As a narrative theme in fiction, survival is an incredibly powerful one; transcending emotions such as fear, pain and love. It’s also a primal human instinct that’s pretty much defined our evolution as a species. So, it’s hardly surprising that it’s recently emerged as such an immensely popular genre across nearly every facet of pop culture.
That, of course, includes video games, where post-apocalyptic settings – which typically employ survival mechanics – have long since been a mainstay of the medium. We’re seeing survival now incorporated into multiple different genres by way of gameplay and storyline. But, quite apart from being merely a component of our favorite role-playing and action games, survival has now given birth to its own genre, too.
Dubbed “survival simulation,” colony survival games are a hybrid of real or turn based strategy, role-playing and resource management, and the result is an exciting blend of gameplay. The formula has been especially well executed by several independent studios, and WGTC has discovered one such title that we think holds real promise as it moves from Steam Early Access to launch.
Judgment: Apocalypse Survival Simulation is the brainchild of indie Israeli developer Suncrash Studio. It’s a colony simulation game with real-time tactical combat, in which players are charged with managing a group of survivors following an Apocalypse of biblical proportions, literally. Suncrash has looked past the zombie premise – which is getting slightly long in the tooth at this point – and trades the undead for demonic antagonists – devilish creatures, hellbent on ravaging the world’s inhabitants.
Gameplay centres around building a colony, managing its economy and defending it from attack. As with other popular colony survival games, you’ll spend time gathering materials, scavenging for resources, crafting equipment for your survivors and researching technologies for additional perks. But unlike other colony survival games, Judgment: Apocalypse doesn’t bog players down with excessive resource micromanagement. Instead, there’s an option to access a world map and send different characters to various areas to scavenge resources autonomously. Thanks to that feature, combat and resource management are much more evenly balanced.
There’s also a much greater emphasis on character upgrades and unique abilities too, and the game’s director, Tomer Barkan, feels this makes Judgment stand out from the crowd.
Speaking with WGTC he told us the following:
“Judgment, unlike many other colony simulation games, attempts to put an equal emphasis on the strategic phase and the tactical phase. Due to that, the colony simulation part of Judgment is simpler with less micromanagement compared to other games in the genre, such as Dwarf Fortress and Rimworld, but with many more options for researching and crafting tactical gear.”
The fear of losing one’s character is what drives the intensity of combat in any game featuring permadeath, and that’s especially prominent in Judgment: Apocalypse. Thanks to a myriad of unique abilities, and by fleshing out their character development, there’s a real sense that each of your survivalists an identity, which makes losing them all the more heart-wrenching. Even if you aren’t the sentimental type, there’s also nothing more likely to make you throw your keyboard across the room than losing characters in which you have invested precious resources…that’s reason enough to take care of them in combat.
With regards to its actual combat gameplay, there’s no escaping the fact that Judgment: Apocalypse’s offering is fairly basic. It’s a tactical strategy game – think real-time X-Com, minus the complexities its mechanics – in which players can move and attack with a variety of different weapons, but there’s not a great deal to it. That being said, both the ability to pause real-time battles, as well the importance of character placement prior to combat commencing, means that strategy does play an important role and is much more engaging than its simple mechanics suggest.
Judgment: Apocalypse Survival Simulation is still currently in Early Access/Alpha, but you wouldn’t know it. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find a game in alpha that feels as polished, and the overwhelmingly positive user reviews reflect Suncrash’s commitment to quality. There’s a real handcrafted feel to all of the menus and systems throughout the game. Frame rates and general stability is excellent, too, and though clearly, some aspects of the game are a work in progress, you could easily mistake this alpha for a complete title. Even so, Suncrash is resolved to listening to feedback and issuing updates to ensure the final product meets expectations.
Indeed, Tomer Barkan made special mention of that when we spoke with him, stating:
“…the level of polish today is far greater than it was when Judgment was first released in April 2016. All those improvements we owe to our Early Access players. So many of the changes we’ve made to the game were driven from player feedback… we are every happy that we chose this road.”
The full release is scheduled for spring 2017, but we’d suggest there’s enough content here to justify jumping into early access right now. If you’re interested, you can find the Steam download page for Judgment: Apocalypse Survival Simulation here.