In my mind, Bethesda’s Press Conference easily stole the show at 2015’s E3. One of the titles I was most excited for was Fallout Shelter, which marks the first time Bethesda has ventured onto mobile with any of their IPs.
Fallout Shelter is the type of game where you play God, in a sense. You control an entire civilization of people down to the specifics (who they mate with, where they work). You also get to develop their living arrangements from the ground up, but you must keep in mind that they need three essential resources (food, water, and power). The game is free-to-play and offers the ability to purchase additional Lunchboxes, which are filled with loot such as bottle cap currency and weapons. Lunchboxes are also rewarded for completing goals assigned by the game, such as deliver a baby or equip a Vault Dweller with a unique outfit. Bottle Caps are the currency and can be used to add and upgrade the rooms in your Vault. The Dwellers will level up as you progress, making some Dwellers very valuable as you trek further into the game.
Fallout Shelter is pretty strategic regarding how you have to design your vault to keep your Dwellers alive. Maybe half a day into my first Vault, I was already running extremely low on resources, and my Dwellers were sitting at about a 15% satisfaction rating. As you mess around with different arrangements and Vault designs, you start to learn how and where to place certain rooms. Every Dweller is unique and comes equipped with their very own stats. Most Dwellers are better at some things than others, and you’ll find yourself really putting thought into if you need to put a certain character to work in a room they’re most skilled in, or a room that you require a faster return on resources for. Also, you can send your Dwellers out into the Wasteland to hunt for Bottle Caps, Weapons, et cetera. Sending a Dweller out is completely random in terms of what they may find, but you can check on your Dwellers at any time and see what they’ve found, how much health they have, and you can tell them to return at any time if things are looking messy, or if you don’t want to risk losing the loot they’ve acquired. The Living Quarters in your Vault is where you can place male and female characters and hope that they hit it off and do the deed.
Making babies is one of the best ways to populate your Vault since new Dwellers come by at random. There are also iconic characters from the Fallout universe that appear as special Dwellers that boast some pretty impressive stats. Of course, all is not fine and well all the time since rooms in your Vault can spontaneously catch fire, rushing production of a specific room has a potential failure rate that can lead to a Rad Roach infestation, and Raiders are bound to come snooping around your Vault with all intentions to murder your innocent Dwellers. The randomness of these events keeps players on their toes but is one of the biggest flaws of the game. More on that later. This game genre isn’t nearly as over-saturated on the mobile market as many others, so Fallout Shelter feels very fresh, equal parts unique and familiar, and a good bit of fun.
Even the most casual fans of Fallout would recognize the Vault Boy and his cartoon-style design. Fallout Shelter’s entire art design feels very centric around the design of the Vault Boy. It makes for some polished, and often humorous scenery. Some of the more violent aspects of the game are made all, the more adorable with the art design of the game. The layout of the menus are polished and easy to navigate, and overall this game feels like a qualified entry into the Fallout universe. Immediately upon booting the game, the iconic ‘Please Stand By’ shows on the screen, and the game instantly feels familiar. With all the core elements of a Fallout game incorporated into this game, it ultimately feels exactly like a Fallout title from a different point of view. As a huge fan of Fallout, I think the experience is made far more enjoyable because of all the references and familiarity of the franchise as a whole.
Fallout Shelter, essentially, is a point-and-click (or touch-and-swipe, rather) type of game, so the formula of how to play is rather simple. Constructing your Vault is laid out in a very user-friendly way, as is navigating menus, assigning items to characters, and maintaining upkeep on level-ups and the like. My sole issue with Fallout Shelter, however, is how difficult it can be to move your Dwellers to different rooms. I was playing on a very large phone (Samsung Galaxy Note IV) so although I wasn’t using something as large as a tablet, the amount of navigation space I had to work with was fairly large. Nonetheless, I still had the most difficulty picking up Dwellers and attempting to moving them to different areas of the Vault. Once you pick them up, it’s simple to move them, but trying to grab a character was much more frustrating than it should’ve been. Even when I zoomed in on the specific rooms, it felt like something was off. This is something that may be patched in the future, but given that this game has been out for a few months on iOS (and most iPhones have fairly tiny screens), it seems like this issue should’ve already been patched, so it’s a worthy gripe. Another is the idiotic A.I. when the Vault is being raided, caught on fire, or dealing with a Rad Roach infestation. There is not currently a way to get your Dwellers to target a specific enemy, so you have to reposition characters tediously to the rooms necessary when there is something happening within the Vault. This can be pretty frustrating because you basically will find yourself sitting idly while these events take place, cursing at the Vault Dwellers for being completely oblivious to the problems at hand, while also not being able to work in their designated area since the Vault is in panic mode. Even with these issues, the game still stands as one of the best mobile games I’ve ever played.
Fallout Shelter is a familiar Fallout experience, but an all new gaming experience at the same time. This isn’t the first time a game like this has been done, but this one is very well polished and boasts both a fantastic art design and addicting gameplay. There’s plenty of references and nods for fans of the franchise, but the game doesn’t have a directly related plot or in-depth story to follow, so newcomers will not feel out of the mix. There are plenty of objectives to complete and new content such as rooms and items to unlock so that you could invest plenty of time into this title very easily. The relocation of Vault Dwellers and the sometimes ignorant A.I. are worth noting as poor aspects of the game, but it’s not held back from being one of the best mobile gaming experiences I’ve ever had. Fallout Shelter is free to play, a great time killer to fill the gap between here and Fallout 4, and I highly recommend giving it a shot. Please Stand By….