It’s not very often I have a particular desire to feature a free-to-play iOS game on Upon Completion. In fact, I don’t play very many games on iOS. I download them, play for 5 or 10 minutes then leave them to rot until my storage space fills up. Until someone opened the Vault.
Announced and launched at E3 2015, Fallout Shelter is reminiscent of all those
fee-to-play “free-to-play” games – farmville and such like. 99% are utter tripe; created purely as an attempt to grab some of that lovely money that a few mysterious people seem to spend on it.
This is what we were dreading as gamers – one of our favourite series turning into a free-to-play abomination, just to make a quick buck. Some of the less popular companies [I’m looking at you, EA] have tried to grasp this firmly with all of its greedy hands, and failed miserably. Dungeon Keeper Mobile in particular comes to mind.
As we watched the Gods of Bethesda unveil their plans for their upcoming games, Fallout Shelter went live on the App Store and boy was it popular. It threw Candy Crush off the top-three grossing apps, and was the most downloaded app in the US. Just goes to show what having the powers behind Skyrim and Fallout 3 can do for an app.
But the important question is, how does it play? It took me a few tries to get the game to load and create the vault but, even on initial booting, Fallout Shelter is dripping with everything that makes the Fallout universe so great. Launching on old-timey projectors a la Fallout 3, with an introductory sequence full of Vault-Tec information and the colourful vintage poster style of the company we all know and love.
He who shelters us from the harshness of the atomic wasteland and to whom we owe everything we have, including our lives.
Therefore, you have to construct the Vault and micromanage your Vault Dwellers; allocating them to appropriate jobs, encouraging them to breed to increase the Vault’s population, and generally keep the Vault running without too much in the way of trouble. This starts as a fairly simple task… Build a few rooms to get the systems going: power rooms to provide electricity, water treatment facilities to provide what else? water, and a diner to provide food. Add a living quarters and there you go! A true to life Vault-Tec Vault of your very own.
And now the fun begins…
As your Vault begins to fill, you are responsible for assigning jobs to the Dwellers. Each job, which is actually based on each type of room such as power plants, diners etc, is linked with a SPECIAL stat. For those of you unfamilar to the SPECIAL stats, these are the main character stats for characters in the Fallout universe: Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility and Luck.
In the main games these all play their parts in how your character reacts to the environment around them – higher Agility means you move faster, higher Perception means you can spot enemies further away, whilst a low Charisma can mean you just piss people off when you open your mouth. All of these have some influence on your Dwellers lives, whether it’s how well they do their job or how long they survive in a Raider attack. Most important is which of these stats is highest, since these indicate to you which job they would be best at, and also happiest working at. Workers in apprporiate jobs are better at those jobs and therefore provide more of that resource. So far so good. Skilled workers = happy workers = productive workers = happy, functioning Vault.
After the initial introduction to the game and it’s mechanics, you’re likely to face your first Raider attack. Don’t worry! The Vault door will hold them off, right? Well, maybe. Upgrading the door will increase the time it takes for the Raiders to get in, but get in they will, and they immediately start pinching your resources and attacking your Dwellers. Luckily your guys will start fighting back with whatever weapon they’ve got handy – early on it’s likely to be fists and the odd BB Gun but later into the game you will start acquiring more powerful stuff.
Killing off the Raiders gives your Dwellers XP, which ultimately leads to them having more HP to survive these attacks. If you’re looking for adventure [ I say you, I mean your Dwellers ], they can go off exploring into the Wasteland at your command. Simply drag them kicking and screaming out of the Vault door, set them up with any weapons, armour and Stimpacks and off they go! When you want them to return, simply click Recall and they’ll telepathically know to start heading back, taking half as long to come back as it took them to go out, providing they survive of course. True to form, you can pay a few bottle caps to revive them should they fall in battle, or you can remove them from your Vault list, never to darken your doorstep again.
