The CWAL Rubber Room
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Posted by Inconsequential Lurker, on June 20, 12018 at 15:26:22:

Just a warning, it's a very difficult card based pseudo boardgame that literally makes you figure out the rules, and I do mean all the rules, yourself. It builds into the theme of exploring dangerous occult lore without a guide, but if you don't think that sounds incredible and can see yourself getting livid at the game for making you spend hours working things out yourself, it might not be fun for you.

I found myself playing with a notepad open on my other monitor. By the time I had divined enough of the system to play it fluently, it was filled with literally thousands of lines ranging from short notes to long stretches of pseudocode describing the logic behind dreaming. At one point I set up a simple database to track what each card did, since there were so many interactions and no way to tell which would be a crucial step and which was just spinning in place beside keeping track of the results.

My first real breakthrough took nearly ten hours and changed EVERYTHING about what I had been doing. I had discovered it the first minutes of play, but hadn't picked up the hints that it was so significant until much later. Even having made a dramatic stride forward, it still took nearly half an hour to piece together what the crucial difference had been from previous attempts down the same line. For a short time I foolishly thought it had been random. Little is random in Cultist Simulator. Once I had charted the logic, the next three milestones came rapidly. The rush of knowledge drove my humble aspirant insane and I was left to begin again as the doctor who tended to his immolant mind and found himself haunted by the words spilling forth. Too ambitious, he found himself summarily imprisoned. The man who imprisoned him up delved too deeply into the good doctor's notes. His body was later found unrecognizable, ravaged by powers he could call on but not control. The hazards of knowing when one is not yet a Know. That man's son was cautious, though not so cautious that he did not spend every cent of inheritance bribing men to teach him dead languages. He ascended beyond the bounds of the Mansus. His game took five hours. Learning what cards to play took 35. If that sounds intimidating, it is. It's also incredible. Every success you have in the game is yours alone.

The developer had set out to somehow replicate, in a video game, the experience of spending late nights hunched over occult tomes, occasionally having realizations and shouting EUREKA, then rushing to find whether your discovery bore a secret of the universe or just a terrible price. It worked.

If the above intrigues you, and you enjoy evocative writing (by the former studio head/creator of Fallen London and Sunless Sea!), it's one of the most unique and addictive (even compulsive) experiences I've had. One review called it "like being on a hamster wheel that dispenses heroin". It was a negative review.

It's not a game for everyone. It couldn't be. It's unarguably exceptional. Nothing like it exists.