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GD Star RatingFallout Shelter Review,
Bethesda pulled a mobile Fallout game seemingly out of nowhere at their E3 press briefing. After announcing to thunderous applause that they’d made a working Pipboy app for your phone and plastic replica for the collectors edition, they followed up with this little gem: Fallout Shelter, a free-to-play vault building game only for the iPad, which draws inspiration from Sim Tower and recent XCOM franchises. Don your Vault Suit and let’s take a look.
The look and feel of Fallout Shelter should be familiar to any fan of the series, but rather than the bleak brown colors of the main Fallout games, Fallout Shelter takes design cues from the bobblehead style cartoon graphics and saturated color palette. The distinctive Pipboy green is ever present though, and you’ll find instant familiarity with weapons, armor, and even some special characters you can add to your vault.
The core gameplay is much the same as any SimTower clone, only you’re building down instead of up. There are 3 resources to be managed: electricity, food and water; and the main goal is to grow your population and build a thriving vault community while keeping your vault dwellers happy and safe.
There’s also a strong RPG element to the game , with each character having their own set on SPECIAL stats, each of which makes them more suited to a particular room or task. In that respect, it has elements of worker placement: but why is perception better for water purification and agility best for the kitchen? Who knows!?
You can equip clothing and armour to modify these stats, as well as guns for them to fight off raiders and radroach infestations, and at later levels you can improve the stats with specialised training rooms.
Population can be increased either by calling people from the wasteland, though this gets much less frequent after the first day; or by good old fashioned re-population, in which high charisma characters tasked to the lounge will quietly sneak off to have a child.
To find new equipment, strong dwellers can be sent out into the wasteland, where they’ll autonomously explore, and eventually bring back a horde of goodies and caps. Or be killed by raiders – you might want to give them a few Stimpaks before sending them off.
The free to play aspect of the game relies on the standard “click to collect resources” mechanic, and countdown timers for everything; consequently it’s best played for half an hour or so every day. For longer sittings and faster gameplay, there’s bonus packs in the form of lunchboxes, a few of which can be gained by completing goals, but can also be bought with in-app purchases. Each lunchbox contains 4 bonus cards, of which at least one is a rare (or better) card, but typically consist of resource bundles, weapons, and very rarely, a highly skilled specialised dweller who comes complete with their own set of armor and gun.
The interface can be a little frustrating at times: click targets are quite broad, so when one dweller is near another it can be hard to grab the one you want. Older iPad owners will find that although the game is silky smooth at first, large bases will prove particularly taxing. My third gen iPad just couldn’t hack it after a while, which you can see in the choppy video.
There may also be some buggy behaviour when the game is left to its own devices: after not checking my vault for a few days, something had gone very wrong, with food and water levels depleted, everyone close to dead, and general unhappiness. Be sure to return to the menu and forcefully close the app each time.
Honestly, I’m not usually a fan of free to play games and I certainly wouldn’t spend any money on one: this is the first free to play game I’ve actually enjoyed, and I even spent some cash – not because I particularly needed to, but because I felt kind of bad enjoying the game without paying anything.
Clearly, it’s not the traditional Fallout experience on an iPad, and anyone expecting that will be disappointed. But it is a light, fun game that should tide you over until the release of Fallout 4 this November. Definitely worth a download.
Check out other great games:
- It's Fallout, but not as you know it
- Gorgeous pseudo 3D graphics
- In-app purchases not required to actually have fun
- Free to play mechanics may bore you
- Fiddly interface
- Might return to find your vault decimated