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Cultist Simulator: Initiate Edition review for Nintendo Switch, PC


Platform: Nintendo Switch
Also on: PC
Publisher: PLAYDIGIOUS
Developer: Weather Factory
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No
ESRB: T

The most important thing to know about Cultist Simulator: Initiate Edition can be found in the fine print on its eShop page. “BE WARNED!” it says. “This game has no tutorial — part of the challenge is figuring out how to play. It’s hard, but keep trying, and you’ll master it.”

I’m incredibly skeptical of that latter part — and not just because of my well-established, long-standing aversion to modern board games that require a lot of reading. At least with games like Wingspan or Catan, they don’t just include tutorials, it’s also easy to see how you eventually get good at them (provided you’re even the tiniest bit more patient than me, which honestly isn’t difficult).

With Cultist Simulator, I just don’t see it. It’s an obscure game that makes zero effort to make it obvious what you need to do. There’s a manual, of sorts, but it’s functionally useless, written in a tiny font that doesn’t tell you much even after you zoom in. In the game’s defense, it’s clear what the game wants you to eventually do — build up a Lovecraftian cult — but there’s zero indication of how you get to that from the game’s very first step (which involves you working a dead-end menial job).

I’ll admit that a big part of why I’m bitter about Cultist Simulator is that my playthroughs ended with me dying dozens of times, and I never once figured out why. Cultist Simulator throws all kinds of cards your way, and gives very little indication as to what any of them do. Even if you set it so that you only see the cards that are eligible to be played in any situation, you’re still likely to be playing the same cards over and over again in the hopes that one of them will unlock some unknowable next step. (And even when I did unlock next steps, the end result was inevitably that I’d get stuck in an unbreakable loop of putting down the same cards until, out of nowhere, I’d die.)

The crazy thing is, despite my constant frustration with Cultist Simulator, I still wouldn’t say that I hated it. It’s stylish, it’s got an interesting look and feel, and, even with my ineptitude, it’s pretty apparent that there’s a very deep game to be found here — if you can just unlock it somehow.

I expect, though, that unless you’re really into this game — or you just have boundless patience — you’ll probably not get anywhere close to unlocking the mysteries of Cultist Simulator. Maybe it’s just my loss to never uncover the many secrets that this game holds, but given how opposed the game seems to anyone discovering them, I think I’m content to just move on.

PLAYDIGIOUS provided us with a Cultist Simulator: Initiate Edition Switch code for review purposes.

Grade: C