I learned it's a bad idea to play Cultic at night. If you're freaked out by chainsaws and get the heebie-jeebies from the paranormal, you're sure to find Cultic a worthwhile fright. It's a pleasant surprise to get a boomer shooter that leans into the horror element. It's also a bonus that Cultic is a well-made, original shooter that proves there are still fresh takes on the progressively saturated boomer shooter genre.
Brought to you by developer Jasozz Games and publisher 3D Realms, in Cultic, you'll comb through spooky and cryptic towns filled with cultists and supernatural beasts. Cultic leans heavily into the immersive sim element by creating larger maps with interactable objects and multiple ways to tackle combat situations in the absence of ammo.
Creepin' Through Cultic
I've been lucky enough to play Cultic several times before this initial release, and each time was progressively more intriguing. The first level opens with the player character waking up in a mass grave. Nearby is an axe -- your only weapon at this point -- and soon you'll find yourself trudging through a rural cultist encampment. This first level is rather grounded in reality, so there's nothing too crazy to fight beside your average cultist. A bit near the end of the first level -- both in the demos I played and in this final version -- it's clear Cultic is more than meets the eye.
Hanging bodies in a dark, damp cave and a chainsaw-wielding maniac soon follow and brings chills down my spine. Later on, you'll take on more cultists, but also skeletons, possessed armor, psychokinetic ghosts, and even fleshy horrors. I love it when a shooter gets progressively more creepy or outlandish as you progress. Indeed, from rural towns, you'll go to a system of mineshafts, to an asylum, and end up in a dig site with many surprises in store.
Cultic is exceedingly gritty and creepy with its graphical style. The game's reliance on hues of browns and greys elicit an ominous atmosphere everywhere you go. An asylum you explore near the second half of Cultic's campaign lacks a lot of lighting and results in one of the eeriest FPS levels I've played this year. The inside of this asylum is a wreck, clearly abandoned for a while. The lack of lighting and old-fashioned, dated interior makes for an unsettling experience. With hints of immersive sim flavor in its level design and general ambiance, it's no wonder Cultic is so atmospheric -- it truly excels in this regard.
This is a game made by a solo developer, but nonetheless, I was surprised to find the soundtrack was composed by one person. It's not often you find a developer talented enough to create every aspect of a game, crafting the gameplay, visuals, and soundtrack. We've seen rare talent succeed before in this regard -- take, for example, ConcernedApe of Stardew Valley fame -- and Jasozz Games achieves a similar result. It's hard to describe the feelings the score evokes, but ultimately it's fitting of the oppressive and bleak theme. Flavors of hopelessness and dread linger in the notes as you explore, yet doesn't shy away from more intense songs as the action ramps up.
Shootin' Through Cultic
A more restrictive arsenal of weapons is used over the often dozen or more guns you might find in a typical boomer shooter. As such, each weapon fits into its own niche, from the rapid-firing, close ranged STEN submachine gun to the long-range FG42 sniper. You're able to get upgrade parts to enhance the capabilities of your weapons, like adding extra damage, lessening recoil, or sometimes offering an alt-fire mode. Gunplay is crunchy and brutal no gun feels less capable than the other.
Immersive sim elements make an appearance in Cultic as well. You're armed with a kick (something every immersive sim should have) but it doesn't come in use very often. Nonetheless, if you find yourself without ammo and armed with only your axe, it could come in handy. Various lanterns are used as lighting for darker areas and can be shot to create infernos to set enemies aflame; likewise, you can actually pick these fixtures up and toss them, which is a handy alternative to using precious ammo.
There are plenty of breakable boxes and exploding barrels as well, so Cultic feels a bit like a playground. The first level feels like it really leans into the immersive element side of things by giving players opportunities to roll explosive barrels upon enemies from a steep cliff and also has plenty of lanterns, but the more I progressed the less I saw these opportunities. While Cultic is in its full release, this is just the first chapter of planned content, so I hope Jasozz Games adds more opportunities to mess around with objects in the future.
The weakest element in Cultic isn't the gunplay, but the shortcoming does lead to some unfulfilling moments when fighting enemies. The issue is, the AI in Cultic is rather stupid. There were many instances where AI was stuck running into an object while trying to get me. Many times, AI will walk into a wall instead of leaving a room if I'm on the other side. If they simply left the room and walked down a hallway, they'd be able to reach me. I'm normally forgiving of AI occasionally getting confused, but this is a frequent thing in Cultic and hampers the experience. When everything else is quality work, the seemingly brain-dead AI is all the more evident.
Cultic Review | Final Thoughts
There are multiple levels of difficulty in Cultic, and as a reviewer I typically choose the "Normal" so I can gauge the experience of an average player. In this case, Normal might be a bit too easy. Sure, I've played a fair share of boomer shooters and I have a few tricks up my sleeve, but the AI makes a lot of encounters trivial. The bulk of enemies are cultists and are also rather weak, requiring a few bullets at most. There are some bigger enemies that soak up bullets and take a bit more strategy, but they aren't all that abundant and almost all of them can be cheesed by exploiting the weak AI. The final boss encounter, too, was a trifling matter and posed no challenge. Throughout the entire campaign, I died probably three times, and two of those instances were from me being too careless with explosives.
Nevertheless, Cultic is an excellent shooter. With Cultic's larger, fairly open-ended levels, I always felt like I arrived where I needed to without gameplay feeling linear. Gunplay is tight and the limited weapon variety feels just right, with each gun getting equal use. Of course, the atmosphere and general vibe of Cultic is positively spooky. It's no coincidence this is launching in October, so if you're looking for a shooter with just the right amount of horror, now's the time to play Cultic.
TechRaptor reviewed Cultic on PC with a copy provided by the publisher.
- Creepy and Atmospheric Graphics, Soundtrack
- Immersive Sim Elements Add Fun to Gameplay
- Chunky, Polished Gunplay
- Unsophisticated AI
- Normal Difficulty is Still Rather Easy