DISCLAIMER: This review was made while the game was still in Steam’s Early Access and is not necessarily representative of the final game.
The entire world has been ravaged by a cataclysmic event leading to a uninhabitable and irradiated surface. Your small family, with all odds stacked against them, must now compete in a dog-eat-dog world scavenging for supplies and fortifying their newly found underground shelter.
Unfortunately, I found that even with the compelling intro I had read on Sheltered’s Steam page going into this game, it fell short in the story department after actually having played the game. Much of the story is driven based on your own character’s interaction, however your interactions don’t tend to have a lasting impact outside of a critical event occurring (for example, a family member dying during combat). During these critical events, the journal is updated with some story to keep the player updated. However, even these messages started to get repetitive as my family continually jotted down the same message over and over in their journal after meeting with different local traders.
Sheltered’s ambiance was great throughout the time I played. The sound effects are very immersive and keep the player engaged and wary of their surroundings. Outside of encounters, Sheltered’s background music doesn’t drastically change too much. I think this works well in Sheltered’s favor, however, due to the style of game they are pursuing. In a game where your family is fighting for survival, quieter music tends to only amplify encounters where the action picks up and the dramatic music begins to play.
This is definitely one of Sheltered’s strong-points. The game did extremely well in portraying the post-apocalyptic world through the pixelated art-style. Jumping straight into the game, it took me a minute to get accustomed with the game’s UI and icons (particularly the “thirst” icon) as they pop up based on your families needs, however the actual objects in the scenery could be discerned almost perfectly. While you may not be able to tell what each object is just from looking at a picture, by playing the game it becomes immediately apparent that the shower is the one with the bucket of water at the top of it combined with the curtain; simultaneously, the bathroom would be the one with the bucket at the bottom.
The character customization gave just about as much freedom as this art style could permit. You could choose the gender, skin color, hair color, and clothing of each of your family members as well as selecting your pet, a choice between a cat and a dog.
Overall, the gameplay itself was fairly solid. Unfortunately, however, there’s not really an end goal defined for the game. Due to the game’s nature, events and management can get repetitive extremely quickly. If you’re looking for a good time waster, then Sheltered is definitely a good pick. However, don’t expect a significant amount of playtime out of it in its current state. I only encountered a few bugs here and there when playing, even with the game still being in Early Access. The bugs weren’t major at all, and only consisted of slight graphical flaws such as a merchant sliding across the wasteland next to his partner to get to my shelter.
Even with these slight bugs and the gameplay which gets slightly repetitive over time, I still enjoyed the game quite a bit. It’s a fairly complex simulation game and the developers are consistently adding in patches and updates. Sheltered is very reminiscent of This War of Mine as well, so if you enjoyed that game then you’ll probably like this one too.
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