Cultist Simulator: Inspectors, Dancers And Sacrifices
As Halloween fast approaches, I felt it best to round out the month with a dip into the labyrinth that is H.P. Lovecraft’s eldritch horror and investigate Cultist Simulator!
Cultist simulator is created by the guys over at weather studios; a small new dev team that broke off from the more well-known Fail Better studios. Hearing this I was certainly intrigued, In the past Fail Better has drawn me in with a laundry list of interesting stories, if through slightly slow and grindy mechanics.
Cultist Simulator is best described as a combination of solitaire, an interactive story book, and those flash games in which you combined elementals, to make more elements, to make more elements, more and more. You get the idea.
The moment to moment game play of cultist simulator is spent moving cards from one place on the board to an opposing tile, slow at first the game introduces each tile to the player presenting different challenges upon its introduction, keeping up with rent and tending to your mental health all tie into the many options each tile has, learning the intricacies of each tile and card respectively will be the key to one’s success.
When I first started playing cultist simulator I’ll admit, it really drew me in.
Simply by sliding cards about the games board, fluid movements transforming into events unfolding through each action, large swabs of text Glisson across the screen as you slowly uncover the mysteries of this new world.
I jump into it as a new character, and I’ve just been laid off from my job due to redundancy. I’m forced to find a way to make a living between painting my dreams, and sorting through papers in the office of law. I was managing to scrap together enough to pay my landlords and eat dried rice for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
But then I had a curious dream…
Waking a new man after seeing a woman in black peel her face off, I decided to peruse the fine art of starting a cult!
At first, this seemed like an interesting endeavor; inspire cultists, read textbooks, kill local inspectors, all the while the music creating a nice, soothing environment in which to drop corpses into rivers.
It’s all great, but then we get to the mid game of a character’s playthrough, where the difficulty spikes emerge. You find yourself quickly out of resources, and unable to meet the window of winning the game properly through ascension.
This wouldn’t be so troubling if play throughs weren’t perma-death. When you have no idea what you’re doing, and you’re encouraged to experiment with all of your rare resources, it’s a recipe for disappointment and disaster.
Sure it’s amusing the first time, but with repeated playthroughs I felt my patience begin to wavier.
Even when you know what you’re supposed to do, the window for winning can be frustratingly small. Having to feed cultists to the machine gets dangerous quickly and if you just get unlucky with RNG or make a mistake, the ritual will fail and the game will end your characters journey.
Unfortunately, though pleasant at first the dialogue can become tiring after a while. There are only so many times I can play the patient audience, as the same text box scrolls by again, and again. By the time I feel my eyes glossing over, I focus again to find the end result – +1 content, -1 gold. -10 sanity.
I revisited the game a little later, in hopes the new DLC would fix some of these issues, after cooler heads prevailed. Unfortunately, apart from giving you a new character to play through with different starting cards, and some balance changes so your cultists don’t die as much, it doesn’t seem to fix the issue. It’s a shame that it takes something like limited resources and luck based success to sully an otherwise really interesting game.
At the end of the day, Cultist Simulator is likely a perfect reincarnation of running a cult in real life: A lot of reading and recruiting, with a smidge of frustration and possible jail time as a result.
My advice? Get it on sale.
Cultist Simulator is available on Steam for $19.99 USD or your regional equivalent.
+ Great backing music for that nice relaxing evening
+ Great starting mystery with lots of strings to pull on
– Late game feels heavily RNG based
– limited resources means repeated playthroughs will be a thing