GUEST POST – Cultist Simulator: A Field Report (Part 1)
An alpha tester by the name of paraTactician sent me this account of his experiences with Cultist Simulator. I enjoyed it, and it gives a good sense of the bones of the game. Over to paraTactician.
I am sick with the mundane; I recoil from the quotidian. I long for oceans, and find puddles. My workaday existence of bus queues and Tesco rots the brilliant fabric of my soul. I have resolved to change all this. I will carve the marbled flesh of knowledge from the bones of the real. I will grope blindly down the back of eternity’s sofa for the pound coin of enlightenment. I will wring the truth between my hands until it cries out, oh Lor’, oh crikey, let go of me you rotter, don’t punish me. With the help of Alexis Kennedy’s Cultist Simulator, I will become a cultist. I am as confident of the wisdom of this decision as I was of my teenage career change into hospital management. The Greenpool Bloaty Head Disaster was overplayed in the popular press.
My first attempt at becoming a cultist is a complete failure. Cultist Simulator turns out to be a weather game, and I am so overwhelmed by trying to keep track of cards and icons that I don’t realise I’ve run out of money, after which death is just a formality. I restart, confident that now I at least know how to put cards in slots.
At the start of the game I have 2 Passion, 2 Reason, and 2 Health, and all I can do is Work or Dream. That’s already beautiful. I want to keep my Reason at all costs, and it seems like Passion may be essential for pursuing forbidden mysteries ect, so I decide to burn my Health on acquiring money. It doesn’t strike me until I’ve done it that this is unpleasantly revealing. Once I’ve dealt with the starting note I’m left with Reason or Passion for my dreams, and dreaming of Passion sounds both more fun and more promising, so I drop a Passion there and am rewarded with a calming animation of a ghostly moon. I still have 2 Reason untouched, so when my legacy arrives, I’m comfortably able to study it and have a Reason left over for the cryptic crossword. I feel good about all of this.
The only thing worrying me is that I’ve gained a Fleeting Memory, which I can’t do anything with and which is going to disappear in 4.8 seconds. Deep-seated video game instincts make my gut clench at the idea of letting a resource vanish, but there isn’t any way to use the bloody thing and I can’t sell it for Echoes as once I would have done, so I rather sadly watch it turn to ash and drift away. Maybe I’ll get more? My dreams of Passion yield me Contentment, which is nice, but Contentment is temporary (thanks Alexis) and soon enough it disappears too. Hmm. Am I doing this wrong? I feel a bit as if I’d spent five turns building a Spearman and then he’d turned into a cloud of small white butterflies; the elegiac rightness of the imagery is offset by a creeping mechanical unease that maybe I should have read the manual.
I press on, using my Health to generate Funds which immediately vanish into the maw of Time Passing, while putting my Passion into my Dreams, which turns out to be a reliable engine of Contentment. I’m still not sure if Contentment is helpful, but I’d rather have it than not have it, and it’s not like my Passion’s any good for anything else. My Legacy produces the Notion of Enlightenment and directions to a bookshop. I discover that I can Dream of Enlightenment to become fixated on Power instead, but I don’t like that, so I switch back. I cannot Dream of Contentment, or Health. (Or Funds.)
I take some time while the clocks are ticking to admire my surroundings. The music is great. I’m enjoying the scuffed tabletop and the haptic click of the cards. It’s a slow, lonely game; were I a sommelier at London’s most expensive video game restaurant, I’d murmur that it pairs perfectly with Pete Atkin’s ‘Get It Out Of Your Head’. And of course I’m comfortingly situated in that familiar Kennedian prose idiom, the Alexis lexis if you will, with its careful commas and its blandly terrifying warnings in square brackets. The first time I saw [The results of this may vary.] I felt right at home.
I make an Acquaintance! My Acquaintance is called Dorothy, and she seems nice. I can’t find anything to do with her but Talk, so we do that. Morland’s Bookshop is profoundly tempting, but I can’t explore it without Funds, and I only ever have enough Funds to keep myself alive at the end of the month. I mean, the abstract time unit. I’m grimly aware that the real haunted-mystic thing to do in this situation would be to spend my single Funds card in the bookshop and burn my Health instead, but in my first abortive game that turned out to be a very quick route to oblivion, so I’m determined to play as a solid, fiscally-responsible haunted mystic for as long as I can.
Then I pick up An Injury from work. Balls. I don’t have any Funds spare; this is all going a bit I, Daniel Blake –
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