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I like Animal Crossing. Will I like Cult of the Lamb?

Cute and cuddly management sim with a side of occult murder

The Lamb in Cult of the Lamb ascends in front of their followers Image: Massive Monster/Devolver Digital via Polygon
Nicole Carpenter is a senior reporter specializing in investigative features about labor issues in the game industry, as well as the business and culture of games.

Massive Monster’s Cult of the Lamb isn’t exactly the next Animal Crossing: New Horizons, but the comparisons aren’t unfounded. So if you like New Horizons, will you like Cult of the Lamb? The answer is maybe. Let me explain.

Cult of the Lamb, published by Devolver Digital and released on Aug. 11, is both an action-adventure roguelike and a town-and-farm management survival simulator. The town development part is where the Animal Crossing comparisons are coming from — the game is like New Horizons or Animal Crossing: City Folk, but you’re building a cult instead of a town. It’s got farming, cooking, and decorations — like cozy pathways and shrines. You’ve got to build relationships and community within your cult; if your followers don’t believe in you, they’ll dissent, taking money with them. Followers must be cooked for and fed, have a place to sleep, and you must clean up their poop. (So much poop.) You pick berries, fish for seafood, and plant seeds in your garden. You harvest trees for wood, which can then be consecrated into planks to craft more elaborate structures and decorations.

The thing that differs from Animal Crossing or Stardew Valley is that you can rule with fear. Say a follower wants to leave the cult; they won’t simply move out. You can choose to sacrifice them or reeducate them through force. Also, Cult of the Lamb followers do eventually die of old age — though they might meet a worse end first, depending on whether or not you elect to go the cannibalism route.

It’s dark, but the environment is still cute — think Cozy Grove. Haunted and cute.

The second part of the game is the roguelike, which is drawing Hades comparisons around the web. When I first heard of Cult of the Lamb, I imagined this was the focus of the game. And it is, but it absolutely shares importance with the resource gathering and management elements — you really do need to manage your cult and spend time building it out, otherwise your exploits on your crusades will go to waste. Whatever you’ve built can and will fail, if you don’t tend to it.

The roguelike elements of Cult of the Lamb aren’t as tight or complex as a game like Hades, but it is fun. Dungeons are built into randomly generated stages, and dying there isn’t awful — followers might lose faith, but you don’t necessarily lose much progress. For Polygon, reviewer Kazuma Hashimoto put it nicely:

These dungeons are fairly short, consisting of several stages that players can clear to obtain valuable resources. Each stage has its own small map where you can encounter unique NPCs, some of which offer tarot cards that can empower you with temporary talents. Others can offer more powerful weapons, or even an assortment of stone, wood, or foodstuffs (including seeds) to cultivate your growing commune. If you die, then you are simply reborn by the will of The One Who Waits, though at the expense of resources you acquired through your run. It’s stock and standard, and doesn’t deviate much from the already established roguelike formula.

If you’re worried about whether you like roguelike games, do know that there is a difficulty scale in Cult of the Lamb — you can make the game’s combat easier or harder. But you’re also welcome to spend more time managing your cult and building your power, which will provide more powerful weapons on your dungeon runs, too.

What it comes down to is this: Have you ever wished Animal Crossing was less sweet? A little darker? Have you had even a lingering thought of sacrificing a villager? (On the flip side, would you be crushed to see a follower die? That’ll definitely happen in Cult of the Lamb, so prepare your body pits.) Have you wondered what would happen if plague devastated your island? If you’ve answered yes to these questions, then yeah. I think you’ll like Cult of the Lamb.

After all, the game isn’t all evil. You can pet your dog followers after they’ve had a long day of worshiping you at your shrine or enacting a doctrine on cannibalism.