Halloween has come and gone, but that doesn’t mean it’s too late to get into the spooky mood. A great game to do that with is a little independent project called “Cultist Simulator.”
Developed by the independent game studio Weather Factory, “Cultist Simulator” is a deep, dark dive into a world of ancient lore and incomprehensible knowledge. Players assume the role of a denizen of a grimy American town in the 1920s. Down on your luck, you end up stumbling upon forbidden secrets of forgotten deities. As you continue to study them, you slowly begin to peek behind the curtain of reality, and the discoveries you make will either lead you to immense power as the head of a new order, or collapse your mind as you are consumed by the Old Gods.
This game is a love letter to the works of H.P. Lovecraft. Start to finish, it’s jam-packed with brilliant, ornate writing dripping with cosmic dread. Despite being conveyed entirely through text, as there are no animations or cutscenes to speak of here, this game still managed to succeed in unsettling me more than any game I have played recently.
“Cultist Simulator” presents its gameplay as a digital card game. The game begins with a few cards dealt to you to get you started and continues to unfold as you move cards around and place them into different slots on the table. I would compare it to a game of demented Solitaire, but that wouldn’t really do the game justice.
Experimentation is the name of the game in “Cultist Simulator.” There is no tutorial in this game, something that it proudly proclaims on its Steam store page. Instead, players are directly told to keep trying different things in order to make progress in the game. More often than not, this means that your first few playthroughs will end in failure, but the game is designed in such a way that it never gets frustrating.
Experimenting with different cards and seeing the effects that they have is fun, and every loss feels like a lesson learned on how to be a better cult leader. Combine that with the various different jobs to work, followers to recruit, and deities to worship, and you’ve got a game that is intensely replayable.
“Cultist Simulator” is a great time, provided you have the patience for its particular brand of fun. This game can be very slow and dry at times, a side effect of it being played as a card game most likely. That being said, the card mechanics work remarkably well and figuring out where to place your cards is a fun challenge, and the writing is downright superb. If anything at all in this game sounds like it would be up your alley, it can be picked up on Steam for $19.99. Not a bad price for a brilliant descent into the madness of the Old Gods.