PAX East 2022 Hands-On Impressions: Source of Madness

If you like Castlevania and Eldritch Horror powered by machine learning A.I. where no terror feels ever the same, then you’ll find Source of Madness horrifyingly awesome.

Any time I’ve ever gone to one of these conventions, whether it be a Comic-Con, a Gen Con, or in this case a Pax East gaming Convention, there has always been that rare gem nobody seems to be talking about. An event or experience that’s just so incredibly unique and unabashedly intriguing that it seems rather strange nobody is talking about it. Sometimes, there are just some hits that are going to blow people away. I personally think Source of Madness will be that game from PAX East 2022.

“Source of Madness is a side-scrolling dark action rogue-lite set in the Loam Lands, a twisted Lovecraftian-inspired world powered by procedural generation and AI machine learning,” says Source of Madness’ description on Steam, “Take on the role of a new Acolyte as they embark on a nightmarish odyssey. Uncover the cosmic secrets of the Loam Lands and The Tower of Madness, the moon’s mysterious Citadel.”

Besides Shredder’s Revenge, this is the other game that really stood out to us at The Workprint at PAX, as the game’s design and dedication to the environment, Eldritch horror and the combat feels nothing shy of amazing. It was clearly a labor or love and dread, filled with tentacled and eerie artwork, fantastic use of in-game lighting, and very maneuverable controls featuring projectile rings of power meant for attacking and casting.

Gameplay mechanics in the game are a straightforward combat system that utilizes a pair of ring powers for two different attack triggers (usually, each of a separate skill or attack element). This encourages a lot of diversity to gameplay depending on how the player wants to approach their tasks. 

Because every new acolyte used for each run has a different set of skills, there is a lot of customization in terms of gameplay. Some can be generalists. Others can be pyromancers and other classes besides. The limits are up to the player, what kinds of weapon rings of power they find, and however they desire to approach the game–which is encouraged, given that the game is always throwing out new things.

Between levels, the merchants Roy and Roger are at work at a safehouse. The player can sell extra equipment, buy goods, and save their progress; and of course, stock up on better bits of everything. The gameplay just progressively gets better as the game continues.

In terms of level design, each 2D in-game maze is randomly generated so that you’re constantly in a state of misdirection. There’s platforming and hidden secrets at almost every turn. The Eldritch horrors are also randomly generating their designs (you’ll never face the same monster encounter twice), but also mixing up their attacks, meaning that despite how skilled of a player the character created can be, the unique enemy patterns change every time. 

This makes for some really cool and challenging battles, often against monstrosities over 10 times your size, where you don’t know what to expect! Atop of this, gothic fans will love the artwork in the game as it’s a dreary Victorian nightmare. Each level, full of unique environmental biomes that spawn certain types of enemies (i.e. cave dwellings will feature spiders). 

“The game is a 2D Rogue-lite action platformer in which you play as a new acolyte for every single run and try to brave the Eldritch horrors along the way,” said Kyle T. Johnson, the sales manager over at Thunderbolt publishing who has worked closely with studio Carry Castle and the game’s original creators. He then went over the terrors on screen, “If you look at the screen right now, the horror it’s an abomination of limbs, eyes, tentacles–whatever you can imagine. But it also seems to be using a poison attack. See, every monster forces you to adapt differently. You learn to pick-up some patterns but you’ll always have to be on your toes. Every battle is unique.”

Overall, with such gorgeous visuals, kick-butt mechanics, and a lot of fun terrors that’ll keep you on your toes, I highly recommend Source of Madness. The early access Beta is out now on Steam. The full release is coming on May 11th.

Christian Angeles
Christian Angeles
Christian Angeles is a screenwriter who likes sharing stories and getting to meet people. He also listens to words on the page via audible and tries to write in ways that make people feel things. All on a laptop. Sometimes from an app on his phone.

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