As Overseer a somewhat important role will be to expand the Vault and it’s population, providing shelter for future generations. Population growth comes in two forms – outsiders and breeding.
Placing a man and woman in a living quarters together will see a shallow relationship form and soon a quick roll in the proverbial hay. Whatever the men of the Vault are drinking, it’s potent stuff as attempts at pregnancy are successful 100% of the time and lead to the lady wearing a natty yellow jumper.
Both parents can be put back to work, which is perhaps quite important, since children of the Vault are immortal, yet a massive drain on resources. They take a while to grow up, as humans do, but can often inherit a point or two in a SPECIAL that gives them just that edge over the first Dwellers.
Having a radio room in your Vault can also help increase the Vault’s population and efficiency. Occasionally, someone will hear your radio broadcasts and come looking for shelter and an easier life. They arrive on your doorstep just like your first Dwellers and their SPECIAL stats can be read just as easily. They may prove useless, but outside blood means a wider gene pool, and gives you a couple more potential parents, as well as Wasteland fodder.
As with all free-to-play games, there’s a couple of different currency types, although these are tweaked to fit better with the Fallout universe. Firstly there’s everyone’s favourite apocalyptic currency, bottle caps! These act as your normal currency as in any of these kind of games – used for buying rooms to build, reviving people and upgrading. Then, there is the ‘premium’ currency in the form of lunchboxes. What differentiates Fallout Shelter and other games is the distinct lack of 2 things.
Firstly, a lack of adverts from the game encouraging gullible players to invest real world cash and buy the premium currency to get ‘special’ characters and in game stuff. The only time I have seen such adverts is when I’m on the page that deals with Lunchboxes. Of course, you can earn these in game, and I’ve opened about half a dozen of them so far just from completing objectives.
Second, there is so far a lack of requiring these Lunchboxes to continue the game. Progress isn’t linked to timers or wait periods – everything happens in a fairly quick time span, other than Wasteland exploring. Rooms don’t need speeding up to produce resources so you can progress, although you can ‘rush’ them to quickly earn some resource and caps if you need to.
Rushing doesn’t cost anything to trigger, but runs the risk of causing a small disaster, be it fire or a radroach infestation. Each successive ‘rush’ increases the odds of these disasters occurring.
Are there any issues with the game? As with many iOS games, Fallout Shelter runs best on the most up-to-date models with the most recent system updates. Currently there’s no Android version. My iPad can run the game, but quite often faces crashes back to the home page for no apparent reason, major lag when ‘rushing’ or if there are a lot of things going on. Maybe 1 of 5 loads of the app actually settles to let me play for a longish time – the only way I can get my resource levels high enough for it not to be killing my Vault Dwellers. Fellow Completionist Trunco can’t even get the app to load. It seems some people have no issues at all, whilst others have too many to continue playing. It’s a mark against an otherwise shining example of an app done well.
Ignoring these issues, this is how micromanagement free-to-play games should play – no pushyness, no forcing you to buy things to progress and no convoluted story lines.I quite enjoy Fallout Shelter. It’s a game that costs me nothing to play, nothing to run and nothing to maintain progress. I can play in short bursts or over a longer session whilst doing something else, and both styles can be useful to Vault progress. I am never under pressure to earn or buy premium currency and I’m not bombarded with adverts to buy things I don’t want or need. The writing of the game is amusing, sometimes cynical and everything about the game fits with the Fallout universe, without needing to go near any of the established lore.
People are paying more for the Lunchboxes in Fallout Shelter because they want to give back to the developers, not because they want to continue playing. This should be a shining beacon in mobile gaming and should be a great example of valuing the payer’s time and money without treating them like cashbags and morons. I heartily recommend this if you have a device capable of running it; especially if you love the Fallout universe and need something to tide you over until Fallout 4.
Khinjarsi is indisputably the most important person in Vault 276 : she who shelters us from the harshness of the atomic wasteland, and to whom we owe everything we have, including our lives. And also took all the screenshots from her own Vault on her iPad.