If you were a fan of first-person shooters in the 90s, there’s a good chance you played games built on the Build Engine. Titles like Duke Nukem 3D, Shadow Warrior, PowerSlave, and Blood will probably stand out the most, with each offering gruelling shooting experiences that brought the most out of the engine. Cultic looks to replicate that experience with its Build Engine-inspired action, with the stylish old-school shooting offering everything you’d expect from a title from the era.
Check out some screenshots down below:
Cultic puts players in the role of an investigator who was deeply wrapped up in a series of disappearance cases, but found himself murdered by a strange cult when he seemed to be onto a substantial lead. That’d normally be game over, right? Well, luckily for him he has risen from the dead, giving him a second shot at cracking the case and, of course, bringing down the cult that were behind it all. There are plenty of notes to be found across the environment that flesh things out, so it’s easy to get invested in the world and learn more about its sadistic mysteries. It’s not the most in-depth narrative you’re going to see in a first-person shooter, but offers enough intrigue to ensure the game is about more than just shooting baddies in the face.
That’s not to say that blasting your enemies with an array of weaponry isn’t fun though, because Cultic really nails the action aspects of the experience. Not only do your weapons feel like they pack a punch (which is something most noticeable when you see your enemies get blown to pieces with the shots you unload), but they also look the part too. You shouldn’t expect to see the outrageous sort of weaponry that other shooters of the era might have had (Cultic feels like it sticks to its roots with its 1960s vibe), but the likes of the luger, sawn-off shotgun, machine gun, and even throwing axes all feel good to use. It’s even possible to lay traps for enemies if you want to take a slower approach and let them come to you, whilst lobbing dynamite is the perfect way to clear out a crowded area.
“The shooting-fanatic side of me did see me approach the game with an all-guns blazing mindset a LOT, but there were also times where it was easier to utilise cover and pick off foes carefully or let them come to me with a mixture of traps and molotov cocktails at the ready.”
You can even upgrade your weapons as you progress, adding an extra element of strategy to the game where you can cater your arsenal to suit your needs. Luger ammo feels plentiful, for example, so it’s a good idea to soup it up and ensure that it remains a worthy weapon to take down the game’s tougher foes towards the backend of the game. On the flip-side, who needs a luger when an upgraded sawn-off shotgun inflicts SO much damage (and even from range)? With limited upgrade resources but plenty of different ways to utilise them, Cultic gives players the freedom to shape their toolset how they see fit.
That same fluidity for the player is present in the game’s level design, which offers a multitude of ways to approach each set piece. The shooting-fanatic side of me did see me approach the game with an all-guns blazing mindset a LOT, but there were also times where it was easier to utilise cover and pick off foes carefully or let them come to me with a mixture of traps and molotov cocktails at the ready. I wouldn’t say that the game is designed to offer plenty of intricacy in your approach and it’s rare that one method would necessarily feel way more effective than others, but it’s nice to see that the option of variety is found across each environment if players want to embrace it. The only flaw I found was that some levels could feel a little bit too big in scale, but that’s more of a personal nit-pick as opposed to a real issue.
I’ve got to give a big shout out to the enemies of Cultic, with a REALLY cool mixture of both human-like cultists and more gruesome creatures to battle against throughout each of the ten levels. I’m a big fan of horror-themed shooters and Cultic nails it with its believable monstrosities that don’t ever feel too over the top. Not only do they all look sinister and fit the eerie vibe of the game perfectly, but they each bring something different from a gameplay perspective and challenge the player’s skills in varying ways. It adds an extra level of urgency to the game where you’ve got to be particularly wary of what weaponry an enemy possesses, whether it’s a foe who’ll pick you off from afar or one that’ll get right in your face to cause you harm. It really complemented the level design and ensures that Cultic constantly keeps players on their toes.
Check out some screenshots down below:
One thing that has been divisive amongst the first-person shooter community is Cultic’s aesthetic, which offers old-school graphics but with colour filtering ramped up high, making everything have this almost cartoon-like effect to it. It reminded me a lot of some of the older DOS games that were prominent in the early 90s, with it almost feeling like Cultic makes itself look more dated than it’s meant to feel.
Personally? I was a big fan. Sure, Cultic’s limited palette can make some enemy sprites look more murky than old-school, but there’s something about it that gives the game this unique visual vibe that helps it stand out when compared to the titles that inspired it – especially with some of the excellent environmental design which embraces the game’s creepy vibes. It won’t be for everyone, but it’s something that looks and feels atmospheric when actually playing the game.
Cultic is an engrossing first-person shooter that captures the old-school Build Engine vibes perfectly with its sinister and varied action. There’s plenty of room for strategy thanks to its clever level design and varied weaponry, whilst the vicious enemies will constantly keep players on their toes in the fight for survival. Whilst I’d argue that some of the levels could feel a little bit *too* big and the visual style will be divisive amongst players, Cultic is a lot of fun and an essential play for fans of 90s shooters.
Developer: Jasozz Games
Publisher: 3D Realms