The well-known Fallout series is known for its open exploration of a nuclear wasteland. They are usually vast and very open-ended RPGs that can take 100’s of hours to see everything they hold. You create a character and watch that character grow during an epic story. Fallout Shelter is not that. It isn’t anything like that, but that doesn’t mean that it’s bad. Fallout Shelter is a resource management game with roots that extend to mobile gaming. It landed on cell phones back in 2015, was later updated to run on Windows and now you can find it on the Xbox One.
In Fallout Shelter you create a vault to house people that are trying to escape a nuclear winter. This is in line with the Fallout series. In the main games you are usually a vault dweller that has to go out into the wastes for some reason or another, so it’s nice to see Bethesda delve into the lives of the people that live in the vaults permanently. The game has charming visuals that all Fallout fans will recognize because everyone is styled after the pipboy mascot from the main games. It is adorable and instantly gives the game a Fallout feel. In Shelter, you must make your dwellers work to produce resources while helping everyone stay alive and productive. The three resources are power (used to run every room you build), water (to keep people from becoming irradiated) and food (to keep everyone alive and happy). The game is hardest right at the beginning when you have limited people and resources, so any incident can throw off the equilibrium of your entire vault. At the beginning of the game, my vault suffered chronic power outages and people were becoming irradiated and hungry. What was the solution you ask? Making babies; lots and lots of babies. Once I populated my vault with more dwellers things started to get a lot more manageable. The progression system is also tied to how many dwellers you have, so get to making babies as soon as you start playing. There are four essential rooms in Shelter: housing quarters, a power station, a diner, and a water purification plant. You place your dwellers in the housing areas to make babies and the remaining rooms are used to generate your precious resources. They adapted the Fallout games’ S.P.E.C.I.A.L. system as a way to implement stats on your dwellers. Each room in your vault requires a workers’ particular stat to be high to run at peak efficiency. Power rooms require strength to run, while med labs require high intelligence. You can build training rooms to increase the stats of your dwellers. The more dwellers you have, the more rooms you can build (there are a ton). Each room has a particular use. You can build crafting rooms for outfits and weapons, upgrade power rooms to nuclear reactors and build yourself an “Overseer’s Office”. Once you build the office, a new layer of the game opens up. Questing! Right from the outset you can send dwellers out into the wasteland alone to gather resources such as new clothing, weapons, and junk used to craft new items.
Quests allow you to send larger groups of people out for bigger rewards. Once the group reaches the quest destination you will switch from your vault to where they are and get to witness them taking on raiders, rad roaches, and even the notorious deathclaws from the main Fallout games. Things can get tense if you haven’t produced enough stimpacks or radaway. These segments are a nice diversion from the main gameplay.
Your dwellers aren’t safe from the wasteland threats just because they are in the vault. You will often face break-ins from raiders and ghouls. You are rewarded with experience points and caps for suppressing these threats. Threats also come from within the vault such as fires and rad roach infestations. These outbreaks can bring even the best running vault to its knees if they aren’t taken care of immediately. Gathering more weapons and increasing your population makes these encounters easier. Fallout Shelter is a little different than most games as it gets easier and easier all around the more you play. Instead of the games hardest moments being late in the game it’s the other way around. Some people may think this is backwards, but I believe it works well for this type of game. The only complaints I have gameplay wise are that there isn’t any conflict among your dwellers and there really isn’t any type of endgame in place. Being kept underground with over 100 people would make a conflict between dwellers unavoidable, yet in Shelter everyone always gets along perfectly. It would have been nice to deal with disagreements, theft, or murder. Persuasion or intimidation could have been put into place or maybe you would have to cast people out for committing crimes. As far as the endgame goes, I didn’t have much reason at all to play once I unlocked everything. The achievement system will keep me playing for a while longer, but if you’re not into that you won’t get a ton of life out of the game.
For a free game, Fallout Shelter plays all of its cards right and gives you a lot to do without forcing its microtransaction backbone in your face. Sure you can buy lunchboxes to net you in-game items or buy NukaCola Quantum to speed up some aspects of gameplay, but I’m happy to report that none of it is necessary to win. This is certainly not a play to win title. I did purchase what is known as a Mister Handy. It was extremely cheap ($1US) and it was my way of supporting the developers for a job well done. They earned it. When I booted up the game the first time I didn’t expect to enjoy it. It has mobile roots and I’m usually not fond of mobile titles, but I went into it anyway and I’m glad I did. It was enjoyable to me for many hours; more enjoyable than some full price games.
- Addictive Gameplay
- Charming Visuals
- Free To Play
- No End Game
- Quick Completion
- No Internal Conflicts