Cultic Chapter 1 is a masterpiece. Cultic is deep, wonderfully atmospheric, and has clawed its way up to being one of the best boomer shooters in recent years against tough competition like Ultrakill, Dusk, and many more. We’re excited to be able to share with you what makes this game so compelling in our thorough and detailed Cultic review.
Why Consider Playing Cultic?
The retro-inspired FPS genre has been flooded with nonstop titles in the past five years, many making it big like Ion Fury or Postal: Brain Damaged, which stay close to their 90’s roots, while other games, like Doom Eternal, mix up the formula.
Cultic combines the best of both worlds, providing a unique take on the classic FPS genre through its environmental storytelling, beautiful combat, and much more while retaining a good rip on those gritty and pixely elements we grew up on.
All of this and more was created by one man, Jason Smith. Everything in Cultic, the art, code, game/level design, sound, and music, was created by Jason Smith. Not only is this beyond impressive, but the level of polish in every aspect of the game is incredible and deserves its overwhelmingly positive rating on Steam.
A Bloody Inspiration
The Blood experience lives again. Cultic is inspired by Blood, a dark and brutal game regarded as one of the best Build Engine games released in the 90s. Blood introduced so much to the FPS genre, and Cultic takes a lot of inspiration from Blood in all aspects of the game, including environmental set pieces, enemy variety, visual design, and theming.
For those who have never played Blood, Cultic takes inspiration in several ways, such as the protagonist rising from the grave at the beginning of the first episode and fighting against robe-wearing cultists.
Cultic also uses a muted color palette of browns, grays, and familiar weapons like the Blood’s iconic dynamite with a zippo. However, Cultic isn’t just an homage as it brings tons of new gameplay strengths; one being a highly intractable environment and wonderful mixtures of action and horror.
Related Article: Complete Cultic Beginners Guide
Review of Cultic Environmental Storytelling
Cultic is very gritty, dark, and addicting. For those looking for a great story, Cultic surprises you with how much is implied through the environments, set pieces, and notes you find along the way. Cultic gives the player breadcrumbs, which entices you to think about what’s happening to everyone as you progress through each level.
Uncovering Secrets: A Detective’s Atmospheric Journey
This take on storytelling is a fantastic fit for the silent protagonist we play, The Disgraced Detective. This quiet Detective has been tracking down missing reports, disappearances, murders, and other reports in the small town of New Grandwell in the year 1963. Our protagonist has been taken off the case but can’t stop searching for answers, which leads them to follow the occult.
This is all the information the player is given in the small intro cinematic, and the rest of the story is told through small notes found around each level, with a heavy emphasis on letting the environment tell the story.
This Game Brings Something New to the Retro-FPS Genre
On top of the wonderful and creepy atmosphere Cultic brings, dozens of elements make this game stand out from the crowd. One of the first things players can find in the first level is plenty of ways to interact with the environment. Hatchets, lanterns, barrels, and lots more can be picked up and thrown for a devastating effect. Low-tier enemies can and will instantly gib, and it never gets old.
The level design also provides many open areas and linear sections, giving you many ways to approach combat. For instance, the first building you enter in Cultic has a vent located above the door.
You can parkour into this vent and discover your first secret and an opening into the first combat room. You can approach either normally or through this vent with dynamite, and this level of approachability remains constant throughout each level.
A Gritty, Immersive, Shooter Gaming Experience
Everything feels crunchy, from firing your gun and opening doors to enemy encounters. It’s gorey and has a rustic tone that matches the environment. Even the way enemies explode feels unique in Cultic’s special little way.
Everything feels similar at first to other boomer shooters, but there’s always an extra level of detail or something extra you will find out later because Cultic always has something new for you, all the way till the end.
There are even two terrifyingly powerful and challenging Cultic bosses that you will need to work hard to overcome.
Visual Cultic Review: Bloody, Gritty, and Beautiful
Visually, this game is gorgeous, yet in a sick and twisted way. Cultic is very grimy and muddy and has that aged look that gives the lightest or darkest areas a creepy vibe.
While most of the game’s color pallet is brown, blue, and gray, everything surprisingly stands out. Combining 2D, 3D, and tons of voxels, Cultic has a distinct art style that not only mimics Blood’s art style but also surpasses it in several set pieces.
Speaking of set pieces, every level in Cultic has at least one eye-popping set piece that looks amazing or horrifying. As previously mentioned in our review, Cutltic loves using its environment to tell the majority of its story, and this is showcased by introducing new Cultic enemies or giving the player a taste of how the situation is getting worse and worse.
Reviewing Cultic’s Level Design and Environments
One of our favorite set pieces is burned into our memory, and while it nearly made us fall out of our chair, it’s one of the best parts of Cultic. Early on, there is a section the player must delve into, a multi-leveled boat with a message written in blood that says “Stay Away .”
Naturally, you must venture down into the bottom level of this ship, and you are forced to crawl through a vent. The environment drastically changes as the ambient background track fades out, leaving you with pure silence apart from your footsteps.
