When Bethesda announced their new free-to-play mobile game, Fallout Shelter, at their EA 2015 press conference, I immediately had to download it and give it a spin. Mobile games don’t necessarily have a respectable reputation when it comes to quality, but this is Bethesda we are talking about; surely Fallout Shelter is a mobile game worth your time… right?
Fallout Shelter situates you in the role of the Overseer. Much like any simulation game, you must build and manage your own fallout shelter. Players must keep their Vault operational by managing three resources: power, food, and water. Populating the Vault and assigning its citizens jobs within the Vault is the primary form of gameplay.
Simple to pick up, there is actually a lot to do within the Vault. Each vault dweller has their own set of skills that fall under the familiar “SPECIAL” mechanic of traditional Fallout games. Each skill ties to a room best suited for operation. Strength controls power generators, Perception runs water treatment, and Agility runs food production, just to name a few. Each dweller can earn experience and level-up the more work they perform. They can also equip uniforms and weapons to boost their stats.
Simply tapping rooms and people with your figure can get tedious, which it eventually will, but there is more that can happen. Rooms can randomly catch fire or spawn a radroach infestation, and dwellers must frantically scramble to clear the chaos. Rooms trigger resources set to a timer. If you are impatient or desperately need resources, you can rush your crew to instantly bypass the timer. However, rushing a room displays the probability of failure. Fail the rush and the room will erupt into a disastrous scenario just mentioned, which can damage dweller health and morale. The more a rush is attempted with a short period of time, the greater the chance of failure.
Occasionally your Vault will be attacked by raiders, the game’s biggest threat. Raiders will attack citizens and steal resources. The people will defend to rid themselves of the threat. During these scenarios is where the game breaks immersion. Even though a room can be scattered with corpses, dwellers will continue as if nothing had happened especially when raiders are literally in the next room. I’ve even had dwellers comment that “Today is a great day,” as raiders are storming the Vault. As humorous as this perceived sarcasm can be interpreted, this certainly wasn’t intended to be the case.
To increase the population of your Vault, inhabitants can hook up and have a baby. As a nice added touch, you can name each baby, but a name will be automatically assigned by default if you don’t feel like naming them. Speaking of which, a baby will share the last name of one of his/her parents. It’s important to mention because if a man and woman share a last name, they, thankfully, won’t get together.
If one dares to do so, any vault dweller can be sent to explore the wasteland to find equipment and caps. These characters can be monitored as a text log captures their every action in real time. Explorers run the risk of dying, but they can be easily revived by spending caps. I would have preferred having a cap on the amount of times you can revive someone because it would create a better sense of attachment to your vault dwellers. Losing people should have a more lasting impact on the player, and limitless revival ruins it. Although caps are needed for revival, I’ve been swimming in caps most of the time, so it hasn’t been a factor.
To help improve your establishment, Lunchboxes can be purchased with real money that contains random items, resources, and even characters. Fortunately, Lunchboxes can also be earned in-game by completing daily objectives and at the end of every weekly progress report. Unfortunately in this case, earning Lunchboxes outside of using real money happens at a really slow rate.
Aesthetically, Fallout Shelter nails the classic Fallout feel in every way. The vibrant colors paint the environment allowing for a pleasant viewing experience. When fully zoomed into a room, the area can be slightly manipulated to be viewed in a 3D perspective. Additionally, fully zooming into a room amplifies ambient noise; generators will hum, radio stations will play music, etc.
Considering it’s free-to-play, Fallout Shelter is worth a download. I admit, if the Fallout brand was absent from this game, I would not be interested in the slightest. The brand works perfectly with this type of game, and I am having a great time managing my Vault. I don’t play many mobile games at all, but I definitely recommend it for any Fallout fan.