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2019-02-18

Cult of Corruption: The Summoning Review

Title: Cult of Corruption: The Summoning
Release date: 2018-05-02 (Patreon)
2018-05-08 (public)
Developer & publisher: Anaximanes

I have loved the previous interactive novels released by Anaximanes, and was really eager to play one of his latest offerings "Cult of Corruption". The title especially enticed me, as it basically belongs to the same subgenre of erotica, as the author's first release "Slugs and Bugs". Namely, its biggest draw for me was squick - that particular genre of erotica perfected by Tabico Mallory and combining eroticism with disgust. I'm not gonna go deep into the explanation, but if you want to know more about squick, just read my S&B review.

Just like all of the Anaximanes' works, "Cult of Corruption" (or COC from now on) takes place in the same shared universe. All of his current and future works are interwoven and even share characters to a bigger or lesser degree. Chronologically the game is set just before the events of "Slugs and Bugs" and actually ends just as the events of the former game begin. So, how do the games actually compare? Read on and find out.
Posers.
The developer's previous game "The Anax" was a smaller scale interactive novel with less of a global impact derived from its conclusion. Mainly it was a pretty personal struggle of the protagonist against an otherwordly horror that was, against all odds, once human. In contrast, "Slugs and Bugs" was an apocalyptic tale with a potential extinction event about to take place, based on the actions of the protagonist. COC is a story much in the same vein, where failure means the end of the world, as this time our protagonist battles against an ancient deity ready to consume the world and eventually the universe.

We step into the shoes of our protagonist Bo Wyatt, which is a minor novelty, because the two previous full games "Slugs and Bugs" and "The Anax" had female main characters. Of course, there is also the "Phantom", a short linear mini-story set in the same universe, which also had us incarnate a guy, but I barely count it as a true game in the series. Anyway, Bo has always been an unassuming nerdy guy and a disappointment to his father. I suppose with a name like his - Bo stands for Beauregard - it was just asking for him to be bullied at school. In contrast to his older brother Howard, he has never been successful, or had any particular talents, until the day he learned he has great skills as a magician.
After finishing the game once you unlock the original concept story.
It just so happens that one day a grimoire that last belonged to Dagan Erebus (the aforementioned protagonist of "Phantom") fell into his lap. To the great frustration of his nerdy friends, Bo seems to be the only one able to cast spells from the book, which makes others jealous. With the help of the grimoire Bo and his friends intend to cast a spell that apparently would create the world peace and, well, prevent them from being bullied, which is obviously more important.

It just so happens that Bo is being tricked by one of his friends, Ray, who couldn't care less about peace - he just wants revenge for everything he suffered up until now. He convinces Bo to perform the ritual that would bring an ancient Sumerian deity Nergal into the world, and uses some prime pussy as the motivator. The gang kidnaps Bo's crush Karen to be used in the ritual, with Ray convincing our hapless protagonist that the risen god will make Karen love him. Thus Bo throws caution to the wind and performs the ritual, which doesn't go according to the plan, or rather not according to Bo's plan.
Nergal is taking lessons from Maeda Toshio.
If you think you have never heard of Nergal before, you might have encountered him under a different spelling as Nurgle in a certain fictional universe, named after a melee weapon. Yeah, this is not a god of flowers and unicorns, and his idea of omniversal domination is a wasteland of pestilence and decay. Nergal has a corruptive influence on anything and anyone he touches, and those in turn corrupt others in their path. The first to be turned into a corrupted Nergal zombie is Karen, who manages to get her claws into our protagonist, before he manages to escape in a horrified frenzy. Still, this is enough for Bo to become the carrier of Nergal's corruption, which he is gonna spread, wants he that or not.

What follows is less Beauregard's struggle against some external enemy, as happened in the previous games, but rather his inner struggle against the corruption. Eventually Bo might embrace or reject it, which will result in different endings. Once again, the previous games (except for "Phantom", which was a completely linear experience) had lots of bad endings along the road, and a few main endings. Anaximanes decided to change things a bit for this game, and "Cult of Corruption" surprisingly has only three endings and no game over bad ends. Instead, different decisions might result in different scenes, which can lead toward even more different scenes, thus the game requires multiple playthroughs solely to hunt for all the varied content included in the game.
Wholesome corrupted sex.
The game is almost labyrinthine in its structure, which unfortunately leads to some buggy paths. Anaximanes usually seems to be quite proud of fact he doesn't leave bugs in his final releases, which didn't work out this time. It's very easy in COC to enter a path that breaks continuity, where you never meet agent Mara and run away from Getty, only to encounter a corrupted Mara and a loyal Getty in the end with no explanation. Additionally, you may enter a corrupted version of the hospital and the police station in the endgame, even though you haven't corrupted anyone there before. Bo even comments that the last time he was to the police station he saw an orgy, even though nothing of the sort happened in that particular playthrough. I have written a walkthrough while playing the game, and following it should prevent you from entering any of the "corrupted" (hehe, see what I did here) paths.

