Cult Of The Lamb is an adorably crude amalgamation of some of indie gaming’s best ideas

cult of the Lamb

cult of the Lamb
picture: Devolver Digital

Every Friday, AV club Staff start our weekly open thread discussing game plans and recent gaming glory, but of course the real action takes place in the comments, where we invite you to answer our eternal question: What are you playing this weekend?

It’s not the first time I think about the pitiful state of video game nomenclature – and video games in particular genre Nomenclature. No other medium has to suffer through this abysmal shit to survive the humiliation of, say, calling one of its fastest-growing branches of genre “roguelike” — and then having to explain it villain questionable is a 42-year-old Unix game that a vanishingly small number of living people have ever played, and that it doesn’t bear that many resemblances to the “roguelike” games. (And the less said about this unholy portmanteau of Metroidvania, the better.) Every art form steals from itself, true, but at least film and television and music have the decency to do so with a touch of elegance.

However: cult of the Lamb is the new Frostpunk-ishly villainous Don’t starve-a-thon by Devolver Digital and the studio Massive Monster. It is very good!

Sorry, sorry, maybe that was a bit too superficial. But in a world where so much indie game design can feel like developers are playing Legos with a variety of workable and trendy game pieces, it’s interesting to see such a strange and unlikely chimera come to life. And that’s not even counting with all the other parts at play in this dark and gory little package that pulls a bit of the old. Happy tree friends Trick by taking very cute cartoon designs and then running them through an explicitly Lovecraftian wrestler.

The basic premise is simple: you are the last lamb (as in, a fluffy little sheep), your kind, being hunted to extinction because they are prophesied to revive a banished god. And that’s exactly what you plan to do once your sinister patron brings you back to life to exact revenge – and start a cult of cheerful little animals to be worshiped in his name. From there, the gameplay is split into two main branches: cult management, where you build temples, conduct rituals, and, er, “deal” with dissenting members; and Crusades, where you venture out into the world to kill your way to justice.

The cult side is, not surprisingly, where the Frostpunk Influences slip in; although cultThe resource management elements of aren’t nearly as brutal as 11 Bit Studios’ ultra-savage apocalypse sim, but you’ll still be forced to strike a balance in order to keep your people happy and alive. (More significantly, you’re repeatedly offered a set of binary choices that affect the way you develop your herd – though cult of the Lamb renounces all moral elements that are made Frostpunk sometimes very depressing.)

In the meantime, the Crusades will be familiar to anyone who has spent much time in the roguelike world over the last 10 years years: pRandomly generated levels, melee combat designed to keep tabs on all those little enemies whizzing across the screen, and a variety of randomized upgrades to keep you ahead of the curve. The gameplay is satisfying enough, but this is a run over genus and cult‘s struggle alone would make it little more than a follower.

So the fascinating thing is how the two sides influence each other: CRusades generate resources that allow your cult to thrive, and the stronger your cult, the more spiritual power you can draw from your followers to make your bloody work more prosperous. It’s a supremely satisfying loop, given only by the joy with which the game presents a sweet, gory world. It’s also nice to see a game so willing to really come to terms with its own darker impulses: “people” (deer, rabbits, whatever) sacrifices are a perfectly viable and accepted way of dealing with HR issues going around in that particular organization, and if any, one of your cultists comes up to you politely and asks for a meal that’s made of, I don’t know, real feces that you’ve cleared off the floor? Well, who are you to judge, especially if it keeps their belief fair and high? It’s less gross than naming a video game a Frostpunkuh or a soulslike at least.

https://www.avclub.com/cult-of-the-lamb-indie-game-mash-up-sacrifice-gross-1849399095 Cult Of The Lamb is an adorably crude amalgamation of some of indie gaming’s best ideas

Andrew Schnitker

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