November 3, 2022
Sole Survivor Games
Welcome, dear follower! Please, step into our Pool of Revelations to reflect on your true inner self. Afterwards, we can relax with some Discombobulation Therapy or take a load off in the Infernal Heat Room. Leave your wallet with me, and don’t forget to give thanks to our almighty leader. Oh, and you might want to ring your partner and tell them “Honey, I Joined a Cult”.
In the tradition of management sims like Prison Architect comes the zany Honey, I Joined a Cult, tasking players with designing and running their very own money-spinning brainwashing centre. After a stint in Early Access, the full release of this strategy title will have you recruiting worshippers, building up a compound, and avoiding public scrutiny as you strive to appease a great deity (and padding a hefty bank account along the way).
So, what does running your own cult entail? First, you need to decide your vibe. You can customise your cult’s look and feel, right down to the name of its deity and the outfits of its worshippers. There are a bunch of fun, silly options here, reminiscent of the customisable hats in Among Us. Next, you’ll be stepped through an incredibly detailed tutorial explaining the mechanics of building up your cult’s compound. You build various rooms to service the needs of the cult, each requiring different objects to function. Bedrooms, bathrooms, and utility rooms increase your cultists’ mood, while specialty facilities like the Meditation Room and the Maggot Rejuvenation Therapy room provide you with influence and cash from followers of the cult. You can spend this on research tasks that unlock new rooms, abilities, and bonuses such as increasing the number of cultists you can recruit.
Each cultist has a range of ability scores for skills such as Bluffing, Espionage, and Retail, that will affect their efficiency when working in the cult’s various facilities. They’ll also affect the success of missions that you can send cultists on in town. These generate PR hype for the cult, attracting recruitable followers with higher stats. They’ll also generate “heat”, which can trigger protests from the community at the compound that require time and resources to quell. Different events can occur on missions that give you extra resources or unlock new objects. There are also the occasional daily events, such as a nudist parade, that temporarily affect your cultists’ mood. It’s all very cheeky and on-theme, helped out by a very meta sense of humour from the writing. Eventually, you’ll unlock Divine Inspirations that push your cult towards some sort of obsessive goal, such as summoning the powers of darkness or achieving world peace.
The visual presentation of Honey, I Joined a Cult is, aesthetically, a little underwhelming. While character designs are cute and cartoonish in a sort of Cyanide and Happiness way, the gameplay visuals don’t quite live up to the beautifully vibrant title screen artwork. Overall, there’s a sense of inconsistency: while item icons and animations are clean and colourful, the no-frills design of tooltip and dialogue text makes you feel like you’re playing a free-to-play mobile game at times. A strong argument can be made in favour of visual clarity over aesthetics (particularly when there’s an enormous amount of information to sift through) but it would have been nice to see more of a compromise made between legibility and design.
The interface itself is speedy to manoeuvre, if a little tough to wrap your head around at first. Radioactive green-and-gold windows containing stats and options can be toggled or dragged around the screen at your leisure. You can click on a cultist to bring up their details, with panels for their status and abilities, as well as their task priorities and daily schedules. You can also see an overview of all your cultists at once via the dashboard, as well as any “followers” who patronise your cult. Other dashboard options let you construct and furnish buildings, view available missions and research, and cycle through time-sensitive events such as injured cultists or broken equipment. There are a couple of small frustrations – the mission map obscures the entire screen by default, and you need to reset the objects menu to change room type. For the most part, however, information is easy to find and intuitive to access.
Progression in Honey, I Joined a Cult is slow by default. It takes a long time to generate enough influence to research each milestone, and much of this time is spent micromanaging the mood swings of cultists and followers. They can rebel and even attack other cultists if their mood drops for too long, making it vital to keep them happy. As your cult expands, there’s quite a lot of waiting around for progress bars to fill and grinding for faith and influence. On the default difficulty, it took me around four hours to get to the first big milestone in unlocking Divine Inspiration. There is a “relaxed” difficulty mode that speeds up progression, and you can adjust difficulty sliders manually, but this prevents achievements from unlocking.
While it is slow to get going, I found myself completely obsessed with Honey, I Joined a Cult for a few hours. The absurd capacity for micro-management in the early game, coupled with a steady drip-feed of unlockables lends it that deliciously moreish quality unique to strategy games. I may not have created the most successful endeavour with my cult, the Children of Meat, but you can bet that our almighty deity Chumbawumba is proud of our efforts.
- Addictive micro-management gameplay
- Quirky sense of humour
- Lots of customisation options
- A little rough around the edges in its presentation
- Very slow pace of progression
While it may not appear as glamorous as Scientology, Honey, I Joined a Cult is deceptively addictive. Its alluring capacity to let you micro-manage down to the tiniest detail, its swathe of customisable components, and its cheeky writing will leave you obsessed and indoctrinated (if only for a few hours). It takes a fair amount of grinding to build up a cult worth following, but those with the patience to stick around will find a decent amount of management-sim goodness to worship here.