Cultist Simulator: Initiate Edition is a narrative-driven card game, developed by Weather Factory, and published by Playdigious. Cultist Simulator: Initiate Edition is a strategy role-playing card game, with the unique theme of the occult. As far as card games go, this is an interesting and unique addition. If you are already a fan of card games in general and specifically single-player ones, this is worth a look.
In my experience, there are not as many single-player card games as there are multiplayer ones. I always love single player experiences,so I was immediately intrigued. Every playthrough of Cultist Simulator is a unique experience, utilizing player flexibility, and some randomness to do so. While all these are positives, there are also serious downsides. Everything is explained very vaguely, and I don’t know what most of my actions were supposed to represent within the game’s world. I really couldn’t explain to you how to play, even after playing it for hours. Even with consulting the in-game help as much as I could, I’m still very unclear on how many of the game mechanics work. Most of what I was able to figure out came through trial and error. Luckily, the game doesn’t punish you harshly for making mistakes and thus allows you to learn and experiment. It was also fun trying to figure out how things work, and the first few hours were quite fun. However, after these initial hours and playthroughs, I found myself still pretty confused on a large part of the game’s rules. Eventually, it became frustrating and discouraging when you get repeatedly stuck on any one of the game’s many mechanics. I’m still not clear on the reason for at least half my deaths.
Cultist Simulator markets heavily on its narrative strength, and it somewhat delivers. The positives first, it immediately establishes it’s telling a narrative, and a compelling story context is given to your actions. The story isn’t static either, the player hasn’t significant influence over how the plot plays out. Your choices and the cards you use affect what takes place and what order it is presented. There are often multiple plots going at once which can make it somewhat overwhelming. Unfortunately, the narrative suffers from the same issue that the gameplay does: ambiguity and confusion. Like the game’s rules, I’m only half clear on what is actually going on in the story. On a brighter note, it doesn’t force the story on you. You can choose to somewhat ignore the story if you choose, and focus on the gameplay instead. On the other hand, with some time investment, the story is slowly revealed. Through the persistent introduction of new story bits and plenty of new cards to experiment with, Cultist Simulator is packed with plenty of versatility to encourage casual and hardcore players to keep playing.
What the game does best is a strong presentation, and does so using a very unique theme. It focuses on the occult and paranormal and adds 1920s setting and aesthetic. It is immediately clear that a lot of care went into the visuals, everything is beautiful, charming, and always feel cohesive to the themes of the game. The music and sound effects create an incredibly immersive experience. Each card has its own sound so you can hear what is being placed or drawn from the deck. The music blends a mysterious sound with 1920s style music creating a very effective soundtrack. This all combines to make an ambiance and atmosphere that is effective, and memorable.
Overall, Cultist Simulator is a unique and fun addition to the card game genre. It has charm, originality, a lot of accessibility, and offers something to a variety of players. Anyone who enjoys interactive storytelling, card games, or strategy will find something here to have fun with. If you are on the fence about this game, I recommend looking up a video of some gameplay. If any of its elements are to be found intriguing, then I think the game is worth a go. At the very least, the developers put enough effort and care into the game that is worth supporting. However, if you aren’t a fan of any of the genres this game touts, then this game may not be for you.
Score: 7 out of 10
Reviewed on Nintendo Switch