The time has come to overthrow the Old Cult that dominates the woods and bring the bloodthirsty lamb in video game history to its rightful command post. Cult of the Lamb, developed by Massive Monster and published by Devolver Digital, is a production which draws inspiration from many masterpieces of the history of the video game – Hades, The Binding of Isaac (to learn more here is the review of The Binding of Isaac), Animal Crossing – and uses them to give life to a gory story, told with a cartoon graphic style that contrasts with violence shown on screen. It is a two-faced Janus, in which management mechanics are mixed with roguelite fights in which what matters is never to stop. So we take you with us deep into the woods, among giant mushrooms, killer spiders and mutilated monsters. The only possible way: the one shown by the red crown of the lamb.
The story opens with one of the sacrificial rites that allow the Ancient Cult to reinvigorate its cruel Bishops: the lamb seems destined to an inglorious end, like all the other members of its lineage, but something unexpected happens. The One Who Waits he is the cult’s most feared being, a tremendous semi-divine force that the Bishops had thrown in chains, apparently without success. The tremendous power of him manages to give the lamb new life, but everything has a price: the protagonist will have to unhinge the Old Cult and restore veneration against the chained beast, determined more than ever to make a great return to the furry hearts of the animals of the woods.
The conversion of the lamb is not exactly spontaneous, since the possible answers are “yes” or an enthusiastic “absolutely”, full of that fanatic ardor that certainly does not hurt to purge the infidels. On the head of the protagonist then a blood-red crown appears, capable of possessing the weapons available in the game world and of instilling in them the necessary strength so that the new religion can make its way with brutality and violence. Exterminated the jailers who had killed the fluffy sheep, all that remains is to start proselytizing…
All home and church
The faith of the followers is Cult of the Lamb’s greatest asset: not only because it will allow us to earn the respect of The One Who Waits – which will occasionally summon us to comment on our progress – but because it is the cornerstone of the village of worship, the basis from which to build a livable and hospitable environment.
Each faithful has specific characteristics, bonuses and penalties that affect their ability to keep morale high, to generate Devotion (essential raw material to unlock new buildings and upgrades for the village), to heal from diseases, and much more. . The animals are customizable and very ready to bow to the wishes of their boss … If we can keep them happy and satisfied. There is much to be said about the subtexts of Cult of the Lamb, which provides a far from flattering commentary on religion: often the qualities of the adepts are described with derogatory words, showing the perspective of exploitation which is the basis of the management of the village. And so an elephant particularly faithful to the cult is described as “gullible”: a clumsy, in short, a fool, a gullible.
Here, Cult of the Lamb casts a truly sardonic and provocative look on power and religion, inviting us to spend our disciples as if they were resources: if killed, their meat will be of a different type than that normally found in the game, almost like to underline the particular taste that the powerful have in exploiting those who are weaker.
Massive Monster has structured a fluctuating adventure between the safety of the village and the dangers of the woods, without forgetting to shake everything to undermine the player’s certainties. So here is that the Bishops will not miss an opportunity to turn us against our own followers, di hit them with diseases that will force them to rest (sending them to work in these moments can mean death for the animals afflicted by the disease), to make us understand how fidelity is never to be taken for granted.
As we will find out, these powerful beings have realized this the hard way. It must be said that we did not perceive a particular sense of insecurity in the first hours of the adventure: just pay attention to what happens in the village, clean up the dejections of the faithful (a very important task and not to be neglected) to avoid the onset of epidemics and adequately feed the inhabitants to ensure a flow of work and worship without many hitches. Things get more challenging going forward, and you must always take care not to leave the village for too long, keeping an eye on the indicators that measure the state of health of the followers. The use of accumulated Devotion allows you to unlock new buildings on a sort of multi-level skill tree that marks the technical progress of our cult, allowing you to build churches, altars, tents, broom closets (we have already said that cleaning is important?). The church is, of course, the beating heart of the management part of the game, in the name of sermons, rituals and enhancements for our protagonist. Many structures, especially the decorative ones, are then unlocked on our journeys in the woods … Just the place we are heading to.
Lots of beating in the shade of the trees
The raids in the woods, in search of monsters to be killed and infidels to convert, certainly constitute the action soul by Cult of the Lamb. With a nod to milestones like Hades or The Binding of Isaac, the lamb’s movements need to be quick and precise to get the better of fights. Don’t worry: the presence of four difficulty levels means that the degree of challenge can be adjusted without too many worries. Don’t expect a kaleidoscope of possibilities that can rival what Hades offers (here our review of Hades). Still, Cult of the Lamb’s action is effective, fast, and ultimately downright fun. It’s hard to break away from the screen, thanks to an engaging and challenging gameplay loop.
The “in the field” enhancement system, based on the extraction of tarot cards, however, there is no risk component whatsoever, which is a shame. In short, the effect of the cards can only be positive, and this removes any possible occurrence of problems: drawing one will always give only an advantage, contrary to what happened, for example, in Ogre Battle: March of the Black Queen in the now far 1993. This feature, in other words, we did not appreciate, because the art of tarot is not and should not be so painless. The settings, procedurally built, are varied and well thought out, with some peaks of excellence.
Sometimes it is natural to stop, slow down the action with the gun cotton and contemplate the depths of the forest, represented with richly detailed backdrops. Essential is the destruction of stones and shrubs, the theft of Devotion from the statues of the Bishops, the exploitation even of the skeletons of our enemies, which can provide additional resources: faith first of all requires the satisfaction of the basic needs of the followers and the use of wood, grass and rock to amaze the disciples and persuade them to continue to believe in the lamb and its religion of blood, which leaves nothing standing in its path.
Bending over to The One Who Waits is the only option, and Cult of the Lamb’s gameplay mechanics show that to perfection. It contributes to the creation of a surreal atmosphere a varied cast, at times a harbinger of revelations about the game world and its history. There is the wise bird who will tell us the truth about the relationship between the Bishops and The One Who Waits; there is the beast in search of its own heart; there is the predecessor of the lamb, unable to complete his task.
Once the boss of an area is defeated, it will be possible to come back over and over againdelving into the depths of the forest and always with an eye to the villagers, who if left alone could find themselves in difficulty and lose their faith.
The enemies of the areas where the boss has been killed will be stronger, more numerous, more evil: however, it is necessary to take courage, accumulate resources and improve one’s expertise in combat, especially at the higher difficulty levels. There is no doubt that there are areas more inspired than others in design and atmosphere, but on the whole Cult of the Lamb strikes for an apt and coherent artistic direction, deliciously oxymoronic in managing the contrast between the tenderness of our disciples’ pets and the violence represented on the screen. In the course of this bloody adventure, we did not perceive the slightest hesitation on the frame rate front, despite playing at maximum graphics settings.
The faithful fessacchiotti who decide to follow us in our cult get attached and how, and this pushes the player to take care of the village and its inhabitants. Accomplice a pleasant soundtrack e excellent management of ambient sound effectsthe work of Massive Monster is a real joy for the ears which, to be fully understood, requires a good knowledge of the English language, as there is currently no Italian translation.