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Fallout Shelter (iOS)

By Adrian Andrews 20th Jun 2015 | 6,283 views 

A simple yet fun and highly-addictive game that feels like a love letter to fans of the series.

Bethesda recently dropped a megaton (sorry) during its pre-E3 conference in the shape of Fallout Shelter, a free-to-play title for iOS to go alongside the announcement of Fallout 4, which releases later this year. Fallout Shelter marks the company’s first foray into the mobile market, however it is still very much a Bethesda title – for better and for worse.

 In Fallout Shelter you take on the role of the “overseer”, an omnipotent being who has been given the keys to a vault and tasked with protecting its inhabitants from the dangers of the outside world post-apocalypse. During this time it’s your job to make your vault as comfortable as possible for everyone inside it by providing people with suitable shelter, food, water, and power.

Think SimCity meets Hotel Giant meets Apocalypse Now and you’re not far off the mark. A brief and easy-to-follow tutorial introduces you to the nuances of the system in place; build more rooms to attract more settlers to help run the vault, which in turn provides more caps that can be used to build more rooms, and so on.

Each settler has his or her own level and attributes, and different settlers work better in different rooms. One settler might have a high agility stat, so if you send them to the cafeteria they can help to produce food more quickly than other characters who might be suited better elsewhere. Similarly, rooms can be upgraded to increase production, or two rooms may be placed next to each other to form one larger room which can handle more settlers.

If you zoom in to each room you can see dialogue from people in the rooms and, in traditional Bethesda fashion, some of this dialogue is genuinely enjoyable whilst some is just cringe-worthy. Regardless, it’s a nice little addition which makes the world feel more alive.

Don’t be fooled though, this is very much a Fallout game and all of the terminology is there. Vault Boy is ever-present, Raiders and other enemies from the series show up in your vault, and the currency is the familiar bottle caps. In an interesting touch, you are also free to send your settlers out into the Wasteland. Give them a weapon and armour (obtained from lunchboxes which are gained by completing challenges, such as collecting a certain amount of food or assigning a certain number of people to a correct room), and some StimPaks, and they’ll head out into the wilderness to fight and explore.

You don’t have any direct control over your explorers, but it’s possible to read a log of the expedition which explains what the settler encountered, which enemies they fought, and what items they’ve managed to collect. Leaving the settler out for longer means they go further and further away from the vault, so the gear they find will be of a better quality, however the enemies they encounter will also be stronger. This adds an interesting risk-reward strategy to proceedings and it can be disheartening to see that your settler has died. Fortunately, it’s easy enough to revive a settler, so there’s no massive loss.

When Bethesda's Todd Howard announced the title, he mentioned the company wanted it to be a game which their own staff would enjoy playing, and it shows. Fallout Shelter looks impressive, it’s easy to play, and there are also no real microtransactions, which will come as a relief to those who, like me, just want to get on with the game.

You have the option to “rush” rooms, which will give you the produce on top of bottle caps and experience as well. The catch? The more you do it the higher the chance of there being an incident (fires, Radroach infestations, etc.), which will halt production and waste both time and health. The game warns you of the likelihood of an incident with a percentage metre, however my experience led me to believe this was a bit misleading (it always seemed to be far more likely to occur than indicated). 

So what are the negatives? Well, the biggest and most glaring issue with the game has to be the frequency of crashes. Initially this doesn't seem to be too big an issue - you'll need to restart from time to time, which is frustrating, but it happens infrequently. However, as time progressed and my vault expanded, game crashes became more and more frequent. Fallout Shelter isn't the quickest title to load up either.

Since hitting the 40 settler mark my game straight up refuses to load and is essentially unplayable. I should stress here that I played the game on an iPad Mini, but this is the only game I’ve had any issues with, and it appears this is a problem which occurs on all devices, including the latest iterations of Apple products.

It’s quite possible your problems will be more frequent, it's also possible they won’t occur at all, however the game is obviously a drain on system resources and is arguably “too good” for the mobile world right now, so it’s definitely something to be aware of before downloading the title. It might even be worthwhile waiting for Fallout Shelter to be updated and for these issues to be resolved, assuming of course that this actually happens.

Overall I enjoyed my time in Fallout Shelter. It’s a simple yet fun and highly-addictive game that feels like a love letter to fans of the series. Eventually a general lack of content begins to show, and Bethesda's penchant for producing bugs is definitely on display, but it's an enjoyable experience while it lasts which makes it well worth a download.

This review is based on a digital copy of Fallout Shelter for the iOS

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