When it comes to making the post-apocalypse dystopian societies fun and engaging, few have nailed it like Bethesda. Most of us – addicts, really – know all too well about the seductive joys of Fallout, where a simple romp in the desolate wasteland can be more reassuring than roses and chocolates. But with the release Fallout 4 around the corner there are still those who may need a refresher course in the ways of survival in the times of radiation, and that’s where something like Fallout Shelter fits in nicely.
While a freemium serving may not be everyone’s cup of tea, it’s clear after spending time in my own personal bunker that the brand is only strengthened by this new offering that somehow manages to bring micro-management and quick tapping to the post-apocalypse.
On the surface, Fallout Shelter looks and plays much like a typical mobile restaurant sim: keep customers happy by feeding them and engaging with a myriad of issues on a regular basis. Its true there and true with Fallout Shelter; only you’ll be worrying about repopulating the species and surviving a post-apocalyptic wasteland. But apart from that, totally the same!
You are the overseer of your very own vault (you assign the number yourself), and your job is to build rooms to expand your little slice of bunker heaven. Your vault, naturally, has been tricked out like a doomsday prepper’s wonderland but you’ll still want more. In order to grow you’ll need to attract more residents. One caveat: the more people you have living and working inside the vault, the bigger the strain on resources.
This is where things gets messy as your people can starve, die of thirst, get irradiated, or physically hurt when things go boom. If that isn’t enough, you also have to make sure these miscreants stay happy (or relatively so). If this sounds simple, don’t worry, because there’s plenty more to keep you busy. Like raiders and radroaches. Raiders want your stuff, while the roaches are…well, they’re radioactive roaches. Yuck. To keep these nasties at bay you’ll need to fortify your entrance AND make sure your people are protected and armed.
And to do this you’ll need to send your people out into the wasteland where they can scavenge for caps, armor, and weapons. Calling them back means you collect their booty – if they survive, because we all know how welcoming wastelands are, right? As you progress and meet certain challenges you’ll be rewarded with caps and lunchboxes filled with collector cards filled with resources, caps, armor, weapons, or even other dwellers, all of which comes in handy. This is also where your in-app purchases come in (the App is freemium, remember) but you certainly don’t have to pay for anything if you don’t want to. Your overall experience won’t change much, minus time saved grinding your way through the apocalypse, though it can and will often make your experience that much easier.
The gameplay itself is straightforward: drag and drop dwellers, based on their stats, to the rooms where they’ll be most beneficial. They do the rest. You’re management, so you sit back and manage everything and grab all the glory. Once a room produces its resource you simply click said room to add that resource and start the process all over again. You’ll need enough rooms to supply your dwellers and enough power to make them all work because rooms will shut off with lack of juice. You also need enough dwellers with the right stats to man those rooms to get the maximum reward from it.
One great advantage is that just about everything can be upgraded. Your dwellers, as they progress, will level up and become more valuable. Rooms can also be upgraded to maximize their potential. As you add dwellers, you unlock new rooms like a radio station and gym. Some of these rooms allow you to upgrade the stats of your dwellers which is highly important.
Combat isn’t what I’d call easy. Raiders or radroaches are present threats and there’s no way of dealing with them directly as you don’t actually control the combat. Each room is limited to two dwellers who, if armed, won’t put up a fight and flee. Raiders go from room to room, bringing mayhem and destruction with them. Rooms and dwellers left unarmed will likely perish as attempting to manage dragging and dropping armor and weapons is hardly an ideal strategy; best to prepare early on and save yourself the trouble later. Still, this is easily the worst part of the game as you have nearly no control over the outcome.
In the world of Fallout even death itself is temporary – so long as you have the caps to resurrect your fallen. This is a perk of the overseer. But even more interesting is reproduction: put two people, each with decent charisma and complimentary body parts together in close quarters and soon you’ll be welcoming little bundles of VaultTec Joy. How romantic. With luck, these kids will grow up to become productive members of the working society. But until that happens, watch them suck up resources without contributing… just like real human babies!
Fallout Shelter may not be the Fallout fans insisted on, but keep in mind it’s just a sampler for greater things to come. Besides, whoever thought that matching the post-apocalypse with time-management could be so much fun? I wish there was more control over combat and that experience wasn’t so inextricably tied to its freemium model, but for the asking price you could certainly do worse than to spend some time with your hapless dwellers in a bunker of your own making.