Judas is taking inspiration from XCOM and Civilization to turn BioShock into a "pseudo-procedural" take on single-player narrative games

(Image credit: thegameawards/Ghost Story Games)

A selection of previews for Judas, the new game from former BioShock boss Ken Levine, have just dropped, detailing a game with an ambitious, "pseudo-procedural" approach to narrative.

As the early trailers for Judas have suggested, it's very much a game in the BioShock mold - a single-player, story-driven experience where you generally carry a gun in one hand and a supernatural power in the other as you're ordered around by a cast of profoundly messed-up characters. The difference this time around is that the story will be much more reactive to your actions, driven by a rivalry between three characters who are all competing for your support and attention.

If you want a basic overview of what to expect, the nine-minute video below from Geoff Keighley is a solid primer, and comes with a chunk of gameplay footage to enjoy. But in more in-depth interviews, Levine makes it clear that this is effectively the fulfillment of that 'narrative Lego' concept he talked about a decade ago, where handcrafted pieces of storytelling are pieced together in procedural ways, hopefully giving the impression of a cohesive single-player narrative, but one that's going to be very different for every player. 

"We call it pseudo-procedural because it's not like Minecraft where everything's being generated off a set of pure mathematical heuristics," Levine tells IGN. "You build all these smaller piece elements in the game and then you teach the game how to make good levels essentially, and good story, and most importantly, reactive to what you do."

Every time you die, your character is "reprinted," at which point you'll have the chance to change aspects of your character, similar to many of the best roguelike games. But Levine doesn't want to bow to any particular genre labels. "We're not trying to make a first-person shooter. We're not trying to make a roguelite. We're not trying to make a strategy game." There are elements of those sorts of genres, but Judas isn't aiming to fit in any particular box.

Levine says that some of his "favorite single-player games" include XCOM - both the original and reboot - and Civilization, and notes that "those are also built actually modularly and they don't have a discrete narrative like we do. But I took a lot of inspiration for those games because their map is being constructed at runtime and our maps are largely being constructed or put together from individual elements at runtime. The ship is different every time you die and come back, the ship layout can be different. And so we withdrew a lot of inspiration from those types of single-player games. But nobody's had to put it into narrative."

Judas will be out by March 2025.

Dustin Bailey
Staff Writer

Dustin Bailey joined the GamesRadar team as a Staff Writer in May 2022, and is currently based in Missouri. He's been covering games (with occasional dalliances in the worlds of anime and pro wrestling) since 2015, first as a freelancer, then as a news writer at PCGamesN for nearly five years. His love for games was sparked somewhere between Metal Gear Solid 2 and Knights of the Old Republic, and these days you can usually find him splitting his entertainment time between retro gaming, the latest big action-adventure title, or a long haul in American Truck Simulator.