Review: Cultic Is a Competent Build Engine Inspired Shooter

I don’t mind the rise of retro shooters, or “boomer shooter” to those who insist on using that term. While I don’t like to call them “boomer shooters” I definitely appreciate the rise in these old school inspired games. I spent many hours of my youth fighting sprite-based demons through pixelated corridors. While some retro style shooters really missed their target, others like Dusk raise the bar. Cultic, while not the best I’ve played, definitely feels like an old school shooter.

Cultic is a first person shooter that is inspired by Build Engine shooters like Blood. In fact, Cultic almost feels like a Blood knockoff, or even a spiritual successor in a way.  Cultic has an emphasis on horror, and that means mowing down legions of cultists (how appropriate) and the demons they cavort with. You don’t have much choice, however: you rise from the dead into this nightmare,  and it’s up to you to mow down legions of cultists to find its cause—and stop it.

Screenshot: Cultic

If you’ve played any Build Engine games, Cultic will feel familiar—yet a little off. That’s because Cultic is styled like an older game, but has the bells and whistles you would expect in a modern experience, including dynamic lighting, physics, and a fully 3D worlds. The enemies, however, are sprite-based—and boy, they’re ugly. I don’t mean ugly as in horrific, but rather, ugly as in muddy sprites with a pixelated distortion. I don’t know why retro shooters insist on making their graphics so muddy—perhaps it’s to emulate CRT monitors and low resolutions or video cards with limited color palettes—but the result is something that manages to be a little uglier than actual retro first person shooters.

Since Cultic is a shooter, it’s important that the shooting part actually feels fun—which it does. Weapons have the appropriate heft and oomph when fired. Enemies lose their heads or explode spectacularly into piles of gore if blown up, or shrivel into husks when set on fire. There is also a decent variety of weapons available, ranging from the usual shooter fare to the more exotic.

Screenshot: Cultic

I really appreciate the variety of enemies in Cultic. A lot of retro inspired shooters just have waves of enemies that walk to you, but Cultic has enemies that behave in more interesting ways. Human enemies will hang back and shoot you and take cover while inhuman enemies tend to be more feral, and will attack you. There are certain other enemy types that will try to remain hidden and harass you from a distance—or even telekinetically, by throwing objects at you while they’re out of line of sight.

Some Build Engine games were known for their large levels, and Cultic has seemed to take this information sincerely. Each level is pretty big, in fact, I found them to be a tad too large. I often found myself backtracking to find where I needed to go next.  Now, backtracking isn’t automatically bad, but with such huge maps it’s no fun. But Cultic’s levels manage to be atmospheric, and they incorporate some genuinely spooky moments.

Screenshot: Cultic

Cultic is a decent retro shooter that pays homage to classics like Blood: and it does a pretty good job. I wish the enemy art was a little more interesting, and there was less of a “retro” filter over the whole thing. But the gunplay is great, and the level design is well done—despite the levels being on the larger side. If you like old school build engine games, especially games like Blood, you’ll find something to like with Cultic.

Cultic will be available tomorrow for PC via Steam.

A Steam key was provided to us for this review.

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Antal Bokor

Antal is video game advocate, retro game collector, and video game historian. He is also a small streamer, occasional podcast guest, and writer.