The Shrouded Isle
Run your own Lovecraftian cult in The Shrouded Isle.
In three years a god named Chernobog will emerge from the sea, bringing the apocalypse with it. As a high priest you must select cultists to sacrifice to the deity, while maintaining order and discipline. Sacrifice someone without proof of any misdeeds and the people may turn on you. And even if they are proven sinners, their family won’t appreciate it. The Shouded Isle is the cult management sim never knew I wanted, and there’s a dark charm in how it encourages you to be as ruthless a zealot as you can. There are no pragmatic solutions to problems, and no getting around the fact that someone has to die.
Ignorance, fervour, discipline, penitence and obedience are the five concepts that determine the course each game takes, which lasts about an hour. Represented by meters, if any of them drop to zero it’s game over. So if the people become too smart because you haven’t been organising enough book burnings, your ignorance meter will empty and you’ll have to start again. Similarly, if they aren’t penitent enough for their sins, you lose. It’s a game about balance. The actions you take will either raise or lower these five things, making every decision count. One poor choice can
doom your cult and lose you favour with Chernobog.
Games are split into seasons, and your first decision at the beginning of each one is choosing who will represent your village’s families and work for you. But your citizens have hidden traits, both positive and negative, that affect your chances of making it to the end. Vasilisa Efferson, for instance, loudly shamed a couple holding hands, earning me three extra discipline. But when asked about her own sins, she shrugged and changed the subject, losing me some penitence. And for that, I decided to sacrifice her to Chernobog. The Effersons weren’t too happy about this, but someone had to be devoured by the angry sea god.
The Shrouded Isle is a wonderfully unique game with a stark, striking two-colour art style and superbly atmospheric sound and music. And while there’s fun to be found in juggling the needs of your cult, hoping you can last long enough to welcome Chernobog, it’s never deep enough to really grab me. However, as an accessible, lightweight strategy game to dip in and out of, it’s fantastic. The streamlined interface is nicely designed, and some of the choices you’re forced to make are deliciously evil. If you’ve ever wanted to start your own Lovecraftian cult, your time has come.
Your citizens have hidden traits, both positive and negative
There’s no avoiding sacrifice.
Choose who represents the village.
Traits can work for or against you.