Cult of the Lamb – Zero Punctuation


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Steam is doing one of their quaint little themed sales at the time of writing, calling it Survival Fest, and acknowledging the genre of survival crafting games the same way one “recognizes” a giant monstrous frog that blocks all six lanes of the highway that you used to go to work. But this has been a great time for me, because if there’s one thing I love more than anything else, it’s picking up bits of wood. I pick them up in meadows, I pick them up in woods, I pick them up in singles bars if they have shapely knotholes, I just can’t stop myself. My wife has had to buy all the metal furniture because I keep picking up the wooden stuff, but the joke is on her because I’m going to make a stone forge as soon as she lets me play in the gravel driveway. And my god, I feel well served by the survival crafting genre and the wonderful spectrum of picking up bits of wood it offers. But that said, picking up bits of wood has become so ubiquitous that for most people it can no longer carry a game in its own right, cultureless bastards that they are, and so the challenge now is to find new gameplay styles that still hold true. have not been enriched by the addition of picking up pieces of wood.

As in the case of Cult of the Lamb, which presumably owes its existence to someone who plays the Binding of Isaac and thinks just like me, “Boy, I wish there were more bits of wood in this. Preserving exactly the same amount of human shit.” Basically Cult of the Lamb is a crafting base management ’em up paired with a roguelite dungeon crawler Roguelite dungeon crawling is the other style of gameplay that is so over the top it can no longer carry a game on its own so this is a fucking marriage made in Rl-yeh we play the titular lamb being sacrificed by four unknowable divine beings in an attempt to prevent the rise of a fifth unknowable divine being that the others were not allowed to because he had smoke or ginger hair or something, but then Nobby recovers Nomates The Undying you come to life as their herald on Earth to take on the task of making your way through the followers of the four cool kids and establishing your own community where no one will be judged harshly for their interest in Sonic the Hedgehog fan art, so the game consists of two phases: the basic management part, where you hang out at your cult’s campsite building things and interact with your followers until you don’t get any g eld, bits of wood or piles of excrement have more to clean up,

and the dungeon crawling part, when you venture into the procedural lands with your big heresy meand stick and a wheelbarrow. It’s the stool that is one of the sticking points for me as the stool is notoriously sticky. I don’t think socially well-adjusted people are the type to join cults in general, but I don’t remember Jim Jones having to go around the grounds with a poop scooper every five minutes. There’s something very wrong here, you can’t build a damn toilet until you’re three levels deep in the tech tree, but I think these folks should at least know how to dig a hole in the ground. This is part of the bigger problem that the management you have to do is often of the micro variety. You basically have to constantly make food for these struggling twats, the upgrade that will stop them from complaining if you let them eat grass is highly recommended. You have to work on the loyalty of each cult member individually, and that means remembering to give each of them a blessing every day. And once your cult exceeds a certain number of heads, it’s hardly worth shaking the rose of your blessing hand. I found it was really easy to get stuck with the micromanagey chores in the basics because something always pops up if you hang around for too long. It’s like being a kindergarten teacher.

“Miss! Can you harvest the pumpkins? Miss! Penelope died of old age and the corpse makes us all sick and we still don’t understand how holes in the ground work. Miss! Lionel slandered our dark savior, could you sacrifice him for his impudence?’ I would but I can only interact with cult members by standing next to them and pressing the contextual button and Lionel is currently in the same spot as three other dudes and one of my base facilities and I don’t want to accidentally use the septic tank killing tank I ran into a few bug issues in the base management One time one of my oldies fell down dead but their living selves still stood over the body and something told me it wasn’t because he was one had become with the goddamn power Also he showed up at my next sermon only to drop dead again And when I picked up the corpse I couldn’t put it down and the game was softlocked presumably because I was holding a body from which the code believed it was dead and alive at the same time which is a particularly confusing position for the high priest of a bereavement This was far from the only bug I encountered but probably best not to to harp, you know how game developers nowadays patch like a thrift store in the land of porcupines.

But like I said, this is one of those hybrid games where the two flavors of gameplay are in different compartments rather than mixed together, more of a Nerds than a Skittles arrangement. And the high watermark for that is the XCOM or Persona thing, where you can use either gameplay mode to take a break if you’re bored of the other. And when I could finally drag myself away from sermons, blessings, and clearing out the booboos, it sure felt like a relief to switch to some fun relaxing life-and-death battles. Crawling into the villainous dungeon won’t set too many pants on fire; there’s a standard array of melee weapons and spells that will have you going from room to room killing the absolute sweetcorn-studded shit out of everything. And by everything I mean everything, there’s always the chance that bonus hearts or craft materials will fall from random rocks, tussocks and end tables, so it often has more of a lawn-mowing simulator vibe. There isn’t enough variety in the core gameplay to keep it from getting terribly monotonous after a while. The dungeon crawling on its own won’t hold up next to a Binding or Isaac or a Hades, just as the basic management stuff can’t compete with the genre’s most prized bits of wood simulator.

But the hybrid game is like intercourse in that something really interesting happens where the two things meet, and I definitely found it hard to stop playing Cult of the Lamb. It strikes a balance where you feel a constant motivation to move on to the next item on your endless to-do list without feeling overwhelmed. Although I felt the tempo drop in the back half of the game when I wasn’t even at the fourth dungeon and I was already near the end of the upgrade trees, I wondered why I was still struggling with half of the game’s systems when the upgrades came in faster than I could spend them and there wasn’t much left for sale except more decorative elements that I couldn’t build because my cultists remained perfectly happy as long as I put one of their elders in the void every few days to save myself the expense of digging a grave. And at the time, I didn’t see the point of that minigame for fishing at all. Perhaps it was to make the comparison to Animal Crossing after Tom Nook decided to finally drop the mask and sell you a building blueprint for a Scientology test center.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voice
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.


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