When I started Cult of the Lamb, I wasn’t expecting to be shoveling so much poop. This is a true wolf of a base-management game in the sheepish clothing of an action-roguelite, but it balances that unexpected mix of genres with grace. Its adorable art style and surprising amount of side activities fill its relatively linear structure up with personality – and while its combat sections aren’t deep enough to keep me coming back after the credits rolled, this is a dark ritual I’m very glad to have completed.
Cult of the Lamb puts you in the fluffy hooves of a cult leader newly resurrected by an imprisoned deity called The One Who Waits. Now it’s up to you to free your master by recruiting new followers to the flock, building a base for them to live in, and going on bloody crusades against the otherworldly entities that trapped him. That loop of gathering supplies, tending to your worshipers, upgrading both your character and your homestead, and then going out to do it again is extremely satisfying, with a charming art style and expressive animations that bring a bit of joy to every ruthless corner of it.
Cult of the Lamb Gameplay Screenshots
While Cult of the Lamb is a roguelite dungeon crawler that randomizes level layouts and the items you come across each run as you become progressively more powerful between them, comparing it directly to similar games like Hades or Rogue Legacy would be a bit misleading. Each crusade is randomized and repeatable in the same way, but they are also far shorter – most take around just 10 minutes total. You even pick between one of four disconnected areas to fight through at the start of every run, with a boss waiting to be beaten at the end of each one in order to complete the story, which means Cult of the Lamb lacks that familiar roguelike tension of seeing how deep into the gauntlet you can manage to make it every time.
Those short outings aren’t necessarily a bad thing, but they did mean I spent most of the 13 hours it took me to reach the credits building out my base and completing little quests for NPCs rather than swinging a weapon. It’s safe to say that for all the DNA Cult of the Lamb shares with a game like Dead Cells, it’s just as closely related to a management game like Oxygen Not Included. That’s good company to be in regardless, and I enjoyed that my decisions out on the hunt were often influenced by the needs of my cultists diligently working back home rather than it always being the other way around.
That’s not to say the combat isn’t fun in its own right, though. It’s not overly complex, with little more than a single attack button, a special “curse” power, and a dodge-roll at your disposal, but each of those elements are honed to an effective edge. The dodge in particular is delightfully snappy, giving you a responsive way to evade the well-telegraphed attacks of enemies as you cut through rooms full of cultists and monsters alike. The different types of weapons, curses, and tarot card-based buffs you can find along the way can also help shake up each new outing as you work your way toward the end of the campaign.
The one major drawback is that you are given a random weapon and curse at the start of each crusade, but unfortunately you have no control over which ones you’ll see and the possibilities are far from equal. While the default sword and harder-hitting axe are reliably great, the frustratingly slow hammer and the gloves (which deal most of their damage only on the final hit of their attack combo) are ill-suited against Cult of the Lamb’s fairly mobile enemies. Similarly, some curses can be satisfying AoE blasts while others drop a pile of ineffective goo. With runs being so short, that means you frequently won’t even get a chance to find a workable replacement before the end, and having a go at a boss hamstrung by a poor roll at the very start definitely wore on my patience more than once.
But while you don’t get enough opportunities to choose your attacks, you are given plenty of chances to influence your kit mid-run through tarot cards. These power-ups give you boons that can range from extra health to adding a projectile to your melee attack to making enemies drop fish when killed. It’s a bit of a shame that a majority of them are simply stat upgrades like a 20% increase to weapon damage, meaning they never did much to shake up my actual playstyle on a given run, but getting lucky by finding a rare tarot card to fully double the attack speed of my axe was still a lot of fun when it happened.
Of course, stumbling upon a powerful card like that could also trivialize the boss encounters on the default difficulty. These fights can be creative both in the visual design of the horrific eldritch monstrosities you face and the almost bullet hell-like attacks they throw at you. But if you have even a passing familiarity with roguelike action games, you’ll probably want to notch the difficulty up to Hard from the start – I rarely had to do much more than spam the attack button to beat each boss on my first try, which doesn’t really give their clever designs the spotlight they deserve.
Field of Screams
Despite the horrible appearance of Cult of the Lamb’s largest enemies, many of them will delightfully turn into adorable friends your size upon defeat – friends who can then be recruited to your cult back home. The action sections may be how you move the relatively simple plot along, but the base building is where all of the real mechanical progression lies. Converting folk you find out in the field lets you put them to work gathering resources like wood and stone, worshiping your visage to generate a resource called devotion, or cleaning up the poop they’ll generously litter the edges of your camp with.
You’ll be doing a lot of that work yourself to start, but it’s immensely satisfying to watch your base grow – both technologically and visually – as you recruit more followers. Your base and your lamb each have tech trees to work up, unlocking either new structures to build or new abilities and weapons to find, respectively. That means things like watering your farms by hand can eventually be handled by your recruits, and more interesting options gradually open up that let you send followers off on expeditions for resources or even temporarily turn them into demons that can assist you in battle.
There’s a ton to dig into here, and I enjoyed the balance that was managing the faith, hunger, cleanliness levels of my followers, but it also made me wish keeping track of them on an individual basis was easier. Once your cult membership starts to approach the double digits, it can be extremely hard to tell who is doing what task, who you’ve already “blessed” that day for an experience boost, and who is just sitting around twiddling their thumbs. Thankfully you don’t really need to worry too much about that stuff to keep up with their desires, especially after you’ve unlocked better facilities for them, but Cult of the Lamb made me care enough about optimizing my enterprise that it frustrated me when I couldn’t.
One way it does offer a welcome amount of control is in its cosmetic options, which practically outnumber its functional ones. You can easily move buildings around your camp, change the appearance and name of every new follower you recruit, and cover every corner in superfluous decorations that often have to be earned or unlocked as you play. You don’t have to go deep on any of this stuff if you don’t actually want to, but it gave me an ownership over my cult that got me far more invested – I even played favorites with my followers, giving the best of them extra attention and mourning them when they eventually died of old age… or when I sacrificed them, because who needs an old mouth to feed.
In that vein, a huge part of what makes Cult of the Lamb so impressive is how it leans into the goofiness of its theme, and the excellent aesthetics that accompany all of its chaos. It absolutely nails the balance of its cutesy cartoon vibes and its demonic set dressing, with dozens of charming animal forms for you to find – be that elephants, giraffes, unicorns, or strange spider… things. The soundtrack is also probably one of the catchiest I’ve heard in a long, long time; a chipper yet spooky mix that I haven’t been able to get out of my head.
There’s also just way more to do than I would have expected. There’s a whole world map with individual (if small) locations to visit, each with shops to buy new tarot cards and cosmetics from as well as characters to meet and complete quests for. There’s a fishing minigame, a dice-rolling minigame, a sidequest designed to send you back into locations you’ve already beaten with an increased challenge. There are some secrets to find too, and the quirky character designs are all top notch no matter what corner of the map you visit.
That said, Cult of the Lamb does feel like a roguelite I am pretty much done with after 13 hours, about half of which I played on hard mode. I reached the end of both its progression trees about two-thirds of the way through, and I’ve completed nearly all of the side activities I’ve managed to find. You can revisit levels you’ve already beaten in an endless mode that continues to amp up the difficulty nicely if you want to play Cult of the Lamb closer to a more traditional roguelike, but there’s not really enough variety in its weapons, tarot cards, or straightforward map layouts to make me actually want to do much of that. I had a blast reaching the credits, but this ultimately felt more like a linear campaign than its roguelike action sections might suggest.