Review: Fallout Shelter

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Among expected and anticipated announcements (Doom and Fallout 4 among them), game developers Bethesda dropped this surprise at gaming event E3 last week; mobile free-to-play game Fallout Shelter. Available to download on the App Store now, this iOS game successfully manages to bridge the gap until Fallout 4’s release on the 10th November 2015.

Normally, free-to-play games on the App Store tend to be rather limited, unless you choose to purchase in-game additional content. Whilst there is an option to buy special boxes for additional special characters, weapons, outfits and “caps” (the in-game currency), it is not necessarily needed to continue the game.

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In Fallout Shelter, the player takes the role of the Overseer, who has to run and regularly maintain a vault, keeping resources balanced and vault dwellers happy. Players are tasked with building rooms to generate power, food, water, Stimpacks (health packs) and Radaways (to remove radiation sickness), populating their vault with new dwellers and keeping the each individual happy. It can at times prove tricky to get the balance right, but the more rooms you build and the higher the population, the easier it becomes.

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Admittedly, the idea behind Fallout Shelter isn’t unique; land management games such as The Simpsons: Tapped Out have shown their popularity on the App store, but Bethesda’s version is so aesthetically pleasing. It embraces the familiar post-apocalyptic, 50s-esque style that is familiar in the Fallout series. Characters adopt the games Pip Boy mascot look, whilst the menu’s resemble the in-game “Pip-Boy” device.

In Fallout Shelter, the “Overseer” builds rooms to create resources, train up vault dwellers and keep the shelter running swiftly. Every resident has their own SPECIAL rating; a host of vital stats that first appeared in the main Fallout series, but now appear here. “SPECIAL” stands for “Strength”, “Perception”, “Endurance”, “Charisma”, “Intelligence”, “Agility”, “Luck”. Placing a citizen in a corresponding room that matches their rating helps to maintain the vault at a more successful rate.

The living areas provide a respite area for busy vault dwellers, and also acts as a place for creating children, if a man and a woman are placed inside. Other rooms include a Medical Bay for creating health packs, Science Lab for Radaways, power stations, kitchens and water processing areas, among many more. More of these rooms unlock as the game progresses. Players can pay with the in-game “caps” currency to upgrade rooms to boost efficiency. If your vault is in dire need of resources, rooms can be rushed in order to produce them faster. However, rushing includes a percentage change of failure. If the rush results in a fail, the workers will then be tasked with putting out fires or shooting radroaches.

However, resource collecting and baby making isn’t the only side of the game. Players can unlock and collect costumes and weapons to put on each character by completing the missions or sending out one of their residents into the wasteland for XP, guns and clothing. The vault will also need to be protected from Raiders from time to time, who take considerable health off of the brawling residents, so the best plan of action is to keep your vault dwellers stats topped up, equip them with a good outfit and weapon, and upgrade the vault door from time to time to decrease the chance of Raiders from breaking in.

Whilst it is a highly addictive, fun game, Fallout Shelter is not without its flaws. It is still early days (2 weeks since the release on iOS after Bethesda’s E3 conference), so a downloadable patch could fix these problems in the foreseeable future. However new it is to the App Store though, Fallout Shelter is guilty of crashing occasionally, dragging citizens sometimes does not always work, and clicking the “rush” button is sometimes unresponsive. On the whole though, these problems are quite rare, so you should not encounter too many issues. It is advised to play this on an iPad, as there is more screen space, making it easier to keep on top of each room and its activities. It truly is a fantastic game, and Bethesda have created the perfect mixture of free play and in-app purchases, so it feels more like a fun, free gaming experience, than a money grabbing one.

Fallout Shelter is free to download on the Apple App Store now.