by Sean Martin
reviewed on PC
Judgement: Apocalypse Survival Simulation, the first game from developer Suncrash, is an interesting piece of work. Having been in early access for a couple of years, the developers have chosen a great time to release: RTS survival giants like Frostpunk and Surviving Mars are popularizing the genre, and there are more people interested in these games than ever. However, Judgement takes more inspiration from tower defence base builders than it does from RTS survival. In Judgement, the environment is not your enemy, the danger instead being the demon apocalypse that is consuming the world. But in many ways, the environment is your salvation, as the resources it provides allow you to craft effective survival solutions.
You play as a small band of characters, each customizable to a degree. Having witnessed during the intro two hunters fight (and eventually get overwhelmed by) a hella tonne of demonic entities, your characters sensibly decide to set up shop in the woods. The old world is dead, long live the new world. Maybe if we ignore those demons over there, they won’t bother us? Unfortunately, though, as you build your survivalist compound, those demons will bother you, periodically and in escalating numbers. The main aim of the game is to survive these waves for as long as you can, crafting weapons, improving infrastructure and gathering more followers to help you.
The base building in Judgement is fairly varied: you can construct a variety of cabins, workbenches, farms and more, much as you would expect in a survival game. When I was playing, however, for quite a long time, I found no value in upgrading my farms or infrastructure. My people were eating only salad, but there seemed to be no negative drawbacks. I built only one well for water, but it seemed to supply more than enough. The same could be said for the weapons: I crafted everyone basic bows and they dealt with all the enemies I faced quickly enough. I lasted a long time with the basic setup, long enough to begin getting bored.
It is a game’s job to incentivise, and especially a survival game, which has to necessitate you improving your weapons and infrastructure via difficulty. But maybe there is a difficulty spike at a certain point - I was playing on the default difficulty, so maybe I should’ve cranked it up a bit? I was also a little disappointed with the map: it harked me back to the RTS harvester worlds of Age of Empires, littered with pristine resource deposits, but no real scenery or actual world-building. But the map effectively serves its main purpose, allowing you to harvest, build and expand.
CHARACTERS, CRAFT AND COMBAT
As you play the game your characters’ will level up, allowing you to improve certain traits, like accuracy, or their health. On top of this, you can equip characters with a variety of ranged or melee weapons, plus armor, so they can better face the demonic hordes. The combat is fairly standard: you command characters to attack specific monsters and can use combat abilities to turn the tide. You can also form task forces with characters, allowing them to go on expeditions for supplies and to find more characters.
Other than during combat however, most characters will go about their daily business, fulfilling their needs and gathering resources. I don’t think I’ve ever said this about a game, but the character AI possibly does too much. I suppose this is for the late game, when you have a ton of characters and no time to micromanage, but in the early game it meant I was doing nothing for long periods of time, other than occasionally ordering a building and waiting for demons to come. But it is also kind of nice and refreshing to be able to sit back and let your characters deal for themselves. It depends entirely on your playstyle.
Judgement is a pretty coherent game. Nothing about it really blew me away, but it certainly does what it sets out to do. In this sense, it will most likely be an enjoyable romp for tower defence or survival fans. But when other RTS survival games like Frostpunk are playing with environmental hostility and RTS narrative in such interesting ways, I found it hard to get excited by what feels like just another tower defence demon/zombie survival with little narrative engagement. But saying that, it is very much a solid tower defence base builder and players who are already fans of the genre will find quite a lot to like here.
Consistent game, varied building and crafting.
Pretty boring map, lackluster story.