HomeTechnologyPracticing the Worship of the Lamb: Animal Crossing meets the Dark Arts

Practicing the Worship of the Lamb: Animal Crossing meets the Dark Arts

You know the sweet old nursery rhyme: Mary had a little lamb, but then it was resurrected by the devil and forced to create a murderous cult.
Enlarge / You know the sweet old nursery rhyme: Mary had a little lamb, but then it was resurrected by the devil and forced to create a murderous cult.

Devolve / Massive Monster

When I first played Worship of the Lamb, launching August 11 on PC and all major console families, I imagined its demonic tone was originally an inside joke for its development team. Maybe the creators of Massive Monster sat down to watch the likes of sim management from animal crossing and The Simsthen thought the only way to top these games was to make a deal with the devil.

Then they went ahead and created a simulation game where players do just that. After 90 minutes of playing the game’s extended demo, provided by its publishers at Devolver Digital, I’m inclined to think that its choices regarding tone, art direction, and sim-meets-Satan gameplay were the right decision. (There’s currently a free public demo as well, available on Windows and macOS, but it’s much shorter than what I sampled.)

the one who waits

Apparently a trustworthy entity.  Let's make a pact for our soul.
Enlarge / Apparently a trustworthy entity. Let’s make a pact for our soul.

Devolve

Worship of the Lamb begins with the hero of the game, a Disney-like cartoon lamb, leading to his slaughter as a form of religious sacrifice. But death is just the beginning of this game. In the afterlife, you encounter a mysterious subterranean beast wrapped in chains, simply named The One Who Waits. You have the ability to rise from your grave, grow a cult full of devout followers, expand your mastery of the demonic arts, and defeat a series of monstrous rivals. You can answer this call in one of two answers: “yes” and “absolutely”.

A glimpse of my underdeveloped cult.  Note that two of the characters socialized and became friends.  This can change their attributes in useful ways, but they can also be sad if one of them dies from a gastrointestinal disease (which can happen).
Enlarge / A glimpse of my underdeveloped cult. Note that two of the characters socialized and became friends. This can change their attributes in useful ways, but they can also be sad if one of them dies from a gastrointestinal disease (which can happen).

Devolve

After struggling through a top-down, Zelda– like a streak and killing your previous captors, a guide with similar demonic inclinations teaches you how to find, free, and convert unlucky woodland creatures. The game’s formal loop begins with assigning basic tasks to your lone follower on a vast plain that your cult calls home: gathering resources, building structures, maintaining farms, and more. Once your follower is busy, enter through a door that will lead you to a series of randomly generated battle rooms, where you’ll progress through your kill list, gather rarer resources, and find and enlist more easily influenced animals to join. your worship.

Assigning tasks, giving gifts: all in a day's work as a cult founder.
Enlarge / Assigning tasks, giving gifts: all in a day’s work as a cult founder.

Devolve

Take them back to the village, and that’s where you’ll start cosplaying the leader of a game cult in earnest.

Everything you need to become more powerful revolves around maintaining the faith and loyalty of your cultists; the former can be mined and drained from each cultist as a sort of ectoplasm, while the latter remains as a permanent “experience point” counter. The time between demon hunting battles can be spent doing grueling services, hanging out with cultists to make them happier, or learning and solving side quests they ask about.

Just another day of teaching the good word.  Today we learned a ritual where I can kill one of my followers to claim rare items and resources.  Everyone seems to agree with the plan!
Enlarge / Just another day of teaching the good word. Today we learned a ritual where I can kill one of my followers to claim rare items and resources. Everyone seems to agree with the plan!

Devolve

It’s a way to save on resources

Unlike regular RPGs, however, you have the ability to be useful. Maybe you don’t care about some cultists, or maybe you missed the window of time to help them with issues like starvation, disease, or loss of faith. (The more you adventure and fight, the more some followers may drift back to the cult farm, as indicated by an ever-ongoing day-night cycle.)

Early in the game’s skill tree system, cult leaders learn that they have the ability to outright sacrifice their followers, which can grant rare rewards to your cult. It might cost some of your fellow followers’ admiration, but from what I can tell, savvy cult leaders can still balance their emotional needs while feeding their lust for blood and power.

Each combat encounter is randomly generated, and your hero begins each with randomly assigned melee and ranged attacks.  The game's skill tree decisions can give you more options in terms of weapons or other completely different perks.
Enlarge / Each combat encounter is randomly generated, and your hero begins each with randomly assigned melee and ranged attacks. The game’s skill tree decisions can give you more options in terms of weapons or other completely different perks.

Devolve

Worship of the Lamb could very well have invented a half-combat, half-sim ecosystem that feels much simpler or drier, and without the satanic overtones the game feels a lot like the 1991 SNES classic Actress. The developers, artists, and writers of Massive Monster deserve credit for making this game fun to chat, watch, and ponder; its cult management systems lean into brutality in a way that makes logical sense while adding mechanical fun to the question of how players might advance as cult leaders. One of the game’s skill trees asks a blunt question early on: would you rather build beds for your followers or develop the ingenuity to build disease-reducing tombs? At first, you can’t have both. Ah, making decisions.

But this game does more than just lift the mechanics of another decades-old game. Although its randomly generated battle levels are clearly inspired by Binding of Isaac, Worship of the LambThe leveling system of requires careful curation of the cult’s farming region, in terms of resource management, skill tree decisions, and even side quests to unlock more “tarot cards” (which are shuffled and distributed randomly during fights to increase your chances of survival). A series of unlockable village outposts near your cult add everything from fun new characters to side quests to mini-games, including a clever fishing mode and a tricky and surprisingly engaging spin on Yahtzee.

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