On Break From Cult of the Lamb

So, I spent a lot of time playing Cult of the Lamb. I even wrote about it last week. Unforuntaely, I got about halfway through the game (by my estimation, anyway. It might be longer than I think it is or shorter than I hope it to be) and a series of bugs rendered my save file almost unusable. Tack on constant performance issues, rituals failing to execute after selecting them, stuff disappearing from the game when I save and reload or between game launches, and various combat-related bugs that are responsible for all but one of my deaths, and it becomes clear that this was ready for cross-platform release. Also making it super clear is that many of these problems still exist on the PC version of the game, but with nowhere near the level of severity or consistency. I don’t know if I’ve ever played a game that felt as low-priority when it comes to console adaptions.

As I did research over the weekend, to figure out if anyone had figured out workarounds to the bug that eventually broke my ability to complete my save file. A bunch of cultists instantly died after getting sick in a cut scene and their bodies disappeared from view, but the game thinks the bodies are still there so my remaining cultists are constantly getting sick. Attempts to remedy the situation by bringing the dead back to life has resulted only in the selected cultists disappearing from the resurrection menu without reppearing in the cult’s premises. In my research, I found that all console players, regardless of the console in question, seem to be having the same issues. Except for the performance issue, at least in terms of severity, because the Switch is relatively underpowered and can’t handle poor game performance as well as the various other consoles and PCs can. The performance issues are probably the same across all versions, but the symptoms varying wildly based on the specs of the system running the game.

It has been an all-around frustrating experience. My friends who got deeply into the game before I bought it were all playing it on PC, and they reported that everything was working fine, was being fixed quickly, or was a relatively minor inconvenience. None of the people who I follow on Twitter or am friends with who wound up playing on a console were that deep into the game before I started playing it, which means that the game was still working perfectly fine for them. I hadn’t heard of the game until it was suddenly all over the internet, so I didn’t understand that this was a game being developed primarily for the PC and ported to the consoles.

I could have done some research of my own at any point in the process and learned enough to be more cautious in buying the game, but most of the posts about issues and game-breaking bugs only hit significant frequency in the days after I bought the game. If I had only looked, I could have made a more informed decision. I’d have found enough red flags to suggest I should wait a bit and I would have chosen to wait a bit longer. After all, I’m incredibly familiar with how much extra work it is to port a game to the Switch. I’ve watched many interesting indie or small-studio games come out for every other console except the Switch and seen the Switch get a promise of “we’re working on it” and I know enough of software development to understand just how much work adding an additional platform can be.

I wished they’d done a staggered release of the game. It seems clear from how slowly console updates are happening that the studio wasn’t prepared for the console releases and I find myself wondering why they did simultaneous release. I’m still incredibly new to this issue and have been doing what research I can, but there doesn’t seem to be much official word out there that I can find, only rampant speculation and that does no one any good. Honestly, it just sucks to see such a fun, engaging game be struck by so many game-breaking bugs, especially after putting so many hours into it. I don’t think I broke 20 on the game, but I know that all of that time is probably going to wind up being wasted even if I wait to play it again until there’s a more stable, less game-breaking version released for the Switch.

After all, I don’t think that any fix is going to undo stuff that has already happened. Best I can hope for is that the cultists corpses show up, that projectiles and bosses who act like projectiles stop turning invisible, and that I can rebuild my cult after losing most of it to insta-death and disappearing off the list of the dead. If none of those wind up coming through for me, I’ll have to restart. After all, I can’t exactly beat a boss whose attacks and movements are invisible every time I go fight them and, judging from the research I’ve done, this isn’t a planned feature of this boss or any of the others who did turn invisible but didn’t shoot invisible projectiles.

At this point, it’s still a game worth playing, just only on PC. Don’t get it for a console and find out, days later, that you can’t return digital games to the Nintendo Store. Which makes sense. I wasn’t exactly expecting to be able to return it (with the plan of then buying it for the PC), but I’m still disappointed that my only alternative to spending more money is waiting until whenever the Switch version becomes playable again. It’s just passing frustration, sure, but it hits hard given how much game progress is required to hit the particularly buggy parts of the game.

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