Pithy Review: Cultist Simulator

Cultist Simulator is a slow burn, enticing the player to build suspense and danger by relying on the luck of the draw and some sensible decision-making. In the end, you’ll probably die or be taken away by the authorities, but you probably had a good run with a game steeped in details and world-building.

Cultist Simulator is a single player card-based storytelling game in a Lovecraft-era setting. You can imagine yourself as a menial laborerer, just trying to make a name for yourself in the right circles of the local occult scene without losing your job, contracting a horrible illness, or succumbing to the whimsical visions that haunt your waking dreams. You can also play as other characters in other settings (a doctor, a detective, a socialite), but in the end, your fate is up to the cards and the choices you’ve made along the way, whether it’s who to speak to and when, or simply whether or not your job is worth attending.

For people who aren’t familiar with card-based storytelling games, this one will take some practice and possibly many deaths before you can amass a decent cult following. Cultist Simulator is more akin to a choose-your-adventure visual novel rather than a traditional video game. There are just a lot of choices to make: you need to stay healthy in an era of dubious medicinal practices, you need to make sure you go to work and don’t get fired, you need to spend time dreaming and being creative, and you need to seek out people who can make your cult fantasties come true. There just aren’t enough hours in the day for that, are there? If you can’t keep up – you die. Each time your character dies, you have the option to start as a new character right away, and you’ll find that some aspects of your old spector may come back to haunt this new “innocent” cultist-in-training.

The game takes time, as you’ll spend hours reading the rich descriptions of odd books you find, or tales of your wild nights on the town. The game takes patience, as you may find yourself at death’s door right as you were making a breakthrough in your ultimate goal to become a cult leader. The game takes imagination, as static card graphics and eeiry sound effects are all you recieve by way of stimulation. All said, Cultist Simulator is a good and unique take on the horror genre, and well worth the time and mental effort it requires.