I actually consider both the plot and the main character in COC to be weaker than in the previous games. First of all, the plot seems to lack the structure. Justine in "Slugs and Bugs" had a clear goal to get to the top of the building she works at, in hopes of getting picked up by a rescue helicopter, and the basic structure of the game reminded me of a closed quarters horror movie, like "Aliens". At the same time "The Anax" followed the structure of a slasher movie with all the associated tropes. In contrast, "Cult of Corruption" is basically a zombie film, though the author fails to capitalize on some of the more prominent zombie tropes.
Green eyes - take notice.
From the very beginning, the City (actually, the game is set in Seattle) becomes the playground of Nergal. As more and more people are corrupted, they join the hunt for those that are still healthy. It would have been interesting to see the uncorrupted band up in groups, the tension and paranoia rise up, as no one is sure if someone in the group is infected and plotting the downfall of others. However, the developer decided to take the story in a different direction, with a sole focus on Bo's journey.

Unfortunately, Bo has no goal and no agency. He basically tries to run from the mess he has made up, until he cannot run anymore and has to confront it. Bo is not someone who does things - he is someone things happen to, which doesn't really endear us to him. Like a chicken without head he runs to his mummy, then to his friend, then to his other friend, to the bank, to the hospital, to the police station, to the library, after which he doesn't run anymore, because he has either embraced his situation and decided to return to Karen or decided to get rid of the corruption for good. There is not much coherent plot here - rather the game is more reminiscent of those teenage road trip movies without a strong story, but with some boobs. Not that it makes COC a bad game, as all the other aspects, like the sex scenes and the writing, are great as always, but it does bring the overall score down.
The infection is spreading.
The game doesn't have the strong main villain either. Sure, Nergal exists and wants Bo's soul, but he is basically the Bigger Bad that's just there in the background. In a way, Bo is both the protagonist and the main antagonist, as he is solely responsible for his fall and if he succumbs to the dark side, it's also on his head. Throughout his journey Bo is fighting himself and the seduction of the dark side - and the dark side can be very convincing, especially considering it allows you to fuck a lot of hot chicks.

Regarding the topic of hot chicks, it bears to mention the case of Bo's love interest. Here Anaximanes borrows a trope from many a teen romcom. The protagonist has a crush on some unattainable pretty girl, who doesn't give him the time of the day, while failing to notice that Hollywood Homely nerdy girl at his side, who has been in love with him for a long time. And indeed, Karen is not someone one would lose their marbles over. She has only a few lines as her uncorrupted self, while the corrupted Karen is like that princess in another castle - she is basically waiting for her dark prince to come to her, but does very little to speed up the progress of his arrival. If anything, there are at least two other female characters who would make legitimately better main love interests.
A catsuit always make women more attractive.
First of all, it's the turncoat special agent Getty, and isn't it a doozy that Aletta Ocean has been cast as her in-game avatar. Actually, I'm not sure how I feel about that particular choice. On one hand Aletta is hot as fuck, on the other, the idea of her portraying a badass secret agent is... Let's say it like this: there is a reason she is basically the poster face of the Reddit Bimbofetish board :-) Back on topic, there seems to be the rule in every Anaximanes' game that at least one of the characters is a hypnofetishist, and Getty serves that function in COC. She is completely corrupt, even before being corrupted by Nergal. The idea of the evil deity mentally subjugating the whole of humanity is making her wet, which actually makes her the ideal partner for evil Bo. And it actually happens almost exactly like I envisioned. On one of the evil paths Bo does notice Getty, and even expresses a similar sentiment that she would make a far better Dark Queen than Karen, with him having no idea what he ever even saw in her. However, the ending of that path went in a direction that... did not completely satisfy me. At least I think there was enough wiggle room for a few more endings, with Getty usurping Karens place in at least one of them.

