It’s not quite Bioshock 4, but Ken Levine is back with Judas and I am insanely hyped for this! His new studio, Ghost Story Games, stayed silent on what it was working on since officially forming in February 2017 (with roots going all the way back to February 2014).
But the team broke cover at The Game Awards 2022, nearly nine years later, with an incredible trailer featuring in-game engine footage and little glimpses of gameplay. Set to launch on PC, PS5, and Xbox Series X|S, this is the next sci-fi FPS epic from the mind behind Bioshock.
On first impressions, it would be fair to say that’s all we know. However, let’s stick a tin foil hat on, channel our inner Pepe Silvia, and look at the little breadcrumbs of information we got in the trailer and over the years.
Judas release date
Currently, Judas does not have a release date — showing only as “coming soon” on the game’s Steam page. However, I’m willing to put money on a late 2023 launch window.
Why? Well, after the trailer was shown, Geoff Keighley went on to say he had played “multiple hours” of the game (confirming all the footage was in-game). Every word of what he says during the awards is heavily scripted, and these words are deliberate in giving you the impression that the game is closer than you think.
Not to the point that we’ll see it any time soon, but I would not be surprised if we saw Judas gameplay at Summer Games Fest (or an equivalent E3 event) with a release date.
We received a trailer for Judas at The Game Awards, and if you’ve been in the know for the last five years, you probably lost your mind as soon as the Ghost Story Games logo showed itself. I couldn’t help but scream, and although it’s only a minute and 30 seconds long, there’s plenty to take from it.
There’s one moment of this trailer that I still can’t stop thinking about: The player is face-to-face with this giant, mechanical dog that quickly lies on its belly before a door in its head opens up as the player approaches to enter. What the hell is going on here? At some point, we also see this mechanical humanoid creature with a gigantic horse head collapse against a romantic sign that says “Eat The Cookie!” as oil spurts out of them.
Our first bit of gameplay shows a strange little robot with some blue liquid swirling around in its transparent chest getting shocked by the protagonist as they approach, causing an enormous explosion that sends the player back a little bit. That jolt of electricity greatly resembles the Plasmids in BioShock, and in a later scene, we see the player open up a chamber in the back of their hand before shutting the lid and conjuring up a fireball. In another scene, we see that same spot glowing green, which might mean you can use acid powers at some point.
We also see one of the characters open up a strange spherical container, which we assume is a method of acquiring new powers, weapons, or some kind of new item. There’s also this moment, likely a cinematic, where the player is looking out through their ship window, watching a destroyed portion of the ship (and some crewmates) get flung out into space. Another scene has a character with pink hair, shown earlier in the trailer, hopping on a turret before shooting a barrage of machine gun bullets into an enemy shooting at her with a double-barreled shotgun.
The trailer ends with ominous dialogue as a meteor crashes towards the protagonist who’s looking at herself in a reflection with a smile before the words “fix what you broke” appear in capital letters. It's quite the elaborate trailer, and if you're a BioShock fan, it probably spoke to you immediately.
Again, details are thin on the ground. Head on over to the Steam page again, and you’ve got the following in the About section.
“A disintegrating starship. A desperate escape plan.
You are the mysterious and troubled Judas. Your only hope for survival is to make or break alliances with your worst enemies. Will you work together to fix what you broke – or will you leave it to burn?”
Let’s take a step back in time, all the way back to the 2014 Game Developers Conference, which Ken spoke at following the restructuring of Irrational Games into what will eventually become Ghost Story Games.
He came to the show with a big idea that he wanted to explore in his next games, simply named “narrative Legos.” Simply put, a non-linear narrative with bricks of story that you put together yourself and watch how the world reacts to it. He expanded upon that by discussing more of how the game’s narrative will evolve around your actions during EGX Rezzed in March 2017, where he said the form is inspired by the Nemesis System in Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor.
You can read more about how that works over on our sister site, GamesRadar, but to sum it up, it analyzes your actions in the game to generate some highly personal storylines around key characters, all within the larger narrative being told to you (which he called “radical recognition”). It’s fascinating, and I highly recommend you pick up a copy to try it out for yourself.
With that in mind, you can connect that back to the story here of whether you align with or destroy the enemies you are on this starship with. This opens up a fascinating world of potential diplomacy, and presents the potential of many more endings than the few finales you got at the end of Bioshock, for example.
Since Judas is focusing on the player having to develop relationships with those they once considered an enemy, I have a feeling there might be more to this game than just trying to leave the ship. Perhaps the player has the opportunity to romance the other characters within the world? It seems the game’s characters will act as companions, so I wouldn’t be shocked if this was the case.
The name Judas is also a pretty clear biblical allegory. “Judas” is naturally associated with “traitor,” and in the case of the game, that seems to be exactly what’s going on within the story. The player is on a ship with plenty of enemies after breaking something, perhaps intentionally. I doubt the biblical metaphors will end here, either.
From what we saw in the trailer, I’m expecting Bioshock on steroids, and the Steam page About section sort of confirms that, too:
“Judas is a narrative FPS developed by Ghost Story Games, a studio led by Ken Levine, Director of System Shock 2, BioShock, and BioShock Infinite.”
If you’ve played a Ken Levine game before, chances are this will feel familiar to you — a range of weapons in your right hand, and Plasmid-esque power-ups and weapons fired out of some sort of mechanical element that is embedded in your left hand.
Of course, the option to align with certain key characters throughout the game gives you an accomplice in some of this action, as was suggested by the fact someone jumped on a turret and helped you take out an enemy.
Judas rumors and theories
Although we’ve officially seen a trailer for Judas, we still don’t know much about the intricacies of the game’s design. Yes, it looks like an evolution to BioShock in many ways, but considering what its key developers said more than five years ago now, we’re actually expecting it to be a lot more than just that.
In a post on Ghost Story Games’ website from 2017, the key developers took time to explain some of the design philosophies behind their latest title. Art Director Shawn Robertson claimed that the team is “working together to push the boundaries of what interactive narrative means.” Senior Animator Seth Kendall is looking to “find innovative solutions to problems that have plagued game development for decades.” He also claims “the world and IP is richly specific and original.” Guy Walshe, a UI Artist at the company, believes that this is something that “no other studio could take on.”
It’s hard to key in on what these statements mean, especially since they were claimed early on in development. The game we saw at The Game Awards seemed awfully like BioShock in gameplay, but there’s clearly something going on within the narrative that puts plenty of choice in the player’s hands.
Much like the incredible Death Stranding 2 trailer, this Judas preview asked a lot more questions than it answered about the world, the gameplay, and the story. But with a little historical context and some educated guesswork, we can parse some more information about when we may get our hands on it.
Of course, take my release date bet with a pinch of salt, and wait for the official announcement for confirmation. Either way, I’m so insanely excited for Ken Levine’s next epic, and you should be, too!
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Jason brings a decade of tech and gaming journalism experience to his role as a writer at Laptop Mag. He takes a particular interest in writing articles and creating videos about laptops, headphones and games. He has previously written for Kotaku, Stuff and BBC Science Focus. In his spare time, you'll find Jason looking for good dogs to pet or thinking about eating pizza if he isn't already.