Vault 13. My own personal Utopia.
Immediately after Bethesda’s magnificent day at E3, when Fallout 4 was announced and the world was cheering the impending arrival of Life After the Apocalypse, I was also excited… but it wasn’t for F4.
Nay, though I was a Bethesda fan, I’m more of an Elder Scrolls guy. I am mad for Skyrim and Oblivion, yet Fallout- well, let’s just say I love the idea, and I did install Fallout 3 on my PC last year- but I never really got into it. The world was just as detailed, so incredibly textured with tons of things to do, interactivity and multiple paths (blow up the city or not?)… arguably it was far better than Skyrim. But then again, the animations- the stiffness of the characters, the unwieldy combat (I still don’t know if it’s really a shooter or a turn-based thing with the VATs) kept me from getting invested. Perhaps Fallout 4, which they say is basically Skyrim with guns (hah) will finally succeed in roping me in (it probably will). But till then- FALLOUT SHELTER (iOS, coming to Android).
From the get-go, I loved the idea. You are an Overseer… the Boss. You’re in charge of the upkeep, the security and the survival of a Vault- which can be as small as a little network of rooms or as large as a virtual city of 200 souls. Your job is to plot the city out, build it, assign jobs to your people, and keep things in order. Sim Colony? Sim Ant Colony? Kinda like that. But its all done with Bethesda’s official Fallout Pip Boy cartoon art style which is incredibly endearing, and just makes it all look, sound and feel official. This isn’t just some knockoff mobile throwaway- this is a bonafide, first party product- this is about as Fallout as Fallout can get.
And it’s FREE. Well, there is the one very unnecessary bit of in-app purchase, where you are given the choice to purchase ‘Lunchboxes’ which contain cards that will give you anything from a few bottlecaps to a suit of Powered Armor (got one of those… SWEET). You earn Lunchboxes in the course of the game, by achieving goals, so its never really needed to actually buy them with real money.
Otherwise- the gameplay is all free and it’s all good. Though this may seem like a simple mobile game, its really not- and after a while you just have to appreciate the detail that goes into this game. Every single person in your care has a name, has stats. You assign them to rooms- from working on Power Plants or Water Purification Stations or just chilling in Living Quarters or taking stock in Storage Rooms. Rooms are run by power, people run on food and water, so you have to build the adequate number of rooms to supply these resources to you, and you have to manually tap a room to gather these resources- it may be a bit tedious but it is what you do (ah, the toils of an Overseer…) and keeps things running in more or less real-time.
Send out dwellers to explore, find stuff and get some sun.
As you go along and grow your Vault’s population, either by attracting newcomers from outside or having a baby born (by coupling a man and a woman together in a Living Space), you eventually open up more rooms with different functions- mostly to train your dwellers’ stats, and eventually to produce even more power/food/water. Along the way you’ll have to handle things like the occasional fire, rad-roach infestations (DAMN those things are dangerous) and the inevitable Raider Attack.
You’ll need to have your dwellers armed, and weapons can only be acquired from Lunch Boxes or by foraging outdoors- you can send out one of your dwellers to explore the outside world, and he or she will be able to find stuff like weapons and clothing (which gives stat bonuses). Having your people suited up and packing heat is the best way to keep your Vault secure and safe.
And well, with all that- it’s up to you. This game has proven to be maddeningly addictive, and ever since I installed this on my iPad, I’ve been constantly keeping tabs on my Personal Vault. At first times were hard, and my dwellers were demoralized, starving, parched and under-equipped.
Fast forward to today- I’ve got over a hundred dwellers in a veritable underground metropolis, all of them happy and armed to the teeth. Raiders regularly attack but they’re mincemeat to my militia (a single family of warriors I’ve trained myself). I have a nuclear reactor and a Nuka Cola plant newly built, and I’ve decide to tear down the original Old Vault in the upper reaches to make way for a more organized, aesthetic layout. It’s all bliss for my Obsessive-Compulsive Dictator side.
That all said, I can probably consider Fallout Shelter as a truly exceptional mobile game- it’s absolutely perfect for tablets like the iPad in terms of controls, interface, the large screen, and the ease of which you can just pull it out of your bag to quickly check on your Vault’s progress at anytime. It’s charming, compelling and wonderfully entertaining… well, depending mostly on how you like these sorts of games. If you love building, are a bit OC, and are more about watching and admiring than actively shooting or controlling a central main character- this should be something you may want to pick up. Heck, if you own an iPad, there’s no reason to NOT get this game.
I do hope that Bethesda continues to support this game with more content and updates- it’s certainly not without flaws and could do with a tweak or two. Maybe a Hardcore mode, where when a dweller dies, you cannot resurrect them (with caps)? I dunno. For now though, everything’s as blissful as can be. WHO NEEDS FALLOUT 4? Just kidding.