Title: Source of Madness
Developer: Carry Castle
Release Date: May 11, 2022
Reviewed On: PC
Publisher: Thunderful Games
Genre: Lovecraft action Roguelite
When I hear the word “Rogue” attached to any new game, I get queasy. Not because I don’t like Roguelikes or Roguelites, but due to the sheer overabundance of the games represented on the market. Even though I may not be the only one wary of this genre, I am also amazed by the concepts and mechanics that push the boundaries and advance the expectations of this genre. Source of Madness is definitely one of these examples.
Source of Madness is a stylish side-scrolling roguelike, heavily influenced by Lovecraftian themes. Use your magic to hack n’ slash through procedurally generated levels and uncover the source of the madness. Lovecraft is often associated with the horror of the unknown and incomprehensible. To create this atmosphere, Source of Madness utilizes AI to make the levels, background art, and enemies all procedurally generated. This leads to enemies that are a frightening juxtaposition of tentacles and appendages, each one entirely different from the last. Not only do they look terrifying, but they all have different attack patterns, weapons, and projectiles. There is no understanding of their move set, each enemy is wildly unpredictable, forcing you to become reactive to every enemy encounter.
Combat is close and intense. You have melee and projectile spells, which are acquired through rings that can be traded for upgraded rings with different elemental attacks or increased strength. You can purchase or loot new cloaks which provide defensive stats or health-related attributes.
You also have a dash that can be upgraded for multiple uses. Utilizing your dash, spells, and your proximity to your foes helps you to successfully navigate each level. One particularly innovative feature is the ability to heal, save, and exit between levels. This feature makes the levels feel more relaxed, and the ability to return to a run at a later time is a welcome addition.
Unlike typical Roguelites, you are not the same character reliving each run. In this game, you play a new acolyte each run, with a book of the dead showing all the lives that have been lost searching for the Source of Madness. In each run, you collect gold and blood. Gold is used during the run to upgrade rings and cloaks and is lost at the end of each run. Blood is kept after death and goes towards permanent upgrades. Blood unlocks new classes, health, and spell upgrades within a pretty extensive skill tree that you can access prior to each run.
Each run has excellent loot and exploring benefits the character greatly by providing opportunities to upgrade their gear and gold. There are numerous portals throughout the levels that allow for blood sacrifices, enemy bosses, and hidden items. Each one of these optional portals has risk-reward scenarios that benefit your run. You can risk a portion of your health to gain gold or take on higher-powered monsters for a chance at rare loot. There are also two merchants available during the runs that allow you to rest, sell, and purchase new equipment to upgrade your character before continuing on with the level.
Source of Madness flourishes in its fluid gameplay. While dashing and some certain spells feel awkwardly slow, there is a beauty to the movement and surprising grace. At times, combat felt like a destructive dance through gorgeously AI rendered environments. Source of Madness is delightfully horrifying and charming, The AI-rendered art and appalling monster design enhance the Lovecraftian atmosphere.
I did find that the AI enemies seem to flop around like more of a fish than a monster, but for the most part, they provide a fresh experience. Source of Madness takes the traditional roguelite formula and adds in its own spices showing that a genre that’s been beaten to death still has some life in it.
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