Cultist Simulator: Initiate Edition

Game review by
Jeff Haynes, Common Sense Media
Cultist Simulator: Initiate Edition Game Poster Image
Dark sim challenges player's morality and patience.

Parents say

age 17+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

No reviews yetAdd your rating

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

Some attempts to seek knowledge, beauty, understand mysteries or discover peace, but you're actively seeking to create cults, exact revenge, eliminate authorities, and corrupt people. The negative outweighs any positive moments from characters.

Positive Role Models

Regardless of character career or actions you choose, the actions that you cause frequently involve pursuing darker goals and tactics. Whether you're gathering bodies to use in rituals, robbing graves, or using other tactics, you eventually dive into the darker side of your nature.

Ease of Play

You constantly have option to read about what your cards are, what they can do, and where they can be placed, but tutorial doesn't really go into depth about how you can make progress. Much of the gameplay revolves around trial and error, especially since success or failure can be left up to chance during playthroughs. Also, text on the Switch screen can be incredibly small and hard to read, even when docked on a television.

Violence

Players commit grave acts of violence in the game, sending followers to kill targets, cast dangerous spells, etc. But nothing is ever shown during play -- violence is described in text. Tasks resolve in crumbling to dust, and there's implied blood or bodies on some cards.

Sex

Cards may imply scantily clad women for some locations, but nothing is shown or seen during play.

Language
Consumerism

Windows version features downloadable content (DLC) packs that provides new gameplay elements, character roles, and paths to follow. Nintendo Switch version includes three of the four previously released packs, with newest pack available as DLC for $6.99.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Players can actively purchase opium for their dreams, which can have more than just negative health effects on their character.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Cultist Simulator: Initiate Edition is a strategy simulation card game for the Nintendo Switch and Windows PCs. Players take on the role of characters in a dark and unforgiving world that's affected by magic and strange societies. Regardless of the career path that players start on, they eventually find themselves seeking darker goals in pursuing supernatural mysteries, gathering disciples, and enacting revenge upon people opposing them. There isn't any inappropriate content shown during play, since everything takes place via cards on a playing surface. But there's plenty of dark content, such as the option to purchase opium for the exploration of dreams, which can cause more negative effects than harming the character's health. There's also implied scantily clad women on some cards. Violent acts are also frequently described, such as attempting to murder investigators or cast spells with corpses, and some blood and bodies can be seen on some cards. The Windows version of the game offers downloadable content (DLC) packs to expand on play options, while the Switch version includes three of the four previously released packs automatically and offers a fourth for $6.99.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byDaikei February 26, 2021

A very difficult, but enjoyable game.

This game is very much a game that explores occult themes, but this isn't something that can influence children. This game requires you to manage funds and... Continue reading
Parent of a 6, 9, 12, and 14-year-old Written byBrandiNR February 6, 2021

The game’s title says it all

Why would you want your child playing a game that simulates the occult? This came to my attention via the common sense media recommendation email. They recommen... Continue reading

There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.

What's it about?

CULTIST SIMULATOR: INITIATE EDITION is a roguelike strategy card game clearly inspired by Lovecraft and other occult tales. The game is set in a dark version of the 1920s, where just under the surface of day-to-day interactions, there are mysterious, unknown forces waiting to entice characters with supernatural power. Players take on the role of a character who starts out in a seemingly mundane job, such as a dancer, a doctor, or a priest. While they'll start out keeping their regular jobs, they'll soon discover through chance interactions, dreams, or other circumstances that something else is going on, propelling them on a strange path into the supernatural. Instead of visually detailed screens, gameplay is handled across a card table, with different areas allocated for specific tasks, such as exploration, study, and more. Playing a card triggers an event or a potential scenario that can be further enhanced by additional card traits or disadvantages, which will take the story in different and unique turns. Players may find themselves trying to discover a new path of enlightenment, becoming a herald that can usher in a new age. They can become a savvy magic user, casting spells and creating rituals that can reveal the secrets of the universe. Or they can possibly take a darker turn, gathering followers and enacting revenge against the people who wronged them. But players will need to be careful, because each action you choose will have a potential consequence, and can potentially cause death, madness, or other darker results, which can open up new pathways and options in future playthroughs. The Windows version offers additional storylines, events, and effects through downloadable content (DLC) packs, while the Nintendo Switch version includes three previously released packs and offers the newest pack, The Exile, as an add-on.

Is it any good?

This challenging strategy game will test your attention to detail, but limited tutorials and overreliance on chance hamper play in each session. Unlike other roguelikes, Cultist Simulator: Initiate Edition doesn't rely on graphics, fast-paced action, or reflexes to keep players engaged in its macabre action. Instead, it relies on descriptive text and scenarios triggered by cards you play to shape your character's journey from regular citizen to subject of mysterious circumstances. Cleverly, the tension arises in making choices that you think may be best for your character, only to discover that the item you need is just out of reach or the pursuit of knowledge has harmed your health. Then you find yourself making more complex choices, such as how far you're willing to risk yourself, or people around you, to accomplish your goals, many of which have nefarious ends attached. As in other roguelike games, you'll frequently fail and have to start over, taking what you've learned to potentially do better in the next session.

Unfortunately, there's much more trial and error to figure out how to make progress here. Cultist Simulator gives basic info about how to play, but there's virtually no additional help presented, so you'll stumble your way into scenarios without fully understanding them. Even worse, you're not guaranteed to run into the same situations, even if you play the same kind of character, making it harder to figure out what to do. It's further complicated if you're playing on the Switch, which automatically includes content from three expansion packs, and features extremely small text, even when docked to a TV screen. The end result is that you'll have to dedicate a lot of attention to learning every scenario and have some good luck to be successful between each play session. Not everyone will have the patience or interest for this steep play curve, but those who do will enjoy a clever, dark, and unique strategy experience.  

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about violence in video games. Is the impact of the violence in Cultist Simulator affected by the fact that no violence is actually shown? Would the impact be intensified if there were visuals instead of descriptive text?

  • What makes you curious? Is it learning new things, uncovering secrets, or discovering answers to puzzles? Are you concerned that curiosity could possibly lead to trouble?

Game details

  • Platforms: Nintendo Switch, Windows
  • Price: $19.99
  • Pricing structure: Paid
  • Available online? Available online
  • Developer: Playdigious
  • Release date: February 2, 2021
  • Genre: Simulation
  • Topics: Adventures
  • ESRB rating: T for Drug Reference
  • Last updated: February 18, 2021

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