Hello everyone! It’s certainly been a while. My day job is kicking into gear and I’ve been maintaining my YouTube channel, but recently I became aware that Fallout Shelter is available for free on Steam and, well, I just had to give it a go. I downloaded it and started my Vault, hoping for a good educational game about the end of the world.
Welcome back to Boter Reviews Something, where I take a look at games and try to review them purely on their own merits and try not to fall into an existential tailspin of dread at the current state of affairs in the world. I’m Boter. Let’s review something.
Now, the game starts with creating your own Vault, which is somewhat disappointing. I was hoping that you would be a citizen in an already established shelter, and especially would have to find it in the first place. That’s very important, I think, is knowing where to go in the event of a megalomaniacal leader – from another country or even your own – is on the brink of causing the nuclear apocalypse. Fallout – dirt and stuff kicked up by the explosion then infused with nuclear fission materials – is one of the most dangerous part immediately following a nuclear blast (I mean, unless you were in the blast radius, but then finding shelter isn’t a problem you face anymore), and knowing how to act on it would be very important.
Give me a moment to breathe into this paper bag. I’ll distract myself and offer an excuse for some of these screenshots – I didn’t realize the hotkey I set for it had pause menu come up that’s slightly visible on them. Can’t control everything.
Okay. Everything will be alright. Now, you are the Overseer of a Vault. People show up at your door, usually wanting you to let them in. Well, they always want in, but most of the time it’s peacefully, not as raiders. The game’s setting is well after the bombs fly so people wanting to get in aren’t looking to get away from fallout (again, underground is best, but well inside a large building will do and the closer to the ground floor, the better) but just to survive, when out there there’s just mutated animals and desperate humans looking for whatever you carry.
You build living quarters to house your Vault Dwellers, and then start the laborious process of providing for them. Their basic needs are power, food, and clean water. The game has a slim margin of error on these – expand too fast without minding them and you’ll quickly face a shortfall. You can attempt to Rush their production, but only at a very high risk of a dangerous incident like fire occurring. And as you get more Dwellers, you get the option to open even more rooms, like a medical lab, an Overseer’s Office to send people out on quests (as opposed to just sending them about aimlessly, which can still be fruitful), and a classroom. You can stick two of your dwellers into the living quarters and – especially if they have high charisma – they’ll “dance”, and eventually you’ll have child running around that will grow into a fully functioning Dweller of your Vault society. (The game mostly sidesteps the eugenics problem; the highest stat of the child is influenced by the highest stats of the parents, but not the extent – two supergeniuses could have a really dumb baby if the kid has nothing else going for it.) Wow… this is more work than in my previous life. I thought it would be easier.
All of these things are first accomplished by your Dwellers – producing all of your resources – and by Caps, the game’s currency (and a legacy from the larger Fallout setting). Caps allow you to build more rooms, upgrade your existing ones, and I think eventually to build weapons and outfits in some of the Workshops later on down the build line. It’s hard to imagine that we’ll be using bottle caps as currency in the future, but then again it’s hard enough to imagine the way that anything has turned out lately, so anything truly is possible. Dwellers themselves are rated on seven different attributes, making them easy to sort into what jobs they’re best suited for, and can level up making them produce items and resources faster. Later rooms can also level up their skills, making them even more effecting at production or even being better fighters for that future we all face where man’s greatest enemy is man.
Okay, game stuff, real quick. Fallout Shelter looks fantastic, with a very distinctly Fallout “Vault Boy” art style. All of the rooms are rendered in 3D, and as you pan around your Vault the perspective shifts, making it pop really well. All of the sounds are pleasing and moreover function well – you know when low power has caused one of your rooms to shut down, you know when that weird guy in a trench-coat shows up in a random room that you have to hunt down and click on to get caps, and it’s very satisfying when you collect a resource or level up a Dweller (though a sound letting you know that those things are ready would be great).
Fallout Shelter first released on mobile devices a couple of years ago, when Fallout 4 came out, though aside from mayyybe owning one game and getting a one-time bonus in the other, they don’t interact in any meaningful way; playing Shelter doesn’t get you more Caps to spend in Fallout, for instance. Since then, it’s released on PC, eventually hitting the Steam marketplace this year, and Xbox One. All of the games are free to play, but supported by microtransactions to get things like lunchboxes, with hefty rewards inside.
Like many games that are similar to it, Shelter doesn’t have an end. After all, it takes place after everything has already ended. You keep expanding until you, maybe, hit the population cap of 200. Then you simply start again. Try not to look too hard at that previous sentence. This sort of endless gameplay works quite well on mobile, when you open the app a few times a day to collect resources and assign Dwellers to various jobs. It doesn’t work nearly as well on PC; I’m finding the controls a bit fidgety, but more importantly it’s boring. If I’m not being attacked by Raiders or trying to stomp out a Radroach infestation, I’m just waiting for the next prompt to click something. It’s made it great for having open while I write this review up, but it’s not a game that you actually play. (This is an appropriate times for a WarGames reference but I frankly can’t figure out how to wedge it in.) Quests, once you unlock them, are much better for actively taking part in something to do, but they pull valuable workers away from your resource harvesting rooms.
Fallout Shelter is a background game. Don’t expect to open it and actively engage with it; but, let it stay open in the background on PC or just open it a few times a day on your phone, and it’s a fun management game to take your mind off of what seems like is sure to come.
Score: What does it matter we’re all going to die in a gigantic fireball and if we don’t it’ll be the radiation and the war because of the egaaaAAAAHHHHHHH
A good game so long as you’re approaching it from the right mindset – pick it up and engage with it for a bit, then put it down and go about your day. Put it down. No, step AWAY FROM THE BUTTON-
We’ll… meet again… don’t know where… don’t know when… but I know we’ll meet again, some sunny day!
Platform: iOS, Android, PC (tested), Xbox One
Price: Free (microtransaction supported)
Developer: Bethesda Game Studios, Behaviour Interactive
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Release date: June 2015 (iOS, other platforms later on)