Sheltered 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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.