CULTIC (PC) Review

By Athanasios 13.11.2022

Review for CULTIC on PC

There's a constant flow of indies that try to capture the old-school magic of the '90s, yet only a handful of those have truly achieved that - which makes it thrice as impressive when a solo developer manages to accomplish such a feat. Published by the legendary 3D Realms, and crafted by Jasozz Games (Jason Smith), CULTIC is supposed to be heavily influenced by Resident Evil 4 and Star Wars: Dark Forces, but it's crystal clear that it is more of a love letter to the cult classic known as Blood; Monolith's Build engine-powered, gory, fast-paced, and challenging trip down the world of Weird West horror. There are so many similarities between those two that this can easily be viewed as a clone. The longer one plays, however, the more obvious the differences are. Subtle differences, but enough to actually turn this into the better experience.

The adventure begins pretty much the same way as Blood did back in 1997: the nameless protagonist rises from his "grave," no explanation given whatsoever. An investigator by trade, his search for the whereabouts of various cases of missing people leads him in front of an abandoned mining facility deep in the woods. He'll soon realise he is anything but alone. Robed cultists guard the place and are more than eager to fill you with holes or hack you into pieces with their hatchets. Unfortunately for them, you can return the favour. CULTIC leans heavily towards the realm of horror. It has a strong, spooky atmosphere, a dark and "dirty" aesthetic with violence being part of the decoration, and an almost Lovecraftian vibe - the latter enhanced by how this takes place in the '60s. However, this isn't a horror title. Like Doom it's horror-themed. The main hero is fast, and more than capable of blasting the opposition to many tasty gibs.

Screenshot for CULTIC on PC

Running and gunning feels good here. Like the first-person shooters of old, it's less concerned with realism, and more with being fun. The protagonist can swiftly dodge attacks, make a sliding move towards an enemy, chop his head off with a hatchet of his own, and then pull out a double-barrelled shotgun to blast the guy that was standing right beside him. Weaponry consists of vintage pieces of equipment like pistols, Tommy Gun-like machine guns, lever-action rifles and more, and they are all a joy to use as they feel very powerful and have quite the "meaty" sound. Heck, even reloading them is enjoyable. There's no good or bad weapon here. From the "lowly" handgun to the grenade launcher, they all serve their purpose, and all must be used accordingly.

What's awesome here is that CULTIC doesn't force you to act in a specific way. Players can go from playing as Rambo (the third one) and diving right into battle, to moving a bit more carefully, sniping enemies from afar, waiting for them to get close to your hiding spot so you can behead them, or simply blast them to bits with some TNT. The combat system includes plenty of "unconventional" ways to fight. You can deflect incoming hatchets, blast kerosene lambs and light cultists on fire, and many more - and again, like Blood before it, you are given plenty of dynamites to work with, and it's possible to light one stick (of a handful) before throwing them, or simply throw one in the ground and blast it with a single bullet when the time is right.

Screenshot for CULTIC on PC

Continuing with the similarities and differences between this and its source of inspiration, CULTIC is filled with super-accurate hitscanner foes who can be surprisingly tough for the cannon fodder they are supposed to be. In other words, be prepared to be snipped from 30 meters from a shotgun-wielding goon that can tank a headshot or two. That can be annoying, especially when pain stunning in enemies is almost non-existent, yet this handles things better than Blood. Whereas in the latter you would enter a room and get pummelled in a matter of milliseconds, this is more balanced, giving you time to react and more ways to handle the battlefield. A particularly handy tool is the Field Kit, which stores excess health items that can be used with the push of a button to heal your wounds - extremely helpful when it comes to boss encounters, and a nice way to keep the flow going, whereas in the vast majority of first-person shooters once health items are gone near you, all you can do is survive with what you have left.

Screenshot for CULTIC on PC

This has a slight survival vibe due to how sparsely ammo is given, especially in the early stages, where players are forced to be a bit more creative with their kills. You can't pick your favourite weapon and complete the whole thing with that and that alone. Like in DOOM Eternal, you need to use everything at your disposal. The weapons themselves usually have a secondary mode and can also get various upgrades by collecting specific items (with many of those hidden), which alter the arsenal in various ways, from increasing firepower or reload speed, to adding a nice slow-motion effect when dealing a nice headshot with the rifle. The ammo scarcity also provides the perfect incentive to explore. After all, levels are filled with secrets, and in the final, 'Extreme' difficulty mode you are almost forced to find most, if not all of them.

The level design is the other thing that this takes a page from Build engine titles, in that all maps are quite large, and lean more towards realistic areas. The forests, caves, caverns, shipyards, and mines - and more - the unnamed hero will explore can take up to 30 minutes to complete (with about eight or so levels in total), and they beg to be explored and replayed, either to get a better time, find all secrets, or try out different paths, as there is usually more than one way to approach each area or situation. There are also many scattered notes to find that speak of the cult and the power they call 'The Will.' It's a simple enough tale of eldritch horror, but it still manages to be an interesting one. Like the great old-school classics of the past, it uses the right amount of words to flesh out the world and make players want to learn more, but never drowns them in walls of text.

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The various locations the reanimated protagonist will brave look really good, and will make you feel as if you are truly far away from civilization; alone in a remote place, with nothing but you and evil things. Oh, and the music is pretty neat as well, and worthy of a purchase for sure. Sure, this never truly becomes a scary ride, but it will definitely please those with a knack for the spooky and the grotesque. Note that, unlike Blood this is way more serious in tone. While some will see that as a lack of character, the fact that this isn't filled with Easter Eggs and pop culture references is a blessing. The violence, on the other hand, is very '90s. Heads burst open spraying blood all around, cultists set alight scream maniacally, explosions redecorate the place with body parts - and yet, while super-exaggerated, the gore on offer is never really stomach churning.

Yes, CULTIC can get repetitive because you'll spend most of your time killing the same three to four types of cultists, with the occasional hulking brutes, fast-leaping undead, and a telekinetic ghost or two thrown in, with the game rarely mixing them to make things a bit more exciting. It is also extremely aggravating how it seems to not register weapon change inputs, forcing you to see a reloading, shooting, or drawing animation, before finally being free to swap them. Finally, the purposely muddy, mostly brown textures frequently make it harder to see things from a distance, which is very important in a title where enemies can see you from 50 meters or more. Luckily, these are but small stains in what is one of the best retro-inspired, indie first-person shooters of the year. Even better, this six-to-eight hour-long campaign is just the first chapter. Once completed, the next one(s) will be added to the base game free of charge! Be sure to check them out.

Screenshot for CULTIC on PC

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

One of the finest retraux FPS games available, CULTIC pays homage to titles like Blood, and actually surpasses them. From running, jumping, sliding, and reloading, to chopping heads, firing and reloading weapons, and throwing explosive dynamite or flesh-burning Molotov cocktails at the feet of robed fanatics, everything feels awesome. The levels are large and decently non-linear, and the atmosphere, visuals, as well as the OST, are top notch. Solo-dev Jason Smith has every right to feel proud of this wonderful ode to the era it was inspired from.




3D Realms


First Person Shooter



C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   


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