On the other side of the spectrum we have a chubby childhood friend Adria, who actually fits the aforementioned unnoticed crush trope to a T. She appears to have genuine feelings for Bo, and would have been a great companion for him on the light path. Hell, a properly corrupted Adria might have been an even better Dark Queen than either Karen or Getty, but Anaximanes had decided not to pursue that particular character thread and Adria gets shuffled aside as the game nears the finale.
I don't know. You could try unburdening yourself on those boobs. :-)
If the protagonist and the story progression slightly disappointed me, then the sexual content runs as strong as ever. To be fair to those that are not fond of the aforementioned squick, COC is on the mild scale of things, at least most of the time. For a time Bo simply has sex with other very human characters, which results in their corruption. Here the game plays with a body fluid fetish, as the sexual partners start leaking puss and other weird liquids out of their orifices, and as they get more corrupted, their appearance changes as well. They become more gaunt and sickly looking and eventually transform into their demonic forms at their most corrupted. Those demonic forms still look human enough to not horrify most of the readers, and there is no sexual content involving arachnids, insectoids and annelids. There is some tentacle rape, though most visual novel fans are already quite used to that by now.

Additionally, I really appreciated the author's inclusion of a variety of female body types in the game. Not a small chunk of the game is dedicated to chubby or older women, which I'm sure will be very appreciated by certain readers... I know I did. Funnily enough, Anaximanes actually included a trigger warning just before a sex scene with a certified MILF. I don't know what that says about the current adult entertainment audience, if any of them could get "triggered" by that... On the other hand, it might be a deadpan joke, considering the whole game with it's demonic and squicky content didn't actually deserve a trigger warning. Yeah, I think the developer does have a twisted sense of humour. Moreover, he also gives in to the current fad of incest content, which is apparently all the rage on Patreon, but frankly it suits the game's situation perfectly and does not overstay its welcome.
Mummy has got tits!
Anaximanes is a talented photomanipulator, and the game once again shows what is possible with a strategic touch of Photoshop. He hand picks photos from the internet to serve as the basis for manipulation, with some of the pretty well known personalities having the honour of being cast in the game. For example, I personally recognized Violet Monroe as Bo's friend Devany or the aforementioned Aletta Ocean as Getty. In a move we haven't seen before, the game actually contains quite a large number of 3D renders made in Daz in addition to the manipulated photographs. The final chapters of the game have an especially large amount of the Daz renders that bring the showdown to life.

Those renders are actually the taste of things to come, as we will not see the photoshopped people in any of the developer's games anymore. As of recently, Anaximanes has registered himself as a company and will not be using material that could be constituted copyright infringement anymore. All of the characters in his games will be rendered in 3D software in the future, and he expressed the intention of remaking all of the current games to replace the manipulated photographs with Daz renders. In fact, the future is now, as his latest game "Cereborg" has already been released. Previously the game demo featured manipulated photographs, including the casting of Sasha Grey as one of the protagonists, thus I'm slightly bummed to realize the game has been completely purged of any character photographs. However, I intend to give it a fair chance in the nearest future - what do I know, maybe Anaximanes' renders will attract me just as much as his photo manipulations.
The example of renders used in this game.
"Cult of Corruption" has been given a really spooky and haunting soundtrack, that suits the game like a well tailored glove and, while there are no such iconic songs, like like "Tili Tili Bom" from "The Anax", instead the prologue surprises us with quite a few voice acted lines. Most likely by the developer himself, but he does a pretty good job of setting up the atmosphere and inciting the tension. But of course, what really shines in the game is the writing.

I have already expressed in my previous reviews that Anaximanes writes like a bona fide professional and not an amateur porn peddler. He has an assured and easily flowing style that immediately pulls you in. "Cult of Corruption" appears to be slightly shorter than "The Anax" and I think has about 130k words, which is actually the length of a full novel (or two, depending on how greedy the publisher is). Moreover the developer has no intention to stop and has quite lofty goals. Not only has he already released a new entry in the franchise and is currently working on another one that will feature vampires, he intends to actually write a book that will serve as an epilogue to the franchise and is thinking of creating an actual computer game (not an interactive novel) with the characters from the franchise. Well, best of luck to him!

As for the current game, my slight dissatisfaction with the story progression and some bugs notwithstanding, it is still a strong entry in the series with hot sex, (disgustingly) erotic character transformations, and like always a great visual representation. As long as the subject matter is up to your palate, you will probably not be disappointed.

Links of Interest

Official developer's blog
Anaximanes on Patreon
Official Hypnopics Collective thread (requires free registration)
TF Games Site page
"Cult of Corruption: The Summoning" walkthrough

Final Verdict: 81%

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