Become a Vault-Tec Overseer today!
Vault-Tec are the leading innovators in human preservation vaults in the case of a nuclear incident. Your duties will involve, but are not limited to: Managing resources, building new Vault-Tec rooms, breeding humans, forcing pregnant women to do heavy labor and sending people to their deaths.
Sure, we’re more-or-less pushing the boundaries of what is considered humane behavior; but hey, we’re looking after the last of humanity! What does it matter if we push the boundaries of ethics here and there? Who else is going to look after you? The radroaches? Good luck, pal!
I have to admit, I love Fallout Shelter for a whole load of reasons.
Is it perfect? No. Is it worth playing? Most definitely.
Forget the catchphrase: War does change
The short story of this review is that Fallout Shelter isn’t pushing any boundaries: everything has been done before, in some form or another. However, there are multiple factors which make Fallout Shelter such an addictive and entertaining bit of mobile tomfoolery.
Shelter may be Bethesda’s first real bash at the mobile gaming market, but you can tell that they’ve paid attention and poured love into the game. Shelter clearly wasn’t farmed out overnight purely to make money; it’s well made, has personality by the vault-full and is genuinely fun to play.
It’s also stupidly addictive. If I wake up in the middle of the night, I find myself checking in on my Vault and seeing what my little vault dwellers are up to. Raymond Barnes has levelled up; Gloria Taylor has been killed by a Radroach while roaming the wasteland; a new baby has been born. Fallout Shelter takes the mobile management model, applies the same voyeuristic sheen that made The Sims so popular, and ends up occupying far more of your time than it has any right to.
As I mentioned before, the actual gameplay mechanics are pretty standard. Fallout Shelter falls somewhere between Tiny Tower and a Tamagotchi. This is the type of game you dip in and out of, and it doesn’t bombard you with push notifications either. As I said, Fallout Shelter isn’t obnoxious. It doesn’t demand that you pay attention to it – you pay attention to it because you want to.
Gameplay boils down to keeping your Vault dwellers happy by maintaining enough food, water and power to keep things ticking over. This is done by making them work in various rooms (power plants, water purification rooms and diners). Each of these rooms requires dwellers with particular SPECIAL attributes (Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility and Luck) to run efficiently.
All of your dwellers have SPECIAL attributes: some are very talented in a specific stat, and others… not so much. There are rooms that can train your vault dwellers in a particular attribute, but those are pricey and not unlocked until you reach a certain milestone. Progress is well balanced – it never feels as though something is irritatingly out of reach. The next bit of loot, the next unlockable, the next dweller – they’re always just around the corner.
If you find that your vault is running low on any particular resource, you’re able to rush the room to produce it immediately. There is a chance that your workers will fail though, leading to a fire or a radroach invasion. As hilarious as this is, it definitely isn’t good for the vault. There’s a slim chance that disasters will strike for no reason at all, and sometimes raiders invade. They break through the vault door and run riot until your people can drive them off. To help, you can equip dwellers with gear you’ve obtained, which also helps them survive if you send them out to explore the wastes (which in turn begets more loot and currency).
The aesthetic of Fallout shelter is one of the most pleasing aspects. Characters are 2d and have a cartoonish feel to them, and maintains the same 50’s post-apocalyptic feel of the Fallout universe. This authenticity extends to the sound design: music has that swinging big-band feel to it and gives your vault some charm, and sound effects – though sparse – fit perfectly.
Fallout‘s sense of humor features heavily in Shelter. The corny chat-up lines, the children flailing about when anything goes wrong, the way the poor pregnant ladies waddle about as you force them to keep working: it’s hilarious.
And that may well be the point of this game; we’ve only ever seen overseers as tyrants in previous Fallout games: people who appear to have little justification for their actions.
As an overseer, I admit it: I’m a complete bastard. I begrudge children for using my resources but not working; I never let anyone rest; I send people out on deadly missions and don’t even reward them. Everything is for the greater good of the Vault, not necessarily for the good of the people inside. It feels a little like I’ve been playing a simulation that Vault-Tec use to train potential overseers (and if that is the case, I for one welcome our new Vault-Tec overlords).
Stalin-esque? Perhaps. But again, maybe that’s the whole point.
Time is money. Chit-chat is not money. You here about the job or what?
With reports that Fallout Shelter has made Bethesda a lot of money (due to purchasable card packs that give you new gear), it’s clear that many people have been enjoying this game. But if you’re worried that it’s just another pay-to-win mobile game, let me set your mind at ease: my Vault is doing very well, and I haven’t spent a penny (or cent, or even bottlecap). You can actually unlock the card packs by simply competing objectives anyway – it just takes a little bit longer. And all the loot contained within them can be found by sending people out into the wasteland.
Never do you feel as though you’re being pushed into spending real money. In one game, Bethesda has demonstrated that it knows exactly what pisses mobile gamers off, and avoided doing it. They could have easily just followed suit; but instead they have been careful to avoid comparisons with the thousands of other mobile games that batter you over the head with reminders that you can spend money to speed things up. It feels like a Free To Play game in the most genuine sense of the term – not shorthand for “give us all of your money!”
Fallout Shelter is a great little game, so if you own an iPhone or iPad (or shortly, an Android device) get it now – especially if you’re a Fallout fan. Although there isn’t a great deal of depth to the gameplay, that doesn’t matter: the aesthetic, humor and Fallout setting make this an incredibly fun title which I’ve already poured hours into.
So if you do own an iThing (or soon an Android wotsit) then definitely give Fallout Shelter a try. What it lacks in depth it more than makes up for with sheer personality. And with all that said, I’m heading back to Vault 100. An Overseer’s work is never done…