Source Of Madness review machine learning makes this a messy roguelite Rock Paper Shotgun

Source Of Madness review machine learning makes this a messy roguelite Rock Paper Shotgun

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Source Of Madness review machine learning makes this a messy roguelite Rock Paper Shotgun

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Source Of Madness review: machine learning makes this a messyroguelite Too many tentacles Review by Ed Thorn Senior Staff Writer Published on May 11, 2022 16 comments Source Of Madness review A side-scrolling roguelite with a penchant for randomness that leads more to messy frustrations than the Lovecraftian legends it wants to produce

Developer: Carry CastlePublisher: Thunderful PublishingRelease: Out nowOn: WindowsFrom: Steam, GOGPrice: £15/€18/$18 Source Of Madness is a side-scrolling roguelite set in a Lovecraftian setting populated by twisted Bamzooki

And it’s a world where everything been procedurally generated with the help of machine learning

This makes for some fabulous, gloomy aesthetics and tormented beasts, but also means it’s a messy roguelite with a loop that leads more to frustration than anything else

Source Of Madness looks at all the roguelites saturating the marketplace and it says, «Heh, you call that procedural generation?» The next day it looks at them all again and it shouts, «Pah, that’s not procedural generation is it?» Two days later it whispers, «Procedural generation? No way that’s what you’re doing

» The game goes BIG on procedural generation, if you hadn’t guessed

Its levels and enemies are all powered by a combination of proc-gen and AI machine learning

This means won’t find the same octopus with cleavers for suckers twice, oh no

Between each successive run the octopus gets whizzed through a limb factory of code where robots swap out its body parts like Lego

If the proc-gen production line was Inside The Factory filmed behind the scenes, Greg Wallace would bound around the production line and roar, «THAT JUST SCREAMS INDUSTRY DOESN’T IT? THAT’S HEAVY DUTY»

Watch on YouTube But forget procedural generation for a bit, because without it the game’s core resembles that of your usual roguelite

You’re an acolyte of the Loam Lands, a Lovecraft-inspired world of spiky buildings and jiggly strips of flesh

The aim is to uncover the secrets of the Tower Of Madness through the process of roguelite erosion, a

chipping away at it over many generations

Die, and you can spend blood and blue orbs you’ve earned from fallen enemies on permanent upgrades that’ll help you not die as fast the next time around

You get the drill

And if the drill is done well, like Rogue Legacy 2 or Dead Cells, then you get The Itch

No matter how swiftly a run ends, you’re rewarded in some way or another, whether that’s gold to spend on a valuable upgrade or an entirely new encounter you’re excited to revisit

The «Just one more run» urge reels you in, like Robson Green catching a grouper off the coasts of Ecuador

Having played lots of roguelites over the years, I’ve learned to trust The Itch

Unfortunately, Source Of Madness doesn’t tingle any pores or give me a rash

Pushing further into the game doesn’t reward as much you’d like, often dishing out quite paltry rings or hoods for your efforts – rings act as your right and left jabs, while hoods are your sole armour piece, offering health benefits and stat boosts

There are other things too, like little turrets you can place or hovering companions that fling orbs at enemies

The variety isn’t an issue, but when you’re finding stuff that’s barely any better than what you’re wearing, it’s hard for your willpower not to deflate bit by bit

Even if you do find a powerful item, it rarely excites

They just don’t feel all that impactful when you press the trigger, and it’s thanks to the game slight jankiness

I spent lots of Blood I’d gained at one of two big skill trees back at base on a spell called «Flame Wave»

Flame Wave

Cor, it sounded so cool! But in practice, it was a rather disappointing blur of fire that flicked over enemies and made some measly damage numbers pop-up

Sometimes you’ll encounter a shop filled with expensive treats, but sometimes it’s your only way to pick up an item that fulfils some sort of power fantasy

Other spells are a bit better, like a bamboo blast that fires spikes in a big circle

Charge it up, leg it into an enemy, and it’s like letting off a massive shotgun blast

There’s also a basic slash that cleaves at enemies with a squish and a squelch

Once you’ve unlocked more acolyte classes like Pyromancers and Bloodmancers you’ll quickly gain access to bigger, badder spells in the skill tree

But it’s a long, grueling road for a roguelite that’s too wobbly

Wobbly? Yeah, Source Of Madness is what you’d get if Bamzooki usurped us as rulers of this planet: a dark, twisted world of Lovecraftian nightmare, populated by rainbow-coloured stick insects and fluorescent crabs that look like they’ve been soldered onto bowling shoes

Enemies are skittering, gangly beings that flail horns and spit goo, which makes them menacing, sure, but they make combat and survival an absolute lottery

This is where the game’s procedural generation bites it in the arse

Roguelites shine when they’re refined to a tee; no excuses allowed

Rogue Legacy 2 is a prime example of a perfectly tuned roguelite loop

Maps and enemies are clear, coupled with precise movement and attack powers

Die and you’ll struggle to find an excuse aside from, «yep, that’s my bad»

Source Of Madness and its writhing Bamzooki enemies, coupled with loose movement and imprecise attacks, makes for a bevy of excuses when you succumb to a smack or whatever it was that killed you

Fighting big bads is alright

Again, it’s easy to get caught in their tangle of tendrils and tentacles

And possible excuses aren’t something you’d want from any roguelite, right? They need to be sealed shut, with all the many nuts and bolts that hold them together screwed tight

Death should be something you control, but Source Of Madness’ love of random often means it’s out of your hands

Attack patterns are hard to learn when beasts are pieced together by an AI machine, so you’re forever approaching each fight tentatively

This makes for many tense encounters! But tension also stems from distrust in the game itself

It’s hard to read enemy attacks as they QWOP around, and you’ll almost certainly take a huge hit from one of many limbs or projectiles – but which one was it?! Where the procedural generation really shines is in the world and its gloomy, aesthetic

Each run is relatively fresh, with dank caverns and spiky buildings giving way to rooms that resemble giant intestinal tracts

And over multiple runs the game hits you with more and more random events

There’s a googly eye slot machine that’ll reward you with things like special items and extra cash if you’re willing to gamble blood

Hidden rooms give way to mega-zooki and golden chests, if you’re able to survive

I tried my damnedest to like Source Of Madness

but it all comes back to The Itch

The game has its moments and the world’s beautifully horrid, but when everything’s churned out of a machine-learning bot it makes for a roguelite that’s too random

Yes, you’ve got to think on your feet, but a lack of defined margins means your life’s often snuffed out by mess

And mess leads to frustration

And frustration leads to excuses

When you’re pinning your demise on the game itself, it’s hard to summon the willpower to push on

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