Few companies have as much experience as 3D Realms when it comes to retro first-person shooters. Names like Duke Nukem and Shadow Warrior are synonymous with the legendary developer, and that legacy is carried on today as 3D Realms creates and publishers new titles. Cultic is going to be a part of that legacy, if my preview with it is anything to go by. Developed by Jasozz Games, I've watched the development of this title from its early stages as the creator published various tweets about his work in progress. When 3D Realms picked Cultic up as the publisher, I knew we were seeing something special, and indeed, Cultic has the makings of another hit.
Cultic is Full of Dark and Gritty FPS Action
Retro FPS titles (often called "boomer shooters") I take interest in typically have one or more elements that really "hook" me. We're spoiled for choice with this genre, so I look for marks of quality or some sort of unique aspect. For me, Cultic's hook is its incredibly unique visual style. It's dark and gritty, immediately setting a tone and specific atmosphere. It takes advantage of a darker color scheme to bring about feelings of mystery and dread as you explore the game's mysterious world.
The way in which sprites and assets are rendered in Cultic creates a very pixelized feel, but it's not necessarily the same type of style as you'd see in Doom or newer boomer shooters like Dusk. And though it does thematically resemble Dusk in this first stage I previewed, with its cultists and old-fashioned period in which it's set, there's nothing quite like Cultic out there. On his Twitter, developer Jason Smith calls it a "crunchy retro shooter," which really encapsulates the game quite well in just a few words.
The gameplay is as engaging as the visuals; however, while this is a graphically rugged-looking game (in the best way possible), Cultic controls buttery smooth. Players begin this demo on top of a mass grave and picking up a nearby ax immediately arms the player with a valuable melee weapon. You'll wander into a large building filled with what could only be hostile cultists, and the ax has a satisfying weight to it when you go for a chop. Soon you'll arm yourself with an old Mauser-style pistol that shoots fast and makes quick work of cultists. It sounds chunky and powerful despite being the starter gun, which is a great sign to see.
Throughout the demo, I only found one other gun -- a double-barreled shotgun. It did what I would expect a powerful shotgun to do, and that was tear cultists to bits. It's also satisfying to use, as any good shotgun should. And there is definitely no doubt, Cultic pays homage to Monolith Production's 1997 FPS, Blood in more ways than one. That's because, like Blood, there's a lighter that you can use to illuminate dark areas, but more importantly, plenty of dynamite to wreak havoc on cultists. Where in Blood the dynamite acted more like a grenade than anything else, in Cultic it adds some nice immersive sim flair and far more destruction.
Cultic really shines with what I'd say are its immersive sim elements. Players can throw dynamite to cause insane destruction and take out groups of enemies. You can pre-light a stick and throw it, or throw a stick at the ground unlit and shoot it when some pesky enemies come close. Fire is used in a similar fashion, where you're able to throw or shoot lamps to set enemies on fire. These explode with great fanfare and literally rain fire down, igniting the robes of cultists. Other items such as boxes, barrels, and chairs can be thrown to hurt or stun enemies. And any immersive sim worth its chops has a kick, so of course, Cultic has one as well.
I wouldn't say Cultic is a full-blown immersive sim -- this isn't Deus Ex or Thief -- but the elements are there. It's going to be interesting to see if Jasozz Games leans more into that genre in later levels. For now, there are definitely some crafty ways you can approach combat or scrounge for resources. I moved a crate under an inconspicuous air vent and was able to break into it for valuable resources. I did some light platforming to access a barricaded area with tons of ammo and health, and afterward I axed away at some boards to get myself out. I'm sure I could have found and stacked boxes to enter that area if I wanted. There's a lot of potential here!
I'm quite excited to see what else Cultic has in store. Like Dusk, I think there's more going on than meets the eye -- when cultists are involved, there's always some supernatural elements at play. And while I saw a hint of the supernatural in one frightful sequence near the end of the level, we'll have to wait and see how heavy Jasozz Games goes on spookiness. Having played this demo when it was originally made public, I see this new build has so many great improvements, so I know we're in for a treat when Cultic releases in the future.
TechRaptor previewed Cultic on PC using a copy provided by the publisher.