It turns out that the cult is more than just midnight sessions in the woods and a few potentially toxic sweet drinks. On the contrary, it’s a complex network of recruitment, exploration, research, traditions, all while keeping your business going. At least that’s the idea behind Cultist Simulator, a card simulator with strong experimental connotations. So, will you fly away to this game or run for the hills after a moment of clarity?
We are in our 20s and you have just discovered that you want to start your own cult. Where should you start, you ask? The Cultist simulator begins its journey by asking you to choose your possessions from a generated pool. Are you a medium on your way to becoming a prophet? Perhaps a detective figuring out what people can do to each other? Inheritance choices determine a few starting cards, but I’ve found that they don’t affect the gameplay so much as the narrative aspect of the game.
The Cultist Simulator, a card game based on experiments, also focuses on mechanical cheating and perm death. You’re presented with a board, and as you play, you unlock active time slots for things like your dream fortune, your job, your foundation costs, and more. The goal is to experiment with the card slots you win and essentially see what happens. As mentioned, the game is time-based, so if the stopwatch indicates your dream state, you will be rewarded with new cards. If you have another matching card, you can put it back and see what happens next. The basic mechanism of this game is so simple: put in cards, wait, think for a while, win more cards or encounter a problem, put in more cards and start again.
The difficulty of this title really depends a lot on the experimental aspect and, in my opinion, shows absolute frustration. You see, Cultist Simulator contains no tutorials or game guides for a proper look. And for many, myself included, it will be a monumental stop. You’ll get cards, and you’ll certainly win new ones, but aside from a small narrative paragraph that tries to explain in detail what they might mean, you’ll mostly have to learn on your own who the characters are and how everything will be played. Unfortunately, I have to say that even after almost two hours of playing, I still had no idea what the many possible decision icons meant for a particular action I was doing.
Don’t get me wrong, I love good experimental board games and have spent a lot of time playing mobile games like The Sandbox Evolution, but I’m convinced that without this initial guide to the basic mechanics and structure of games, you’ll be terribly confused. Instead of focusing on experimentation, it’s more relaxed and interpretive. The game doesn’t mind not wanting to hold your hand, but I think this is a missed opportunity to help players at the beginning of their emblematic journey.
By following the location map and watching the active timers go off, you begin to collect some of the actions and reactions that will take place, and Cultist Simulator begins to reveal just how deep this rabbit hole can go. By recruiting henchmen and exploring libraries or other facilities, and by having good money dreams (which usually don’t turn out so well), you gain experience in trading cards and managing the game pretty quickly.
Fortunately, there is also a pause button so you can catch your breath and really think about your experimental actions, and take some time to read the highly engaging and well-written motorcycle story. In fact, this title gives the whole thing a look and feel through a simplistic, elegant yet mysterious style, story and overarching theme, coupled with the introduction of the cult time zone. I have only minor complaints about the presentation on the Switch platform. Mostly some of the text and icons are almost sub-pixels, and there are many subtle menu items that – since there is no tutorial in the game – remain hidden, but unfortunately are also essential for deeper gameplay.
As with most cheats, death still occurs frequently, in various ways. However, I found that my end as a farmer usually came abruptly and without really knowing why, until I realized that I had a timer ticking on another menu screen and a card request that I didn’t know how to fill out. I wanted to avoid these paths of certain death, but even as I experimented, I felt I needed to go online at Wiki to help guide me through the workings of the game.
Cultist Simulator brings a lot of flavor to the table, and I have no doubt that the game mechanics are certainly rich. Even in the time I’ve been working on the title, it’s clear that the content has a lot of depth and there are a lot of variables to see and explore. I would love to make the map more user-friendly, as I enjoy exploring the reactions to how different maps can work. But without any context, it was a very painful moment for me. Nevertheless, there is a mysterious appeal to being a would-be farmer, so I expect many people will still enjoy this way of playing a mischievous card of this nature. I myself do not linger long over the sweetened drinks offered along my route.
Review of the emblematic simulator
- Charts – 6/10
- Sound – 7/10
- Gameplay – 5.5/10
- Late Complaint – 6.5/10
Final Thoughts: Attention Value
Cultist Simulator offers a card game with a thematic framework and in-depth knowledge. The basic mechanics of the game are easy to manipulate, but the game has difficulty getting going due to an intentional design decision to avoid any tutorial or context to what is happening on screen, leaving me in limbo most of the time to play the game. Some will enjoy the alternative experiences, but not everyone will drink the Kool-Aid.
Alex has been actively involved in games since the release of Nintendo. He has made his hobby his profession and has been active in game development for a little over a decade now; he is currently the creative director of the studio.
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