We won’t spoil what happens next in our Cultic review, but there are several moments scattered throughout each level that cause tension to rise and fall, just like this one. From chaotic and sprawling open combat sections that feel fun to race and tear through to creepy and horrific ambient sections that make you slowly turn every corner.
Cultic’s Sound Design
Every vibrant or scary section carries a lot of weight from Cultic’s beautiful sound design. Footsteps, gunshots, monsters, or even environmental sounds help build up this beautiful and cryptic environment. The sound design helps combat feel more punchy, meaty, and satisfying, whereas horrific sections feel creepy.
It’s honestly amazing how much Cultic’s sound design can drastically impact its sections. Sometimes, you end off on a high note of a bloody and exciting fight and enter into a dark room, where the music cuts and the subtle sound design immediately shifts the mood, making you on edge or even scared. Very few games can accomplish this well, and Cultic can change its tone beautifully and seemingly effortlessly.
The Occult and Their Monsters
It isn’t a retro-FPS game without its well-crafted enemy roster, and Cultic does not disappoint. Cultic’s enemies are simple yet effective, and each enemy has a role and serves a purpose in combat. The color of their robes can identify basic cultists. Cultists wearing brown carry hatchets, blue ones use Handguns, and Red cultists carry a Shotgun and dynamite.
Each enemy is simple to understand and has predictable behavior and sounds that make them fun to fight. However, just because an enemy is simple to defeat doesn’t mean it’s always easy. The creator Jason Smith certainly knows how to properly place enemies, which is a crucial skill to having a fun and or difficult boomer shooter.
Accompanying the beautiful level designs, enemies are placed wonderfully, giving these basic enemies a bit of an initial edge that you must play around. For example, Hatchet cultists will always be in front, ready to swarm you and soak up damage so ranged enemies can get time to move or push you in different ways.
It all sounds simple on paper, but it’s pulled off with expertise that even words will fail to describe how well-crafted Cultic Chapter 1 is. We loved playing Cultic while crafting our review and are still enjoying it now that we’re done.
One Man Army
You’ll need a lot of bullets and dynamite to handle these cultists and the monsters that have been created; thankfully, like the rest of Cultic, the weapons are fantastic to use. From throwing a hatchet to firing a Handgun, each weapon feels impactful, punchy, and satisfying to use.
Like typical retro-FPS games, ammo is limited through pickups, and some types are rarer than others, making stronger weapons have more limited use, thus making them better for dealing with tougher enemies. You will eventually obtain all weapons by the end of your playthrough, but if you want the most out of each, you need to keep your eye out for secrets for that sweet limited ammo.
As for the weapons themselves, you have your standards, like your Handgun, Shotgun, Grenade Launchers, and so on, but outside of their beautiful animations and sound design, each weapon can be upgraded.
Weapons Can be Upgraded in Cultic
You can find weapon parts scattered throughout several levels and secrets, giving you more options for upgrading your favorite guns. One of my favorite weapon upgrades in Cultic gives the Grenade Launcher an alt-fire that allows you to slam fire grenades.
Upgrades don’t make or break the game, and you can undoubtedly beat Cultic with no problem without using upgrades, but there’s always that nice extra found in all aspects of the game, even in its weapons. Also, recently at the time of writing, more weapon alternatives have been teased for Chapter 2, meaning Cultic will get even more guns in the future.
The Perfect Soundtrack
This amazing soundtrack is a good enough reason to buy Cultic. There’s a fantastic mixture of headbanging or groovy tracks that come up during big open combat sections, mixed with creepy and heart-pounding tracks for horror sections. Each song is tied to one level and one section, making each track more memorable and enhancing each game moment.
The first battle music you hear in the first level won’t be present for the rest of the game, so it leaves a lasting mark and a better memory moving forward, unlike other games that reuse the same music too much.
With this attention to detail and how every track is limited to specific sections, it leaves a better impression that the music was crafted to match the pacing and tone and better reflect the environment the player is currently experiencing.
Every track that ties into a horror section makes you feel like the occult is up to something new, while each upbeat track has a backing sense of justice, reminding you that you are a detective trying to get to the bottom of all of this.
Our Cultic Review Final Verdict: 9/10
Cultic is planned to be an episodic experience, making the first chapter a standalone release, and the upcoming second chapter will be separate, possibly like Doom Eternal’s DLCs. But if Cultic’s future chapters have this much attention to detail and have enough spin put on the standard retro-FPS formula, this series might be one of the best boomer shooters of the new area.
Cultic is not only an absolute blast, but it’s a beautifully crafted experience in all its forms, and we would recommend this game to anybody.
Regardless, if you are experienced with boomer shooter games or are looking for your first game to sink your teeth into, Cultic exceeds expectations and gives you more than your money’s worth.
That’s all for now; happy slaying!
This review can also be found on OpenCritic.com.
Cultic Chapter 1 is a masterpiece. Cultic is deep, wonderfully atmospheric, and has clawed its way up to being one of the best boomer shooters in recent years against tough competition like Ultrakill, Dusk, and many more.