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Fallout Shelter Review - I built it. They came.

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Basic Info

  • Reviewed on: Samsung Galaxy Note 4 (SM-N910H, Android 5.01); iPad 3
  • Price – free
  • Developer – Bethesda Game Studios, Behaviour Interactive
  • Publisher – Bethesda Softworks
  • Game type – Simulation, base-building
  • Inn-app purchases
  • Platforms: Android 4.1 and up (Kit-Kat)
  • Platforms: iOS 7.0 or later (works best on iPhone 5, iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus)
  • Purchase here: Android – Play Store / Apple – iTunes Store

Pro’s

  • Addictive – play as long or as little as you want
  • Free – not even in-app advertising
  • Offline – no need to be online at all to play.

 Cons

  • Addictive – dangerous time-sink
  • Minor UI issues Dragging dwellers around can get stuck occasionally unless you close and re-start the game.
  • Gets repetitive

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“Dagnabit. All my female vault dwellers are pregnant already!”

When Todd Howard announced Fallout 4 at E3, he also announced, Fallout Shelter, a mobile game set in the Fallout universe. Fallout Shelter would release on the iPhone and iPad, with Android support coming “later”. That “later” is now. Fallout Shelter was released on Android just a few days ago.

I was swiping the office iPad to be able to play Fallout Shelter before, after and during work. Now, thanks to it being on Android, I can play it whenever; I predict sleeping on the couch is in my near future if I don’t curb this…

Fallout Shelter is simply described, a base-building game, with some resource-gathering and management elements thrown in for good measure. The background comes from the original Fallout games’ premise of the protagonist leaving a nuclear fallout shelter (called a Vault) and going on an epic adventure, and saving the day. Now, you as the player, get to take on the role of the manager (or “Overseer”) of a Vault and craft it as your own.

The base-building or room creation portion of the game revolves adding rooms where the residents of the Vault will live, and create resources for the use by the Vault and the inhabitant’s survival. Resource management primarily revolves around power, food and water. Power is used to run the Vault; food and water is necessary to keep your Vault-dwellers alive and healthy. Finally, resource gathering is handled in the form of acquiring currency to expand and upgrade your Vault’s facilities. Currency is in the form of the ubiquitous bottlecap, currency used in the main Fallout games.

Acquiring new Vault residents is done in three ways: procreation, advertising and via Lunchbox unlocks, which I’ll get to in a moment. Put a couple of dwellers together in the living quarters, and with a little time, that couple will go off and get pregnant. The second method is by building a radio studio room, and assigning residents with a high Charisma score; there is a chance that with every tick of the radio room, a new resident will be enticed to join your Vault.

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The scourge of the Wasteland was born here; Saint Trevor...

I mentioned a third method; to keep the game interesting and enticing, you will be given a series of challenges to complete as you play the game, they can be fairly simple - say, collecting x amount of food, to arbitrary – equip x dwellers with weapons, to bizarre – have x amount of dwellers dancing together in the living quarters. As you complete these challenges, you’ll be rewarded either with currency – in bottle caps – or with a Lunchbox.

The Vault-Tec Lunchbox contains four cards with a series of rewards; ranging from mundane things like more bottle caps, health packs for your residents, weapons, to rare and special Vault residents, and equipment and clothing to be used in your Vault. If you are so inclined, you can purchase lunchboxes with real-world money.

Online and Offline

One of the promised mentioned with the games’ release was that Fallout Shelter could be played completely offline once it was downloaded and installed. This was a great boon – no in-game advertising, no bugging about achievements – nothing. Just you and your Vault. I’m glad that Bethesda stuck with this promise. If you do go online, then you can track achievements in the gaming component of whichever platform you’re on, and make purchases if you so choose.

If you don’t, no worries, the game just keeps on playing…

Hazards of Living Underground

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Living in a Vault, if you’ve played any of the Fallout series of games, doesn’t come without its fair share of problems. Lack of fresh water was the premise of the original Fallout game. In Fallout shelter, seemingly random events can occur to keep things spicy.

Fires, Radroach infestations and raiders will conspire to make your idyllic underground life complicated. Raiders – barbarians from the wasteland will periodically attempt to break in to the vault and raid rooms for supplies, attempting to kill your Vault dwellers along the way. In the early stages of your adventures as Vault Overseer, they can go right around every room you have and eventually will leave on their own, but not before plundering bottle caps, food and water.

Fire and Radroach breakouts – these will happen. These two events will start spreading around the Vault and become more problematic if they are not attended to in the first room that they pop up in, and they become more and more hazardous.

Two new events have been added along with the release of Fallout Shelter; Radhogs and Deathclaws. Radhogs will appear in any rooms that are connected directly to the earth; typically rooms at the bottom of your vault. They generally hurt much more than Radroaches, so be prepared to arm your bottom-most dwelling… Vault Dwellers with good firepower. I lost six dwellers to an encounter with these after I couldn’t contain them quickly enough…

Deathclaws, from the original Fallout games, are some of the toughest creatures out in the Wasteland. Incredible speed and absolutely murderous once they close distance, generally best avoided at all costs… unless you’re clearing out Quarry Junction in Fallout: New Vegas. I haven’t encountered one yet in Fallout Shelter, but from what I can gather, they work in the same manner as raiders, coming in via the front door, rather than appearing in a room at random. Luckily my first room has my best equipment handy for that eventuality.

