If there was one addition to Tarkov that we all knew was coming but didn’t have a concrete idea as to when it was going to happen, it was the cultists. These guys have been eluded too for so long, with the first marked room on Customs; a place where for a long time, the potential from crazy good loot like weapon cases was possible. That room and the circles around the other maps have been reduced in their generosity considerably over the years, but we all knew these mysterious folks would one day make their grand entrance. And oh boy did they. I remember, it was the patch where BSG gave the player base that red AKM and like 800 rounds of BP, which was a stupid idea. But regardless, at least they gave us a fighting chance against these doods. Because when they came out, they were terrifying; once the first video of their existence in the game surfaced, it was as if the nighttime raids became something akin to a horror movie. Only being located on Customs, Shoreline, and Woods, the chance of hearing that swiping sound behind you, only to flick your flashlight on and see a silhouette in all black disappear into the night, before the hail of bullets and grenades began to surround you. These guys were no joke; However, things have changed. And to be honest, the cultists have become quite a letdown over the years.
Cultists to me, are the prime example of some kind of end game boss. A super powerful, tricky enemy that is rare and hard to come across out in the wild. Almost as if they are looking for you and not the other way around. And for the longest time. Their mystery was very alluring to everyone. We all wanted to see them come to life in the game. And their initial launch was insane. They were legitimately scary; just hearing the sound of that knife swipe behind you before you turn around and dart away into the bushes before pulling out their guns to mow you down, was something to really behold for the first time. And right there, that last part. That’s one of the reasons as to why they have lost their luster. They use weapons. It sounds stupid, like duh, it’s a shooting game of course they would. But the problem is that their whole schtick is supposed to be the weird crazy people that use poison knifes and weird stims and have crazy connections to treasure loot. But normally what ends up happening is that they try the knife initially, and if it doesn’t work, they run away and switch to weapons and then the real game begins. If there is one thing, I can commend them for (at least at the start), it is that their AI was the most interesting in terms of how they fought the player. Once the real fighting began, they would try to surround the player and use grenades and other weapon sounds to try and throw you off who was targeting you. It turned into a game of cat and mouse, where you felt like you were always on the backfoot, and only once you began to thin their numbers did you feel like you even had remotely a fighting chance. It was impressive when they came out. Made it feel like there was an army of cultists when it was only 4-6 of them at one time. No other AI behaved like that at the time. Not the bosses, not raiders; the cultists were on a league of their own. Now, with the addition of more bosses, and the rouges, their AI isn’t so special anymore. In fact, it feels as though it has regressed somewhat. They seem less inclined to use their knives and instead just want to shoot you. Which is a shame because it always felt like the knife should be their only weapon, and they should do everything in their power to get a hit, so you get poisoned. The cultists also love to kind of just run around and ignore you until they reach their destination before doing a 180 and killing you before their gun is even up in their hands completely. They make no footsteps, and they have insane armor sometimes, making them tanky. But the guns take the fear away from them somewhat.
Speaking of, their gear is something to be brought into question. Originally, they had very powerful gear. All different kind of suppressed weapons with very strong ammos for almost all of them. And not just the guns, their armor options can be strong even to this day. Level 5 and sometimes 6 armors are on these doods, and while their spawn chances are all single digit percents, it’s still crazy that they have gear this good. While in theory, this makes sense for them, it kind of does the opposite. The fear it instills in the player is more so along the line of their gear is too powerful, versus being afraid because you don’t know where they are, or how they are surrounding you, right before your eyes. It would’ve been nice if the focus for the cultists was mobility and stealth, and not arbitrary tankiness by way of high leveled armor. They have increased HP pools as well; 850 for both the priest as well are the warriors. If it meant these numbers had to be even higher to evoke those emotions I have been talking about, I would kind of be okay with that. Sanitar as 1200 HP, which might be a little too much, so maybe a cool 1000 would do the trick, if it meant they didn’t have armor. It would also be nice if they didn’t play nicely and rushed you as a group once they were fully aggro. They kind of file one at a time as to not overpower the player, which is fair, but if they were squishier, they could leverage their numbers to really drive home the idea that they are legion, and you are just one person. Sooner or later, you will fall to them. Their poison is not a slouch either. If you get hit by the debuff, and don’t have either the antidote or anything that can heal the toxin, you’ll be dead before you even get out of the raid. Some simple ideas and slight tweaks to how they work and behave, and I feel as though maybe Tarkov’s most hidden foes might live up to their infamy.
Cultists were always an interesting idea, and for the longest time, BSG kept them very close to their chest right up until their launch. When they came out, everyone was both excited and terrified at the thought of fighting them. Nowadays, they are still around, people still run into them, but something is different. Maybe it’s the tolerance of their existence built up over the years catching up so they aren’t scary anymore. Or perhaps it’s the changes all around them in the game that have led to cultists feeling kind of left behind. Either way, they will always be cool, don’t get me wrong. But fighting them for a while now hasn’t felt good; which makes they themselves not as interesting, engaging, or worth the headache or running around in the dark, to only hear the sound of a whiffed knife, followed up instant death because their aim and overall, AI is just as bad as everyone else. But what do you think of the cultists? Are they still interesting to fight? Or are they like the rest of the boss AI in the game? Be sure to sound off in the comments and subscribe for more videos about the AI in Tarkov either feeling good or still like crap after all these years. I hope to see you in future ones.
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