A title like “Adoration of the Lamb” can easily live and die on the aesthetic it puts front and center. So, to make sure your game stands out in the indie game market, you have to make sure to balance both the initial look and the smaller artistic details. Fortunately, not only did developer Massive Monster manage to pull off Cult of the Lamb’s aesthetic, but the gameplay didn’t suffer as a result.
The unique mix of roguelite dungeon crawling and town building simulator is more satisfying than the concept first appears. Yet for all of Massive Monster’s success, Cult of the Lamb leaves something to be desired, even if it’s rarely impressive.
Drawing inspiration from many of its previous games, Cult of the Lamb’s gameplay loop sends players into a procedurally generated dungeon, no two runs of which are exactly alike. This breaks down into two types of traversal, individual dungeon maps reminiscent of Zelda style moving from static room to static room, and larger paths from map to map. It’s a layered traversal system that allows players to fight as they please and pick up materials to bring back to their town.
More important than the level design, though, is the combat, which will likely be the focus of most players when Cult of the Lamb releases. Mixing and matching different melee weapons and magical curses results in a new playstyle each run, every time the player jumps into one of the four main dungeons. Combat is fluid, and the pacing of each weapon manages to keep the overall gameplay consistent, even with completely different attacks and combos. Not to mention the dodge mechanic, which is incredibly satisfying, if a little uneven in favor of the player. Of course, lightning dodge is one of the few advantages players get once enemies start attacking all over the map.
Combat complexity grows throughout Adoration of the Lamb, starting out with some easier Cultists with limited attack patterns, and quickly adding enemies that attack from a distance with arrows and orbs of light. By the end of the game, the combat draws inspiration from the genre by combining Roguelite elements with Bullet Hell combat. Some boss fights, and even random rooms, can become utterly chaotic, requiring players to keep track of attack patterns from multiple sources at the same time.
All that said, combat isn’t perfect. For example, Cult of the Lamb doesn’t have as many weapons as other roguelikes like Dead Cells. Also, even with the limited number of weapons, some options are lackluster. Knives and Claws in particular don’t balance the pace of combat, aiming to provide faster attack speeds to reduce damage per attack. On top of that, its claws are a bit short, as they require the player to reach the end of the combo before real damage can be dealt. Given that late-game enemies don’t stick around long enough to pull off a full combo, this particular weapon becomes its own hardmode.
In addition to its Roguelite elements, the game doubles as a town-building simulator, and managing the titular cult of Cult of the Lamb directly improves their chances of success in the dungeon. While the art design does a good job in dungeons, between the combat animations and boss designs, Back to Cult is where it really excels. Not only do resource gathering and follower management play nicely with the playful cartoon aesthetic, but the dark, cult-horror aspects lead to some incredible animation.
When it comes to gameplay in these cult niches, the pace of managing followers can get tense. This is largely due to how the three main components of management in Worship of the Lamb continue to work in the background while the player is in the dungeon. Leaving for too long can cause cult members to starve to death, get sick with feces and corpses not cleaned up, or leave if their faith is low. This is all achieved by requiring players to take care of the individual needs of different followers, and even complete quests for them. Of course, if a cult member’s special needs become too much to handle, they can also be sacrificed in a number of ways.
While Roguelite elements and Town-Building elements are successful on their own, it’s the way the two genres are fused that makes Cult of the Lamb stand out. On the more obvious side of this synergy, improving cults can unlock new weapons and abilities to carry into dungeons, and make progression easier and more varied. However, the same thing can backfire, as the dungeon is where the player will find most of the followers, as well as the source of materials for ascending the sect. Being able to walk down paths to collect wood, stone, or food not only avoids dangerous combat, but is also key to collecting enough materials to build some early structures.
All in all, Cult of the Lamb is an impressive game that leans more towards the Roguelite genre than anything else, while still pulling everything it needs from the other genres to set the game apart from the indie crowd. Not every feature or mechanic is perfect, and the story is more interesting as lore than as narrative, but that doesn’t seem to be the developer’s main focus. With that in mind, Cult of the Lamb succeeds where it counts, from roguelite dungeons to its dark cartoonish aesthetic.
Adoration of the Lamb is slated for release on August 11, 2022 on PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Switch, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S. Game Rant obtained the PC code for this review.