I had a brief fling with Fallout Shelter after it was announced at the 2015 E3 Bethesda press conference. It was a love / hate relationship which saw me eventually delete the app. Months passed and the itch to play the game became greater and greater until I finally took the plunge and downloaded the game again; Welcome to Fallout Shelter.
You are the Overseer to your very own Vault-Tec vault where you are tasked with overseeing the day to day operations of said shelter which you can choose to number yourself (Vault 316, Gimme a hell yeah!) You are responsible for everything; managing resources such as water, food and power, the happiness of every vault dweller that inhabits your vault and making sure the place doesn’t literally burn to the ground, get infested or become overwhelmed by enemies from the Wasteland.
The game has a very basic tutorial which guides you through the particulars; how to create rooms, how to assign vault dwellers to the rooms that suit their S.P.E.C.I.A.L stats and other varying aspects of the game. After the brief tutorial, you’re left to your own devices and you make the decisions. This is where the fun begins.
Rooms that you can build include water treatment plants, diners, power generators, warehouses and bedrooms. Some of these rooms allow for resource management whereas some allow a higher capacity of vault dwellers. This is where the games countdown timers come into play. Each room has its own individual timer; When the timer hits zero you can then gather the resource of that specific room by simply tapping on it. Training rooms can be built that are designed to increase one of the key S.P.E.C.I.A.L stats of your vault dwellers. Each vault dweller has their own S.P.E.C.I.A.L attributes: Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility and Luck which are all randomly generated for each character. This allows the dweller to become more of an asset to you and the room in which they work. By increasing the dwellers stats the overall time in which a room takes to generate resources decreases. One of the newer updates allow rooms to be created where weapons and clothes can be crafted with junk that can be picked up in the wasteland. Each room can be upgraded to allow everything from a higher return on your resources, increased amount of vault dwellers allowed in the vault and an increased storage for all the junk you collect.
Random events happen during gameplay such as your vault being attacked by Raiders or Deathclaws from the wasteland, fires breaking out in rooms, or even radroaches burrowing into your vault. The latter two not only happen at random but can also happen if you choose to rush a room and fail it. This can be particularly annoying especially when you have a very low resources, desperately need to rush a room, fail it and ultimately get hit by a massive fire breaking out. Any time you choose to rush a room a percentage appears on screen showing how likely you are to fail. The lower the percentage the better the chance of rushing a room. By successfully rushing a room you earn perks such as XP for the vault dwellers assigned to that room and caps as well as collecting resources. Rooms can be rushed as many times as you want, however each time you do so the percentage to fail increases, meaning you can’t rush a room constantly to gather resources quicker. Fallout Shelter is all about creating a careful balance of vault dwellers, rooms you choose to build and managing their happiness. The only real issue I have while playing it is that when a room has a low percentage of failing I seem to fail eight times out of ten which can prove to be extremely frustrating.
The visuals on screen are very simplistic. The art style that is used to depict vault dwellers is the same art style used for the vault boy from the main Fallout series with each dweller is randomly generated making each one unique. The vault is shown from a side on, 2.5D perspective allowing you to survey the entire vault by zooming out or even seeing each individual room with a simple pinch of the screen. When zoomed into each room you can view ongoing conversations between vault dwellers, giving a lot of personality to them, however over time a lot of these conversations will repeat, breaking that illusion. You can also pair your vault dwellers up and if they have enough Charisma in their S.P.E.C.I.A.L stat they can become a couple, say extremely cheesy one liners to one another, fall in love and make babies. When the child is born you can choose the childs name or let the game randomly generate a name for them. Small things like this makes you feel like you have ultimate control over your vault, so if you wanted to name him Boaty McBoatface you can indeed do that and eventually breed your very own McBoatface clan.
Another important aspect to the game is the wasteland itself. You can choose to send vault dwellers into the wasteland to collect caps, clothes, junk and weapons. The longer they are sent out into the wasteland, the higher ranked gear they collect. You have to be careful not to leave them out for too long as they can be attacked by enemies, or simply be overcome by the radiation. This is all reflected in a randomly generated, relatively simple story told from their perspective. It’s kind of like their diary, detailing what enemies they’ve encountered, talking about searching areas, enemy encounter and their search for loot all in real time.
During the game you are given various objectives that you can complete that rewards you with caps and very infrequently allow you to earn lunch boxes or Mr Handy’s that can also be paid for with real money via in-app purchases. Yes, this is a free-to-play mobile game and they definitely aren’t shying away from in-app purchases. You have the ability to purchase lunch boxes, animals and Mr Handy’s for a nominal fee. These purchases are of course optional and can provide decent loot to help running your vault. Because these higher ticketed items rarely appear as part of your rewards for passing a particular objective it can sometimes be quite tempting to buy the occasional lunch box.
Fallout Shelter is a super addictive game and is perfect when you’re sat “watching TV”, on the go, on the loo, whatever takes your fancy. Better still it’s free to play! It’s visually appealing with that awesome vault boy art style used to depict vault dwellers. Yes it does have some sticking points such as rushing rooms and failing, overpowered enemies that invade your vault but this doesn’t impact the overall enjoyment of the game. Simply put, it’s a free-to-play game that doesn’t make you feel like you have to pay to win in order to have fun. You simply sit there and tap the screen away…then put your device down…then pick your device up and check in on your rooms a couple minutes later and tap for resources…and so on, and so on…