Judas has reactive difficulty, evil dentist chairs, and a giant robot dog for fast travel

Following up yesterday’s news on Ghost Ship Games’ upcoming Judas, courtesy of the Ian Games Network, another interview with the Friends Per Second podcast, via SkillUp on YouTube, has shed light aplenty on the upcoming Bioshock-ian FPS game. The hosts played the game for 5 hours at Ghost Ship Games in Boston, then interviewed director Ken Levine. Here’s a crunchy chipstick of a take to kick things off with; Judas is, says Ralph of SkillUp, “Definitely not Bioshock in space”. I…haven’t played it, have I, so I’ll put my cynicism in its horrible little cage for a bit. Aesthetically, at least, Judas does look to have a lot going for it.

Not least because of the giant robot dog that takes on the role of Bioshock’s bathysphere this time around. Riding the dog sounds to involve a pixel art minigame that has you collect fuel pickups. You’ll ride the dog between the “districts” of the city-sized spaceship Mayflower. We also got a few details on what exactly those districts might entail. The hosts mention a “birthing district” and “milk district”. Whatever you think the “milk district” might be in terms of a Bioshock-ian dystopia, it sounds like you’re probably right. The hosts made a face. I made a face. I’m sure you are also likely making a face right now.

The podcast also goes into a lot of new detail on what Judas is actually like to play. The most interesting of which, at least to me, is the idea of a dynamic difficulty system that reacts not to how well you’re doing, as these things often do, but what sort of playstyles you favour. There’s a “procedural design to combat,“ says Ralph of SkillUp, “Where, if it notices you’re really into stealth, it’s going to give you more encounters that are challenging for that style of play.” This also extends to rewards dished out by primary antagonists the ‘big three’, where you might get offered special incentives like upgrades for your favourite guns.

The ‘big three’ themselves are compared to Cyberpunk 2077’s Johnny Silverhand, ghostly projections or presences that overcome the audiolog/loudspeaker monologue problem by “zipping around the environment,” showing up, say, leaning against a wall to talk to you. One thing I’ve always admired about Bioshock is its lack of traditional cutscenes in terms of taking control away from the player, and it sounds like Judas will take this one step further by having characters follow you through the environments during conversations, so you’re not compelled to stop and listen to them.

Cover image for YouTube videoJudas – Story Trailer | PS5 Games

As for the vibes of the spaceship itself? Aside from the top level overview, the podcast did go into a few more details about what sort of tone you should expect. “You’ll see little notes that you can click on, and there are essentially tweets that pop up,” says Ralph of SkillUp. “It has a like and dislike count. If someone is saying something on message, it’s getting lots of likes. If someone is being subversive, like ‘maybe we don’t trust the powers that be’ everyone’s like, dislike, dislike.” Ten years of writing, folks. Ten years.

Some more assorted deets I found interesting: Judas sounds like it’s very much leaning into the rogue-lite genre, with procedural tile sets, power-up style upgrades, and meta progression. An invisibility cloak and “second air dash” are mentioned. My keen insight informs me that this suggests the presence of a first air dash, which is neat. Dying takes you to a specific area and progresses certain story elements. There’s no “talent tree”, instead Judas will unlock challenges by performing certain actions (the hosts discuss the example of blowing up enemies with a canister), then unlock upgrades. There are flammable oil pools and a hacking minigame, suggesting a strong skeleton based on Levine’s previous work, if that wasn’t clear already. Enemies include a robot dentist chair with a corpse sitting in it that shouts “time for fillings!” at you.

Again, you can find the full video-cast here. There are also some snippets of, as far as I can tell, previously unseen gameplay footage that give a much more complete sense of the combat than anything released thus far. Personally speaking, I got much more out of it than the Ian Games Network piece, so it’s well worth a watch if you’re interested.

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