One of the arguments about the superiority of older games that I hear constantly is that somehow retro games come from an era when we didn’t care so much about graphics. I have never understood this argument. At best it seems like we’re washing our nostalgia in some soap and warm water, while ignoring just how many of us shit our pants in awe when we saw the upgrade from the original Mega Man to Mega Man X.
I can appreciate the slightly delusional yet optimistic sentiment that my fellow elder gamers are trying to get across, though. Essentially that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. And I most recently exercised that thought process with Judgment, a post-apocalyptic strategy town builder from Suncrash Games. Judgment is just such a game. It does not look good. Not even for the many low-budget, “whore with a heart of gold” games out there that are actually unique and fun if you can see over your wrinkled nose enough to at least try them out. But as an engaging town builder and demon hunting strategy game, Judgment genuinely surprised me.
Perhaps the first thing to make me underestimate Judgment was its name. Look this one up on Steam and it isn’t just Judgment. Its official title is Judgment: Apocalypse Survival Simulation, which has all the hallmarks of a cheap asset flip trying to game the algorithm all over it. You know the types of games I’m talking about: PUBG comes out to a sweeping success and suddenly there are seventy-six different indie games with “battle royale” in the title. Terrible games that cost pennies to make trying to take advantage of the naïve and the ignorant.
The title really isn’t doing Judgment: Apocalypse Survival Simulation any favors. First and foremost because this is neither a survival game, nor a simulation. At least not in the way that you’d expect, based on other games that have counted themselves in those particular genres. As I said before, what Judgment actually is is a town builder and strategy similar in its own way to games like XCOM.
The setting is a vague, post-apocalyptic world where demons and cultists have taken over the planet, and you lead your team of survivors in building a settlement, collecting resources, researching and upgrading, and doing battle with hordes of imps, demons, and grim reaper types who are reveling in this hell on earth that they’ve created. The storyline is interesting enough, and I really had a great time working my way slowly from bows and arrows to assault rifles and even future tech. Most interesting of all was the ability to research the occult and learn spells and incantations that will protect your citizens, and give them bonuses to foraging, fighting, and any number of other endeavors.
Has Judgment: Apocalypse Survival Simulation broken any molds or revitalized the genre in any way? Hell no. It’s an extremely humble indie title with unimpressive graphics, a tired setting, and all the snares and pitfalls that a strategy heavy game on a budget can find itself falling into.
All the same, though: I sort of liked it. There’s something to be said from doing something well, even if it’s been done many, many times before. Whether it’s XCOM or Banished or Civilization, Judgment steals from all the right places and as a result is pretty engaging, especially if you like that gameplay style, but need a change of scene. And unfortunately, there are enough red flags that pop up around Judgment’s style or graphics or even its name that might keep people far, far away from it.
And for some of you, that might be a good thing. If you’re coming up on four digits in your hours played on XCOM or just haven’t found any reason to switch from your favorite city builder, there probably isn’t a lot for you here. But the curious among you might want to give this one at least a cursory look.