Cultist Simulator, the review

Cultist Simulator it is a strange title: it is full of problems, it can lead the player to exasperation, but at the same time it is a profound and important experience, which does not leave indifferent. At the end of each game you feel inexplicably relieved, but at the same time you feel a certain restlessness, because almost without realizing it we have committed more or less atrocious acts, participating in a multifaceted and exciting story. Cultist Simulator is also an extremely complex video game, while being incredibly simple to play. Alexis Kennedy, the author, is no stranger to experimentation. Already with Sunless Sea, made with Failbetter Games, he had managed to push the very vision of narrative video games to its limits, using minimal means to create a coherent and structured story, however open to the player's initiative. After all, he had tried to do something similar with his previous titles: Fallen London, Machine Cares! and Dragon Age: The Last Court, only he couldn't take his ideas to their extreme consequences.

Cultist Simulator, the review

Game mechanics and gameplay

At the beginning of Cultist Simulator we are faced with two cards: a verb and an object. By clicking on each one you can read a short description, unusually well written. There is no tutorial explaining what to do, but understanding that you have to combine the two cards to produce a certain action in a given time is not difficult. The beauty is that the game mechanics they are practically all here. Item cards used with verb cards produce other cards and unlock other verbs, which open up the game to a myriad of different combinations needed to pursue our main goal, which is to found a secret cult and make it operational. At the beginning you are a bit confused, because you don't understand what to do and because in a short time you are really full of papers whose meaning you don't understand.

Cultist Simulator, the review

Moreover, some disappear after a certain period of time, apparently without giving us any explanation. What happens? Let's say that the first game of Cultist Simulator should be understood as a way to experiment, understanding the nature of one's actions. It's like standing in front of a table full of elements and being invited to combine them together to see what happens. With experience you naturally find yourself making thoughtful decisions, following the flow of the game. The aura of mystery that surrounds our actions during the first few hours disappears and we begin to conceive the gameplay no longer in terms of cards to be paired, but of choices to be made to obtain certain results. The cards become commands of a kind of large management system in which we must be able to expand our cult by organizing research expeditions, studying occult books, hiring new followers, stopping, even in a violent way, those who want to oppose us and so on, all balancing needs. economic, mental and physical (represented by numbers at the bottom of the screen).

Exploring all the available options you will discover deeper mysteries, which lead to unimaginable arcane knowledge, which in turn open up to new situations, increasingly dark and interesting, all interspersed with events that create moments that are as intriguing as they are morally hard. In the end we realize that we have lived a real narrative experience, the story of which we have been told card after card, description after description. We have conducted it, but at the same time we have been guided. It's hard to put into words the intrinsic beauty of the gameplay di Cultist Simulator. Let's imagine that when you look at the pictures you are only seeing a card game. The deceptive appearance is part of his rhetoric, that is, of his having been conceived as a title for initiates that rejects anyone who does not have the desire to experiment and deepen its secrets. If you think about it, those who want to enter a cult must make the effort to understand its nature and rituals and cannot expect a tutorial that explains what to do. In short, what many would perceive as a defect, can instead be considered as a real design choice, which aims to give greater awareness of the game and what you are doing.

Cultist Simulator, the review

Graphics and defects

End who Cultist Simulator can be considered a conceptual masterpiece. Unfortunately it has some flaws and it is also serious. We don't care much about the technical part: the game is what you see in the images, nothing more, nothing less. It works for what it has to do and doesn't pretend to be what it isn't. The problems that plague him are purely mechanical in nature, so to speak. Meanwhile, the pop-up window system that characterizes the interface is not very comfortable and tends to accumulate warnings in case of errors or particular events. Especially in the beginning, when you tend to try harder, it can be really annoying. The verb windows then often end up overlapping the cards, forcing them to be moved constantly. As mentioned, with the hours the problem diminishes because the right automatisms develop, but it is clear that something better could be done to increase readability and reduce disturbing elements.

Cultist Simulator, the review

Anyway Cultist Simulator's biggest problem it is not even that, but it is due to the very nature of the game, which tends to create negative loops from which it becomes almost impossible to get out. By negative loops we mean all those situations in which it does not seem allowed to save oneself from a certain slope, no matter how many attempts are made. For example, during a game our character completely abandoned himself to madness and there was no way to take him back. In another case we ran out of economic resources and we were not given the opportunity to recover, not even starting from the minimum. It is true that similar situations occur above all when one has little experience and can also lead to interesting moments, but often they seem to be limits to the conceptual strength of the game, limits that hold back the player precisely in what he is invited to do: experiment.


Digital Delivery Steam, GoG Price 19,99 €




Your vote

Cultist Simulator is an ambiguous, interesting, exciting, but also problematic title. It leaves a great freedom of action to the player, while telling an exciting and profound story, but at the same time it slows him down, making him almost regret the amount of choices available to him. It still remains a beautiful experience and one of those titles that, if taken from the right direction, are capable of leaving their mark. Make your assessments carefully.


  • Conceptually intriguing
  • Many choices available
  • Exciting when it works
  • Frustrating when it doesn't work
  • Clunky interface in some moments
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