OK, so maybe I’m engaging in a little click bait with the title but err… well I’m actually saying it in a positive way.
Cultist Simulator appears at first glance to use techniques based on Skinner’s techniques as well as the same countdown clocks you get on mobile games and… yet it is the perfect simulator game I have played. They have taken mechanics you could argue as negative and uses them in a positive way… and through it the perfect simulator.
Let’s start by discussing time… actually wait, before we go any further. A quick summary, there are timers throughout the game; if you place the correct Card on that timer it gives a bonus reward. However certain cards have cooldown and others will disappear if not used in a specific time.
The key thing about the timers is that they are smartly handled; normally, you click them you start them and they finish and give you resources… which technically they do however you have multiple options of cards to put in each timer. Place a Work task in a work slot, you complete the work, place a Brush in the Work space and you paint a picture for money… wait, let’s not forget that during the time, you also have to input other cards in a certain window to improve the chances of success, then you have to physically collect the resources which will only be better if you do it right.
And timers aren’t just used n your favour, they can be turned against you; firstly, every 60 seconds Funds are taken from you so you need to find money, you can be sacked from a job if you stay away from it too long, positive cards can vanish if you don’t use them quickly enough, negative timers can appear that, if you have certain items can trigger something worse. Because some resources do not stay for long it actually becomes a puzzle, trying to think through when the best time it is to go for a resource as you can die without health, go into despair if you don’t have the contentment to remove it and even be sacrificed to a cult if you can’t find some poor sod to replace you.
So how does Cult Simulator avoid the traps of Skinner and Mobile Clickers? Simple, they thought about how they used the very mechanics that they had and made it work for the theme. You are not just clicking buttons for the sake of clicking buttons, you are reality trying to spin plates.
You start with a job that you have to use resources for, then the Life Clock starts draining funds so you have to regularly stay in the job while deciding how much money to spend at the shop with all the oculist books in, then you have Study to get more Passion and Reason but you need two of the same resource to get these and these resources disappear so you need to create two in rapid succession then put them together (3 minutes in total) which you can’t use to Study the books that you bought, then you buy books you can’t read and need translating so you need to get a book on the language, then Dread starts appearing and you then need to try and get rid of it before the Despair counter appears and snatches it so you need contentment to cancel out that, then an illness kicks in and you lose health, then the work place requires you to include a resource to make it work better so you have to not use it somewhere else then the Red Death clock appears and you panic because you have no health and it takes 3 whole minutes to create one health when you only have 45 seconds left. And lets not forget the Cult part, which leaves you vulnerable to snoops and the law.
It creates the warped sense of paranoia that you would have if you were creating a Cult, trying to hold a stable job while trying to do all other things in the background, trying to do so much with so little.
Well it just took me 8 Paragraphs just to say something I probably could have said in three… good day for me then.