Sheltered Video Review

Score 85Sheltered takes all the best ideas from previous games, and combines them into a rich and nerve-racking experience that fans of the genre will love. Venturing out into an irradiated wasteland in search of life-saving tools and supplies is without a doubt more rewarding when you plot the course and call the shots. Maintaining the bunker and choosing who you invite in can be terrifying as forgetting to put gas in the generator that filters your air and water. While nothing here is new, there’s a lot of great components that have been thoughtfully arranged into a cohesive and thoroughly satisfying experience. If you’ve been looking for a good roguelike game, this may be your new addiction.

WHAT WE LIKED
º Venturing out and discovering the locations around you is terrifying and fun.
º The game does an excellent job of making you care about your family’s safety.
º Building your bunker up from chamber pots to luxury toilets is rewarding.
WHAT WE DISLIKED
º The game seeks your approval for every action, even if you set it in motion.
º There’s a few exploits you’ll consistently take advantage of once you learn them.
º While I’m sure it’s better with a mouse, the game isn’t built for controllers.
It’s not much, but my conservative strategy kept me and my family safe- for a while.

Starting out in Sheltered, I made my real life family. We didn’t last long. Someone forgot to repair the water filter of our underground bunker; by someone, I mean me. Guess I’m your typical forgetful father, but I didn’t think about what would happen next in such a short amount of time. I watched my children get sick due to radiation, and because our home needed attention, I was unable to go out and find any food. Malnourished, sick and without any prospects, we barely made it past two weeks before I was digging a grave. I felt like a bad provider and immediately decided to invest my time in random living families from then on out.

Sheltered is a roguelike survival game where you and your nuclear family hides out in a shelter during an atomic apocalypse. While you’re down there, you’ll use supplies to build some of the necessities of life; poop buckets, makeshift showers, and sleeping bags. Thankfully, you’ve hit the jackpot when it comes to locations; you’ve got a hatch, two heavy doors, and an intercom system protecting you from the outside world. As the game progresses, you can add some luxuries to your setup, including painted walls, jukeboxes, and a large assortment of special items.
You’ll worry about desperate people attacking you, but nothing’s scarier than a peeved off bear.

If you enjoyed Fallout Shelter at all, this is a game that takes all the opportunities of the successful spin-off and improves on them fully. Expeditions are experienced instead of recapped. You manage your resources instead of just assigning responsibilities. Your occupants rely on you to keep them sane, healthy and comfortable. It takes the scavenging of Minecraft, the voyeurism of The Sims and The Oregon Trail’s strategy and compresses it into a brilliant experience. While it’s not a perfect game, it does everything it sets out to do very well, and I found myself totally engrossed in keeping everyone in my imaginary family alive.

There’s a ton of objectives that you’ll have to manage as you try to make it in a world gone wrong. You’ll need your survivors to maintain the air purifiers, water filters, power generator and cleanliness of the facility. Supplies are gathered by either making trades with random bypassers, finding traders over the radio, or going out and scavenging. To venture out, you’re given a procedurally generated map that is filled with questionable locations that you’ll have to visit to identify. Will it be a pharmacy filled with antibiotics or a faction’s lair filled with violent sociopaths?

Planning a route and exploring the various terrains is so rewarding and frightening when death is permanent.

Before you set out, you’ll have to have enough water to make the trip. Once you lay out your course, you’ll plan your loadout; one weapon, two accessories, and one bag per explorer. You’re only allowed to bring two in a crew, but you can have multiple excursions going at once. Once your teams leave out, they’ll periodically call you to get advice on their current situation. While this can become tiresome considering you’ll want to enter every location regardless of the situation, it’s not very frustrating and beats the heck out of sending them out and forgetting all about it. Plus, you can make decisions on if your crews engage enemies or avoid contact with anyone altogether.

If you do approach people, you’ll find most engagements end with four options; trade, recruit, fight, flee. If you feel like you’ve stumbled across a dangerous person, you can quickly flee for your life. If you’re a less than reputable sort, you could attack the person and take everything they’ve got in this shattered world. You can try to recruit them, and introduce a stranger into your midst. Of course, most of the time you’ll just trade with people. If you succeed, you’ll be rewarded with a boost in whatever category fits the task. Sadly, I discovered an exploit, where you can trade a can of food for a can of food, and still get the boost.