Grind mechanics and Pay to Win – you can’t…

A mobile game like this has to have some sort of income mechanic for the developer, regardless of what anyone says. Thankfully, in-game advertising is not present. If you’re so inclined, you can buy lunchboxes, or the newly-introduced Mr Handy; individually or in packs. As described above, completing challenges will net you extra caps or occasionally a lunchbox.

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Oooh the shiny things in lunchboxes!

The new Mr Handy feature can also be acquired via the Lunchbox system, and doesn’t need to be purchased to own one. Mr Handy can be used in two ways: either wander a floor in your vault and automatically collect resourced being produced  (like what managers do in adVenture Capitalist), as well as assisting in containing events described earlier; or be sent into the Wasteland to collect caps. The cap collection process is slow compared a reasonably-leveled Vault-dweller, but it does help early game.

Grind mechanics are limited to rushing to rooms to produce resources quicker. As you assign Vault-dwellers to a room, they start a timer that will produce X amount of a given resource. Successfully rushing a room will net you some caps, the resource (power, water, food), and some extra experience points for the dwellers assigned to the room.

Before rushing a room, a dialogue box will come up informing you of the rewards as well as the chance of failure. IF the rush fails, an incident event will occur – fire or a Radroach infestation in that room. Luckily you can mitigate the chance of failure by enhancing the attributes of the dwellers either via training them in training rooms (unlocked after having 24 dwellers in your Vault and upwards), or equipping them with appropriate clothing items which buff their stats.

Enhancing your Vault-dwellers also helps reduce the time needed for a room to tick over as well.

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Damn, this guy was busy!

As far as the rush mechanic is concerned, there is no direct pay-to-win mechanic here. In fact, everything in the game including special weapons, dwellers and clothing items can be acquired without lunchboxes. Indirectly, assigning a high-level character to a room might be considered pay-to-win, but no single item in this game is exclusive to in-game purchases.

Chance-based mechanics can also be upgraded on your Vault-dwellers by sending them to the gaming room, which is unlocked later.

A cautionary note here: I went and bought a pack of five Mr Handy’s, thinking that I could split them up between multiple Vaults on my device, if I felt the need to do so. I found that the purchases are locked to the Vault, not to your account. Keep this in mind if you are seeking a shortcut, and thinking you can save by buying in bulk.

Also, did anyone mention that Fallout Shelter netted over $5 million in its first 2 weeks? Not bad for a mobile game which is ostensibly free…

New features since the Android release

Featured improvements (grabbed from the iTunes site) include:

  • Overseers should be on the lookout for new threats to their Vault Dwellers. Some Vaults have reported attacks by burrowing Mole Rats and enraged Deathclaws – likely attracted by the sound of new construction. 
  • Vault-Tec has partnered with General Atomics International in order to offer Overseers their very own robot butler – the Mister Handy! Now you lazier Overseers have a friendly, entertaining alternative to tapping and collecting resources. (Crumpets not included.)
  • Our engineers clearly underestimated the, *ahem*, usefulness of living quarters to stimulate Vault growth, resulting in gross overpopulation and decreased Vault efficiency. Rest assured, the simulation has been adjusted, and Vaults of all shapes and sizes should now run more smoothly.
  • Not content with stealing your Vault’s resources, some rather enterprising Raiders have now resorted to stealing Caps as well. (If you haven’t armed your Vault Dwellers yet, now’s the time!)
  • As Vault-Tec does not approve of the use of unsanctioned levitation technology, all Vault Dwellers that were found floating through the air have been grounded. Permanently.
  • Some of the more difficult daily objective requirements have been adjusted to more obtainable levels. You’re welcome.
  • Continued general maintenance to the Vault simulation. Because an efficient machine is a happy machine!

Functionally, the iOs and Android editions are identical. With the release of the Android version, the notable new features that have been added include Deathclaw attacks, Radhog events and the new Mr Handy available as an unlock or an in-game purchase.

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Deathclaws - mean, mean, mean and more mean!

Other changes include room efficiency as well as tick speeds. I don’t have specific info to put here, but one notable observed change is the basic power rooms power output has gone up by about 30% but with a much longer tick cycle.

The addiction is real.

I like this game. A LOT. I would have never considered playing something like this on a mobile device but I was intrigued by the Fallout tag, since I’m a huge fan of the franchise. I have fought with office co-workers to get some time on the office iPad to be able to play this game during lunch breaks. Luckily I don’t need to do that anymore. I would have liked to be able to transfer my Vault that I created on the iPad over to my Phone, but I’m OK with starting the adventure again.

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Yup, gotta work hard for the money...

If you’re looking for a game which you don’t want to play continuously, and occasionally just want to spend a few moments in before getting on with Real Life, then this little title is right up your alley.

What have your adventures been like so far underground? Share some of your adventures, screenshots and stories below!

Thanks to Reddit's r/foshelter for some in-game imagery

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