In a year rife with excellent indie games, Cult of the Lamb always stood out. Though some grow weary of the ubiquitous rogue-likes and rogue-lites these days, this game puts a unique spin on the formula to create one of 2022's most ingenious gameplay cycle.
Essentially, this is a game of two halves. The first is a fairly typical dungeon crawler with all sorts of random elements. Runs through these dangerous zones are pretty quick, lasting around 10 minutes, but the fast-paced combat and meaningful loot makes them no less rewarding. After defeating bosses or just exploring thoroughly, you'll find cute little animals in need of rescue. They're sent back to your cult for indoctrination, where things get much more interesting (and a little more sinister).
Back at base, the game turns into a base-building management sim. You need to construct new buildings, feed your followers, and host sermons in order to keep everyone alive and happy, gradually growing in power in the process. What makes Cult of the Lamb so good is how its two halves coalesce. The dungeon runs progress the story and reward you with new followers and plenty of resources, while managing your cult effectively will slowly allow you to become increasingly strong. With a snappy day/night cycle keeping things ticking along, there's never a lull, never nothing to do, and the result is an incredibly compelling loop.
On top of all that, it's just so darn charming. The art is adorable, though it's not shy about showing the darker side of its creepy cult premise. Along with some fun dialogue and characters, the game strikes a wonderful, darkly funny tone throughout. It's just so well put together, and its core loop had us totally hooked right to the very end.