Scary religious cults have never been so chill
Genre: Strategy, Simulation
Developer: Sole Survivor Games
Release date: 14 Sep, 2021
Ever wanted to be the leader of a weird religious cult? Ever felt like recruiting people into a small, semi-closed community where they’ll only have each other would be a fun thing to do? Ever thought that people’s souls are too burdened by worldly possessions, and you would not mind taking on some of that burden form them? Then Honey, I Joined a Cult might be for you.
Honey, I Joined a Cult is a management game, similar to Theme Park, Prison Architect and to a lesser degree Evil Genius, but here you’re the leader of a fringe cult, and your goal is to make your cult grow and thrive, without attracting too much attention from the authorities, who might not take so kindly to the way you seek “donations” from vulnerable people.
Story & Setting
It’s the 70’s, or something like the 70’s at least, and the feds has just raided the cult that you were running. Most of your devoted followers have been taken away but somehow the feds don’t have enough dirt on you to take you in. What’s a cult leader to do in a situation like this?
The answer to that question is simple: Start a new cult. There are plenty of people who’s souls are heavily burdened by money out there, and who are just looking for some place to belong, and it’s your duty to help them with that. With the money you managed to liberate form your old cult you’re able to set up a small community for your newfound cult. Now you just need to decide who to worship and what kind of snazzy hat you’ll be wearing.
Honey, I Joined a Cult has a simple yet charming graphical style, that might remind you of Introversion Software’s Prison Architect, though slightly more cute. The game is viewed form an top down perspective, and all the characters are highly stylized, with oversized heads, tiny round hands and no legs. Despite their simplicity the characters are very expressive. The world around the characters is also stylized, and the characters fit right in with it. There’s not a lot of motion in the world though, if a character is not interacting with something it’s mostly stationary, but it still looks nice and consistent.
As for the sound, the background music is kind of funky (in a good way) though hopefully later versions can add a few more songs. What’s here fits, but a single song is just not enough for a game like this, where you’ll be doing roughly the same thing for hours on end.
Your goal in Honey, I Joined a Cult is simple, grow your cult and fill your pockets with the money that the faithful has so kindly donated to your cause. In order to grow your cult you need to build a compound with services both for your cultists, and anyone who you might sucker into paying for overpriced “therapy” (wonder what organization/cult they might be taking a jab at here).
You start the game with a modest amount of cash, enough to get you started, a plot of land and a few cultists. The starting cash is used to build the essential buildings, a place for your people to sleep and eat, a room where they can worship you and a place where you can offer therapy for anyone willing to pay. As the game progresses you’ll be able to research new types of therapy rooms new amenities for your cultists. For example, at the start of the game you don’t even have access to proper toilets, just buckets, but soon you’ll be able to upgrade those buckets to toilets.
Keeping your cultists happy is important. If they get too unhappy they might decide to leave, and share some information about what’s going on in there with the feds. Your, eh, customers also needs to be kept happy, by offering them a varied set of therapy rooms. Much like your cultists they can also get unhappy and start telling on you. This entire aspect does feel a bit under-developed at this stage though, as it’s very easy to keep everyone happy after you’ve managed to research a few new rooms, and upgrades. And it gets even easier once you get the “lower heat” mission, which allows you to, at will, lower how much interest the feds and other groups have in your activities.
Speaking of missions, you can send out your cultists on missions outside the compound. These can do a variety of different things, but the most common ones are to improve your PR (allowing you to attract better people) and lower heat. Depending on the stats of your cultists, there might be a chance of failure though.
At the start of the game you’ll only have access to pretty low quality cultists, who’s skill cap is low, but as you improve your PR you’ll be able to recruit better ones, who have more potential for growth. They also have different traits that can make them better or worse as certain things, or which makes them have specific preferences. Better cultists will not only have a greater chance at succeeding when you send them out on missions, but will more effectively be able to extract wealth from people coming for therapy, or do other tasks like maintenance and cooking faster. You only have limited space for your cultists, which can be increased through research, so you’re encouraged to get rid of any slackers and replace them with better cultists.
State of Early Access
Honey, I Joined a Cult is in early access, and so it’s not quite complete yet. From a technical point of view the game seems really good. It runs well and it does not seem to be crash prone. There were also no issues with wonky pathfinding or characters getting stuck.
The game is still missing a fare bit of content, and the balance might not be all that good yet. After about 3h or so hours of playtime you run out of new things to do, and while there are still plenty of rooms to research, upgrades to get and so on, it’s all just variants on what you already have, a new therapy room does not change the gameplay, it’s just another source of income. At this point the game also becomes very easy, as the rooms and items you have access to makes avoiding the feds trivial because nobody gets angry or bored anymore, and once you have access to the mission that lets you get rid of any heat you generate you need to do something spectacularly wrong to reach dangerous levels of it. Money will also not be an issue either, as with a few different therapy rooms available you’ll be rolling in cash.
Honey, I Joined a Cult has a solid foundation, and running an evil cult is something new for these kinds of games. Building your compound is fun at first and the game looks quite charming, but at this time, near its initial early access release it’s just a bit too barebones for me to be able to fully recommend. After just a couple of hours the game starts to feel repetitive and slightly aimless, and that’s long before you’ve got access to all the different rooms and upgrades.
If you enjoy other management games, like Theme Park, and you prefer a sandbox approach where you’re building your cult as you see fit over the more mission based design of say Two Point Hospital, then Honey, I Joined a Cult is well worth keeping an eye on. It might not be quite there yet, but most of the gripes I have with the game in its current state are things that the developers have said that they intend to fix, and you can still get a couple of hours of fun out of the game in its current state.