Source of Madness | PlayStation 5 Review
Source of Madness, developed by Carry Castle and published by Thunderful Games is a side-scrolling, Lovecraftian Roguelite. It is currently available on Windows PC, PlayStation, Xbox, and Nintendo Switch, and for the purpose of my review I was playing the PlayStation 5 version.
Source of Madness takes place in the Loam Lands, a Lovecraftian inspired land where you take on the role of an Acolyte as they head off on a gruelling journey. Along the way you will unravel other-worldly secrets and powers across the Loam Lands all the way to the Tower of Madness that’s hosted within the mysterious citadel. The control scheme is simple and typical for the genre. The controls and movement are incredibly smooth and intuitive and provided me with very few problems. There is quite an impressive arsenal of weapons at your disposal; as well as your typical primary and secondary attacks you have access to special augments that use the L1 and R1 buttons. Your special abilities come with a cooldown attached however as you progress you can reduce these drastically; and finally, you have a dash ability that can also be upgraded as you progress and can then be used to help you traverse the landscapes as well as avoid tanking damage during combat. As you gain new abilities, you’ll remember areas in previous levels that you haven’t been able to investigate yet, meaning that you're able to revisit them and complete areas as you gain new abilities. The combat is smooth and enjoyable but also tense during most fights and at no point did I feel the controls or mechanics hindered my enjoyment.
I’m sure by now the majority of us are familiar with the Roguelite genre, however, a quick TLDR for those who aren’t well versed in it - every single time you die, you return to the beginning again (or the beginning of the biome), however you carry over some items and any XP points (like Souls in the Dark Souls games) that you have collected and can choose to apply them wherever you like to build you character. You begin your journey again except this time you return stronger with new abilities and strengths to take down the challenge that set you back in the first place. Death is a part of the cycle and death is almost necessary. The main deviation from this theme found within Source of Madness is that your character itself changes every time, I guess you could say that in one sense there is perma-death; however, rest assured, you don’t lose your “souls”. To further add to the madness, the levels procedurally generate a new format every time you die. Along the way you’ll find yourself in encounters against ever changing enemies; when I say that, I’m not exaggerating because run to run the enemies are procedurally generated concoctions of evil using a form of neural network AI and as well as being randomised visually, the enemies also learn from your play style and adapt which will have you pushing to try new things rather than doing the same things over and over again. Overall, these concepts worked well. As always, I tend to go into my review games as blind as possible and when I realised the enemies weren’t always the same, I was amazed and constantly looked forward to what the game would throw at me next however after a few hours of gameplay I did find certain things not to be necessarily working as intended. Sometimes the AI learning wasn’t particularly prevalent and sometimes the enemies just looked disjointed and odd; however, the visual aspect almost became comedic to me so it isn’t all bad.
In terms of visuals and world building, Source of Madness was also very impressive. Each biome has its own unique feel to it whilst still maintaining that creepy and grotesque Lovecraftian horror style. The levels mostly made sense however sometimes I found myself getting lost in the labyrinths so some more cautious and meaningful adventuring was required. The art style appears to me to almost be like an oil painting which totally fits the intended style.
I really enjoyed Source of Madness. I think in a world including Hades, the Roguelite genre is a tough one to break into and create something unique, however I feel like with the number of little touches found within, Source of Madness achieves its aim of treading its own path and becoming its own game. The difficulty and challenge was certainly found throughout however it didn’t become an impossible challenge and feel like a chore to progress.
Lj’s Rating: 4 out of 5.
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Many thanks to Plan of Attack for the Review Key.