One of the most pleasant things to come out of this year’s E3 show was Bethesda’s announcement of a brand new Fallout game, and I’m not talking about Fallout 4. A little iOS game (soon to be on Android) called Fallout Shelter was released directly after the Bethesda Press Conference, and I, like many gamers, downloaded it immediately. Having little to do with the actual world of Fallout and instead focusing on the Pipboy renditions of persons and the Vaults themselves, Fallout Shelter is a fun way to waste a lot of time. If you’re looking for something substantial to hold you over until Fallout 4 releases this Fall, you’ll probably want to look elsewhere.
Fallout Shelter is a simulation game set in the Fallout universe. You are an Overseer of a brand new vault, and it’s your job to take care of the vault dwellers by providing them with enough food, water, power, entertainment, and anything else necessary to live underground while nuclear winter settles outside. It’s kind of like playing The Sims or perhaps FarmVille, but without any of the annoying social links to unlock stuff or microtransactions to progress the game. Sadly, there aren’t any options to perform crazy/ridiculous/evil experiments on your dwellers either, or at least not at the time of this writing.
After you’ve made a few water treatment centers and diners for your vault dwellers to work and socialize, you’ll start to get a feel for the game fast. As you create rooms, you place vault dwellers in them to work, which produces the appropriate resources: power stations produce power, water treatment centers give water, etc. There are only a few resources to maintain, and once you’ve balanced your number or vault dwellers with the current setup of rooms you’ll be rolling in the caps and resources in no time. Every now and then in my time with the game I found I was running low on a resource like power, for example, so I simply put a male and female vault dweller in a residence room, they had sex, she got pregnant, and in a few miraculous hours I had a new worker to pump out more power! It’s sadistic and sad, but the vault dwellers were oddly happy about the whole situation. It was great!
The more vault dwellers you place in a room, the faster it will produce its resource (and if you put people with higher S.P.E.C.I.A.L. stats in the right room the faster it’ll produce too). So assigning workers to the correct space will increase productivity. You also have the option to Rush a room’s production, which is a gamble based on stats that can give you faster results along with some extra caps for your effort! It’s a nice touch to keep you more engaged in the vault itself. If your Rush attempt fails however, you’ll have to deal with the room catching on fire or possible Radroach infestations ceasing production until the threat is managed. I’ve never had any failed Rush get so out of hand I lost the room or dwellers in it, which makes the game kind of easy. Also, I did happen to let one of my dwellers die just to see what happens: you’re give the option of letting them die, or for a very reasonable price you can just resurrect them. With no real threat, even when Raiders occasionally invade, Fallout Shelter tends to be a mindless button pressers that has no real gameplay to speak.
If you’re feeling more daring, which you should because there’s isn’t any reason not too, you can equip a dweller with a weapon and some armor and have them venture out into the wasteland! Here the dweller acts on their own, with their interactions, findings, and battles narrated to you via a text field not unlike the text you’d see and read in the original Fallout on PC. Admittedly it is really fun to see your little guy or girl take on a menacing Deathclaw via text, hopefully coming out the victor, but again there isn’t any real gameplay here: literally everything is done for you. You’ll find valuable caps, weapons, and armor while exploring the wasteland which you can bring back to your vault should your dweller live to return. These items improve the stats of your vault dwellers, meaning they can work harder and better, meaning you get to rinse and repeat!
Sadly, the gameplay falls really short in Fallout Shelter. You’re kind of playing hotel manager the whole time, tapping on rooms to collect your resources, ensuring your vault dwellers have what they need to maintain the vault itself, and moving people from room to room to best run your vault. It gets old kind of fast. Thankfully though the game is free, and offers no pay blocks causing you to spend actual money in order to keep playing.
You can spend actual money to purchase lunchboxes which unlock random goodies like caps, guns, and in some cases special vault dwellers (like the infamous Three Dog above who is in my Vault!). These lunchboxes are fun and exciting to open, and, thankfully, you can actually earn some of them free of charge by completing specific in-game goals. I really can’t justify spending money on these, because all they do is unlock stuff that you otherwise can get by just playing the game and being patient. Yeah, maybe you’ll never run into a famous face from the past Fallout games, but is that really a big deal? Sure, it’s cool Three Dog and Jericho are in my game, but it wouldn’t change my experience with the game if they weren’t. The premium experience here is only for the truly diehard Fallout fans and no one else. Save your money for something better.
This isn’t the Fallout game you wanted, but it is a good way to waste time. I find myself booting up the game every few hours just to see how my guys are surviving in the wasteland, what gear they’re bringing back, and how many new babies we’ve made! In the most crude and short review, Fallout Shelter is precisely what a mobile game should be: pointless fun that’s easy to handle and gets you to come back. The biggest draw here is fans’ nostalgia based on the past games. The humorous nature of the game’s dialogue and visuals also make for a super cute performance. Even when defending the vault from raiders using a flamer, my vault dwellers are happy!
Fallout Shelter is a free diversion that anyone with an iPhone or iPad, some free time, and any interest in the Fallout series past should play. Even if just for a few hours the game’s worth a chuckle. Those looking for something new to hold them over until Fallout 4 should probably just replay through Fallout 3 or, better yet, the original PC games which a lot of you haven’t played. They’re true Fallout experiences, and much more memorable than some chibi Pipboys working in a water treatment plant.