Sheltered started out as a Kickstarter game that was originally only set out t release on PC but received more funding that anticipated, allowing it to be ported over to the Xbox One and PS4. The game comes from Unicube and Team 17 Software.
Post-apocalyptic games are a popular setting for both gaming and film and when starting the game, I was instantly reminded of my time playing Fallout Shelter on my mobile (far more than I should have). The story sees your family of four trying to survive in a world that has suffered a horrific nuclear holocaust. You and your family are living in an underground shelter, much like Fallout shelter, and sees you having to make vital decisions, carrying out tasks and a heavy focus on inventory management. The games main premise is to simply survive as long as possible in some dire conditions. The story feels loose but that’s ok as it’s about creating your own stories, paths and outcomes.
You start out by creating your family of four, which feels similar to many other character creation systems in games. This time though having to design four characters feels more like The Sims games and its very important to attempt to have a well-balanced mix of people. You begin by designing the look of your character, including clothes and hairstyles before selecting what type of person they are. You select a particular character trait like resourcefulness, small eater and other personalities. You also then select from a particular stat loadout for each character. If you’re not sure what to go for you can select the all rounder stat loadout to ensure your characters are balanced. Designing and choosing your characters feels like an important part of the game so I tried to keep my family well-balanced.
The game may look simple in terms of visuals and character design but you will find that the game is actually incredibly challenging and requires a lot to take in. If your family is going to survive you must carefully manage all four characters, which includes food, water, showers and sleep. You have to maintain the shelter so that it can run efficiently for your family to live in.
The game focuses tasks that must be carried out and its your job to select characters in your family to carry out certain jobs. This is where the stats of your characters and their traits can come in handy or hold them back. For example, a family member with high charisma or intelligence can sway those bandits into negotiations. This can avoid confrontation and even help to recruit more allies.
You search the dangerous wasteland in for supplies, food and materials which are vitally important. It’s important to keep tabs on the state of the shelter though and maintain it. There’s a lot to remember and keep on top of which you may either find challenging and enjoyable or frustrating if you find that level of management stressful. The game can also be incredibly sad at times, despite the simple design. Members of your family can die which also has an impact on the other dwellers of the shelter. The whole game requires you to think about the possible outcomes of specific actions and you have to carefully think about how to approach situations and prepare for the future. It feels like the Sims but set in a dark and desperate world.
You can also interact with traders, that can be very useful and provide important lifesaving materials and items. The items they sell though are expensive and you have to decide whether to splash out on materials or take the risk and wait to see if you can scavenge the wasteland for them.
The wasteland is an extremely dangerous place, full of wild animals and other survivors. Your never quite sure which survivors are simply trading, looking for shelter or more hostile threats. These scenarios are once again crucial and can change the outcomes of future events. If you decide to take in more survivors, you have to bear in mind that your resources will deplete faster and hostile enemies may steal your equipment and try to kill you. Fights in the wasteland can be auto resolved or you can take control.
The game has a simple fight system that sees you use turn-based options from stealing, defending, disarming, subduing and running. It’s important to carefully assess each scenario and take into consideration the weapons and equipment you are carrying. This is where strength and having good weapons comes into play, luckily I created my father character to have good strength stats. If you lose a fight, that character will die which means you have one less person to help maintain and improve the shelter, as well as one less person to send out on expeditions. This being the case you may want to opt for running away in most cases. At the start of the game you can also select a pet to join your family which include things like a dog, cat and even fish. I chose a dog called Dogmeat, from Fallout as my companion.
They can have their uses like the dog going on expeditions and the cat keeping rats away. Rats can be very annoying as they steal food, so its important to keep them away.
Crafting is another key component of the gameplay and essential to your survival. There are various levels to the crafting and you can access the ability to craft better equipment by upgrading your workstation. There’s a wide range of items and craftable equipment from gasmasks to beds. This is where scavenging for specific materials becomes very important.
The presentation of the game is simple but in my opinion looks great. It has a pixel art style of plays from a side on view, with the bunker having a cut away view. If you have played the Fallout shelter game you will see the similarities in terms of layout. You can make your inhabitants take care of their basics automatically, but there’s much more depth into taking care of them yourself. Its much more rewarding and satisfying to do things yourself though to experience the game properly. It does take time and plenty of practice in order to fully understand all the mechanics as it can become incredibly challenging and requires a degree of trial and error.
Overall I enjoyed playing Shelter and will continue to play as I liked the challenges it presented. Some players may not enjoy the heavy management style gameplay, that keeps you constantly maintain all aspects of your family’s survival. The game is all about preparation, maintenance and having to make difficult choices. I would certainly recommend this game if you liked Fallout Shelter or games that have a heavy focus on inventory and resource management.
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