Fallout Shelter could not have come out at a more perfect time. With the massive hype surrounding the upcoming release of Fallout 4 and the announcement of its base building features, Fallout Shelter manages to give gamers a sample taste of what the next game in the series might offer months before it hits our desktops and consoles; taking in wanderers of the wasteland, assigning jobs and managing resources, all in the wonderful world of the Fallout universe. That’s not to say Shelter doesn’t hold its own. It’s a solid base-management game with a lovely art style and a great fit for the mobile platform.
Shelter has you take the role of vault overseer, a job that entails caring for the citizens of your vault, managing its economy, and deciding who is brave enough to explore the wastes. The game shines in the early sections, as your lack of resources makes every choice matter and repercussions are evident right at the start. Do you skimp on water to make more food? Do you assign your dwellers to work in the power generator at the cost of less Stimpaks being made in the medical bay? Do you send a citizen out to explore with less gear in hopes of finding rare supplies early on? This decision making is what makes Shelter so addicting at the outset, and seeing your vault grow (or fail) due to your discretion makes for a compelling experience.
Unfortunately what holds true the early game does not carry over into the end game. Because sooner rather than later, you’ll build up enough resources and have enough caps to counter any accident, and the same min-maxing that is necessary in the beginning is needless in the late stages. Simply put there’s an utter lack of challenges to really test your vault during the end game. The first time you encounter a raider or Deathclaw invasion is a tense moment to be sure, but the tenth time it happens it just becomes another thing to do, another task that’s added to your already perpetual list.
This game is a Fallout game and thankfully it holds the same charm the series is known for. Zoom into one of the bedrooms and you’ll hear peaceful lounge music. Zoom into a room with a dweller and you might find him paranoid about being watched by the overseer, and this is accompanied with the classic Vault Boy style visuals.
Though Shelter does capture the character and look of the series with success, as well as making your dwellers seem like actual people to an extent, it does make a few oversights. Getting your dwellers to fall in love and procreate is necessary to build your population, as is sending out explorers to bring back loot. In one instance I turned the game off while a father was out in the wastes, and when you turn the game off, it continues for a fair bit. The game does a fine job of making sure nothing goes wrong while you’re away, unless of course, a dweller is out in hostile land with no one to tell him to return home. When I got back in the game, the father was dead and a lot of time had passed. During which the mother at home never seemed to worry about her missing lover. She just kept on working with a smile on her face and 100% happiness. I later figured out that you can revive your dwellers for a measly 200 or so caps, throwing a lot of the tension out the window and making your people expendable. Perhaps this is why the woman didn’t care about her missing boyfriend.
As with most free-to-play games, there comes with Shelter in-game purchases. I’m happy to say that the game doesn’t fall into pay-to-win territory, at least not too much. You can buy lunchboxes which include supplies that range from one Stimpak to 500 caps to a rare rifle. So yes, if you really want to, you can absolutely pay to win. But these lunchboxes are available in-game simply by completing challenges, and while they’re marginally rare, you can in fact acquire them without spending real cash. And to my delight, the existence of these in-app purchases don’t affect the game’s balance for those who don’t want to partake.
Fallout Shelter is an excellent game in short bursts. Pick it up for an hour and set it aside for later, where you can pick up right where you left off. It is unfortunate that the game loses its luster the further into it you get, but the first few hours are so enjoyable, that it’s worth playing even for just one afternoon, and best of all, it’s free. If you need to scratch your Fallout itch before the release of Fallout 4, without playing the other games for the umpteenth time, then you can’t go wrong with Fallout Shelter.
Is it Hardcore?
An addicting sim that is sure to give you hours of fun.