Judgement: Apocalypse Survival Simulator, or just Judgement for short, is a survival strategy game released from Early Access on May 3rd of this year. Taking crafting and survival mechanics and some RTS (Real Time Strategy) combat elements, Judgement should be a fairly decent game. Unfortunately, issues with gameplay bog down the overall experience significantly.
Judgement: Apocalypse Survival Simulator is available on Steam for $19.99
Judgement starts out in a similar fashion to many apocalypse stories. You and some friends are in the mountains camping when all of the sudden two panicked hunters come out of the brush. Behind them are vile demons, and before you can figure out what's happening the hunters are fighting them off.
You and your friends run off, only to discover that the world has been ravaged by the creatures. Realizing that civilization is in shambles, your group decides to set up camp and try to survive. You’ll have to find supplies, fend off even more powerful demons, and try to find fellow survivors. On the way, you will also need to try and discover what has caused this hellish invasion.
The use of occult elements is a nice divergence from other games set in the apocalypse. Unfortunately, outside of this, there isn’t really a ton of things that make the story differ from other settings. Common tropes, like hostile survivors and military experiments, are used. The stories pacing is also interrupted by gameplay, often taking so much time to progress it ends up feeling unimportant.
While there are some positive elements to the gameplay, a mixture of issues both big and small come together to severely hurt the game. Issues with combat and UI, as well as an overabundance of useless items, tends to make the gameplay tedious, and often times unnecessarily difficult.
The main goal of Judgement is to survive and try to complete the main story campaign. In order to do the former, the player will need to keep their survivors alive through food, water, and rest. In addition, you’ll also have to organize your survivors to defend themselves against attacks from demons.
At the start of the game, the player will need to create a source of food and water, as well as getting shelter and weapons for the survivors. To create these sources, you’ll need to gather materials, such as wood and clay. The player can also send out a task force to go and scavenge supplies from various locations around the main base.
An interesting mechanic is the attention meter. As you build more structures and complete missions, you will gain the attention of surrounding demons. The higher the meter gets, the more likely you are to have your settlement attacked by the hordes. Certain perks and missions can help lower the amount of attention your survivors are attracting.
In order to build more complex structures and items, the player will need to have their survivors perform research into both science and the occult. The points gained from this research can be put into research various different research trees. Gaining more and more of these skills is vital to the prolonged survival of the settlement.
There are ups and down to both of these systems. Things like being able to prioritize which tasks your survivors do is a nice feature. In addition, being able to set automatic crafting for items, setting a minimum and maximum amount of items to make is something I wish more games had.
Unfortunately, these two positives aren’t enough to hide the other issues. Even when prioritizing all of my survivors to farming, I constantly found myself on the verge of starvation, having to rely on less resource efficient foods and scavenging. The problem with scavenging is that as the player clears out the areas near them, they have to go out farther and farther for supplies. There is also an increased risk as more powerful demons appear farther away from you.
Another big issue is that a majority of the items you acquire through research aren’t worth building. Many of the weapons and armor require special perks to equip to survivors, and more basic ones will end up outclassing them without the special requirements. As you progress and are required to get special items to get through the trees, you end up with more risk for not many rewards.
A slightly smaller issue is with the UI of the game. While it’s fairly good at informing the player of the different stats of survivors and crafting requirements, there is a huge amount of digging the player needs to do to find things in certain menus. Some kind of keyword search option would probably have been a nice addition.
Outside of the survival elements, Judgement also has RTS style combat. You’ll equip your survivors with weapons, armor, and accessories to increase their chance of survival, as well as putting skill points into specific perks to help optimize their abilities. Experience for characters is gained through performing tasks and combat.
The combat in the game is lackluster, to say the least. Being fairly slow, most fights for me boiled down to selecting all of my survivors and sending them to mob enemies. Should one of your survivor’s health get too low, I just have them run out of range. Most of the abilities are fairly limited, and the time it takes to get some of them going isn’t worth it.
As I said before, the combat is done in an RTS form. As such, enemies will move around and attack on their own, regardless of what you do. The problem is that the AI for the enemies isn’t particularly great, often times using the same mob strategy that I used. Another issue is that your survivors, if not told specifically what to do, will just sit there and die. For example, should they target an enemy and kill it, they will just stop moving, even if another enemy is standing right next to them.
There is an auto-battle system, but it only applies to scavenging missions. Unfortunately, unless you totally outclass the enemies in the location you’re raiding, auto battles are a good way to get survivors killed.
I feel that if the game had gone with a turn-based system for combat, it would have worked much better. I look at games like Battle Brothers and think the combat system that they used in that game would have worked much better. As things are, there isn’t much strategy in this RTS.
Graphics and Sound
Visually, the game is a bit rough. The graphics look fairly out of date, more akin to a high-quality mobile game than an actual PC release. There really isn’t a distinct art style, with environments and characters looking very generic. One funny thing that I encountered was that at the beginning of all combat sections, the survivors would spawn in t-poses.
The games sound design is fine. There are different effects given for various tasks, though I will say that a lot of it sounds like public domain. The music is a strong point, adding a nice amount of atmosphere. The only thing I’d say against it is a bit generic, though not as much as the games art.
While there are definite positives to Judgement, issues ranging from minor to major turn it into a drawn out and repetitive experience. Combat is very simplistic, and crafting is made up of way to many useless items. This, combined with a below average presentation, make this game one I personally can’t recommend to the majority of people.
|+ Demons are a nice twist to the formula||– Poorly designed combat|
|+ Nice music||– Way to many useless items|
|– Very generic art style|
|– Outdated graphics|