Xbox One, PC, Nintendo Switch, macOSEvaluation: teen