I was wary of the cult of the lamb being sold to me as Animal Crossing meets Hades. The whole “this big thing” plus “this big thing” does not correspond, despite mathematical logic, to “a super big thing”. And yet, while I was playing Cult of the Lamb, it turned out super awesome. It was part Animal Crossing, part Hades, and while it really shouldn’t work, it landed in just the right place, borrowing the exact right elements from both games. The only problem is that at a certain point it stops being Hades, then it immediately stops being Animal Crossing.
I played Cult of the Lamb over the weekend, beating it in about 16 hours. I liked it. But I think I’m done with that. For reference, I have 250 hours on ACNH and 65 on Hades. You could say these are helped by the pandemic, and I could still go back to CotL, but that’s a massive difference. I don’t buy the idea that the value of a game’s quality should be judged against hours spent, but this is another example of how “that thing” plus “that thing” still has drawbacks, even when it lives up to expectations.
Cult of the Lamb lets you tackle four different dungeons four times each, before unlocking the final showdown. This is the Hades part. When you’re not fighting, you maintain a village by constructing buildings, sheltering villagers, harvesting crops, and upgrading everything in sight. This is the Animal Crossing part. Once you’ve won this final showdown, you can continue playing, returning to the original dungeons with tougher enemies and higher rewards. But I can’t help but wonder why I would bother.
At the end of the Worship of the Lamb (spoilers follow, although nothing you can predict), you fight the god you worshiped and overthrow him. You can then kill them or recruit them as a follower. I chose to recruit them, which they accepted, but not without a bitter mockery. The old god laughed at me that whatever I had done, whatever I would do, could no longer be blamed on him. I would be fully responsible for my actions. But my answer to that is ‘so what?’.
I know you can play the game as an evil boss, but my lamb only had goodness in his heart. I never sacrificed anyone. Each deceased villager was respectfully buried and given a funeral. I was monogamous. We ate hearty meals, had days off, several hospitals, and only one prison, which was mainly used to punish thieves. People only ate poo when the weird little weirdos asked for it. We had respect for the aged and for absolution, and we took our old and weary to Heaven. I was told throughout the game to kill, abuse, and manipulate for this god, and I refused. But now I don’t see why I would continue.
If I had run my cult as an evil, power-hungry leader killing my villagers for gain, I might have been inclined to backtrack. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. But I kept the peace. My followers have been saved from dungeons and spiders. Somehow they were needed for me to build better buildings, open dungeon doors, and return to my worship with the resources gathered for me, but they were never used. I saved them from death and gave them beds, food and safety, and in return they cut wood which enabled them to build better beds or planted seeds to make food.
I have no interest in proving my strength by hitting the fallen gods when they’re down. Maybe if I play long enough there is a payoff, but I already feel like I’m good when I could have been bad, the game doesn’t think I’m playing “right”, this which gives the impression that no gain will ever land. It’s not Hades anymore.
Back in the village, I see no reason to continue either. In my own way, I saw the villagers as a means to an end. I never mistreated them, but the purpose of my worship was to defeat the gods who had wronged me. Then, partly because of his bad ways and partly because he was threatening my life, I killed the god who had saved me too. I have nothing I care to build and no reason to have followers. It’s not Animal Crossing anymore either.
Cult of the Lamb is the perfect combination of Hades and Animal Crossing, with the only major disappointment that it has a clearly defined stopping point. You can play Cult of the Lamb forever, just like Animal Crossing or Hades. But if you’re a good little lamb, why would you?
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