Everytime I feel like I’ve had my fill of roguelikes, something like Cult of the Lamb comes along and reminds me how much this genre has to offer. Take the creepy-cute aesthetic of The Bind of Isaac, pair it with the twitchy combat of Hades, and throw in some light, Animal Crossing-style city building, and you’ve got Cult of the Lamb, Devolver Digital’s newest curiosity from the developers of 2019’s Never Give Up, and one of coolest games shown off last weekend at PAX East.
The papercraft world of Cult of the Lamb is immediately eye-catching. The look falls somewhere between Don’t Starve, Cuphead, and Happy Tree Friends. Imagine South Park’s Woodland Critter Christmas as an action roguelike, and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what Cult of the Lamb is going for.
You play as the titular lamb, rescued by an ancient evil called The One Who Waits after becoming the victim of an attempted sacrifice and conscripted to form a cult of loyal followers to perform dark and violent rituals in its name. Isn’t that adorable? Cute Cthulhu has been done before, but this feels directly inspired by those Animal Crossing x Doom Eternal memes. Cult of the Lamb does it so well that I have to believe it will quickly become the short hand for the genre moving forward.
Gameplay is split into two separate phases that feed into each other. First you dungeon crawl through a randomly arranged tile set of rooms to fight a boss and recruit a follower to your flock, then you return to your garrison for some light town building, resource gathering, and rapport building with your cult members. When you head back out into the dungeons, you’ll be looking for specific resources you need to continue developing your stronghold and support your ever-expanding cult. It’s a clever little evolution on the tried-and-tested roguelike formula that makes progression more complex and interesting.
Hades is the best comparison for the kind of dodge-focused melee combat Cult of the Lamb offers, though the demo didn’t give the impression that it would be quite as deep. New weapons and powers can be found in each run that change the way you approach combat, and you’ll earn upgrades as your cult grows that will help you in combat as well.
The town building mechanics are more intriguing. Pulling inspiration from MMO-style garrisons, like Lost Ark’s Strongholds, the meta game in Cult of the Lamb is all about resource gathering and base building. You’ll even need to provide food to your followers and deliver sermons to keep their morale up. There are shades of Fire Emblem: Three Houses’ checkpoints here, and the Animal Crossing: New Horizons comparisons are impossible to overlook. It may seem like a strange direction for a roguelike, but from what I’ve seen so far, it’s a great fit.
You’d be forgiven for mistaking Cult of the Lamb for an Ed McMillen or Nicalis game, but it’s an exceptionally on-brand game for Devolver Digital too. It’s in such good company with the games it inspires to be like that I almost mistook it for an old game I’ve already played. Once I got hands-on, though, it quickly became clear that Cult of the Lamb is going to be a standout roguelike when it launches on PC and console later this year.
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