If you get into a battle, either by your choice or not, if you should fall, those characters are dead. Forever. My last family, I went past 100 days of nearly perfect survival, only to make one unfortunate call with a roaming gang of marauders; my son sadly didn’t make it out of the skirmish. He was crazy good with a knife and got to be stronger than his old man. Combat plays out like a standard turn-based RPG, where you can attack, steal, subdue or defend each round, or attempt to run. Weapons range from blunt sticks, brass knuckles, automatic rifles, and even a sledgehammer if you want to go all Super Mutant.
Coming across a random vault is not only a game changer but also a reason to keep exploring.

Meanwhile, people back in the underground home maintain the equipment, build new rooms and floors, and can even take a little leisure time by reading a book or popping some pills. The characters don’t have a lot of personality and are more built on your projected sympathy. The most animation you’ll get out of them is when they have some form of poisoning, and fall to their knees to upchuck. You care about their safety- you need to see everyone survive this life-threatening situation.

It appears there’re several endgames to this bleak world as well. There’s an RV that sits above your shelter, with a checklist of missing parts. I got the thing all decked out, and I’m only missing three wheels at the time I’m writing this. However, in my journey to a far away junkyard in search of these three bouncy tires of salvation, I discovered yet another hatch. Oddly, the door features a security lock, requiring a four number combination to open. Like John Locke from Lost, I have now become obsessed with knowing what’s inside, and I might set fire to the tires if I ever find them.
If I had one fault with the game, it’s the lack of conflict. While the game is filled with tense moments, like running into armed people on the road and having strangers knock on the door with only your kids inside, they rarely play out in dangerous ways. In my ten hours of gameplay, I only had two people attack me on the road, despite hundreds of interactions. The game advised me that roaming gangs might break into my home, so I’d better install better doors and make hideaway walls in my facility, but those moments never came. Perhaps I was too careful- my more successful random family didn’t take in outsiders or trade much from our door. While the choices you make will have you thinking about the moral implications, there’s no response to those decisions outside of your own thoughts. That’s not to say the game doesn’t toss you surprises- one outsider who sought sanctuary purposely sabotaged our water filter after we turned them away.
People will be so jealous of your vault, they’ll throw out video game references to scare you.

Some of the other minor faults are just small inconveniences. When you’re trading, the game shows you how much trade value an item is worth, but when you’re scavenging it shows you how many you have in stock; never telling you both crucial bits of information. I also would’ve liked to have a Fallout 4-esque tag system, so I could easily keep track of what materials I needed to keep an eye out for. I also wasn’t a huge fan of the experience system, which only rewards a chosen one of the potential two members in a group, even if both of you throw down with unruly survivors. Also, the controller isn’t nearly as intuitive as a mouse would be, but the game does an excellent job of making the situation as comfortable and seamless as possible. I also would’ve liked to see some buildable weapons, liked spiked bats and shivs, but now I’m just nitpicking an otherwise brilliant experience that understands brevity.

I must admit, the pixel-based art style is becoming a bore for me. While I understand the claim that this kind of artwork allows the user more agency in imprinting their identity onto the model, I simply can’t help but see the convenience of the argument. Sheltered would’ve been the same game with more realistic graphics- but that’s more time spent on visuals and less on the exceptional game design. Take that as you will, but I must say- the graphics may be simple, but their arrangement holds a nice complexity. Toss that together with a moody soundtrack, and you’ve got yourself a distinct style that at least stands atop those other pixel abusers.
Overall, I can’t say enough positive things about this game. I’ve played some bad strategy survival games in the past year, and Sheltered is like a breath of fresh and yet familiar air. All of its parts just worked for me, and despite the game’s minor hiccups, there’s enough suspense, mystery, and heartache to make Sheltered an experience I would recommend to anyone looking for an engaging RPG. While it doesn’t do anything revolutionary, it doesn’t half-ass anything it brings to the table, and for that I tip my hat to the developers at Unicube. NOW GIVE ME THE CODE TO THE BUNKER!
·      Publisher – Unicube, Team17 Digital Ltd.
·      Developer – Team17 Digital Ltd.
·      Genre – RPG, Strategy, Indie
·      Release Date – March 15, 2016
·      Version Reviewed – PS4
·      PEGI Rating – 12
·      Multiplayer – No
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