I want to confess something. A few years ago, all I did for gaming was play Facebook Cow Clickers for about a six-month period. I clicked on castles to make more soldiers. I clicked on turnips to wait 45 minutes to pick them (or only 45 seconds for one MoneyBux!). I clicked on half the people on my Facebook friends list who were also playing these games in a terrible cycle of clicking stuff so we could earn the privilege of clicking more stuff. These games have been dubbed Cow Clickers, largely due to a parody game in this style called Cow Clicker. (Of course, Cow Clicker itself became wildly popular.)
A few years later, I saw Fallout 3 on sale for a ridiculously cheap price—the game and all the DLC for $5. Who could resist a nuclear post-apocalyptic single-player RPG with all the retrofuturistic fixin’s at that price? I snapped it up and spent the better part of the next several weeks immersing myself in the Capital Wasteland. Years later I understood and recognized the flaws of the game, but for a brief moment I had somehow managed to recapture that childlike wonder I had playing video games as a child.
When I watched the Fallout 4 presentation at E3, the last thing I expected Bethesda to announce was a separate mobile game that would release that night. A companion app is pretty standard fare for huge AAA releases nowadays, and any serious fan of the game wouldn’t have been surprised by a Pip-Boy companion app. But a standalone mobile game? Bethesda makes single-player open world RPGs, and here they are making a Dwarf Fortress Lite in the theme of Fallout by the name of Fallout Shelter.
If you’re looking for a review of Fallout Shelter, you can find Candy Lebby’s review of the game here. All you’re going to find here is a list of problems I’ve encountered in the game so far that I really think Bethesda needs to take care of. With that said, let the complaining begin!
1. The limit of 10 explorers in the wasteland is far too low (and probably shouldn’t exist at all).
The Problem: I’ll just go ahead and open with this one as it’s probably the biggest current complaint about Fallout Shelter. Prior to the 1.2 patch, there wasn’t a limit to how many explorers you could have running around in the wasteland in Fallout Shelter. Indeed, a handful of people went with crazy experiments such as having fifty or more dwellers exploring simultaneously.
However, one of the undocumented features of the 1.2 patch was the introduction of a hard limit of ten dwellers exploring the wasteland. The problem is that you can meet the basic needs of your vault with far less than the 200 dweller maximum population that you can reach in the game. The natural thing to do was to have any extraneous personnel exploring the wasteland, and now 200 population vaults are going to have a lot of people standing around doing nothing of value.
The Fix: Vastly increase the limit of wasteland explorers. Better yet, remove the limit entirely. It wasn’t necessary before and it isn’t necessary now.
2. Upgrading the Vault Entrance makes no sense.
The Problem: Your Vault Entrance is a unique room where vault dwellers pass through when entering and exiting the vault. It contains a Vault Door and enough space to station two vault dwellers as guards. You’re able to upgrade it to make it more resistant to attack, and here is the first of many paradoxical design decisions in Fallout Shelter: upgrading your Vault Door in the current game is a bad idea.
Here’s the logic: a tougher Vault Door takes longer for attacking Raiders and Deathclaws to break down. But the moment they spawn, you’re considered as being in an Incident, meaning any dwellers you move around will only be moved around temporarily. You can’t build during this time and are restricted in a few other ways. The longer it takes for an Incident to complete, the more frustrating it gets, and a tougher Vault Door typically means that it will take longer for an Incident to be resolved.
The Fix: Upgrading your Vault Door should add some sort of passive defenses that damage invaders on their way in, such as the robotic turrets that feature so heavily in the main Fallout games. While an Incident would still take longer to resolve, you’re trading that longer time for less damage to your vault dwellers. Alternatively (or additionally), a dust camouflage system like the one in Fallout: New Vegas’ Hidden Valley to reduce the chances of attack upon opening the door would be a neat and useful upgrade.
3. The neon note sign in the Lounge looks like something you should click.
The Problem: Things you click on in Fallout Shelter—resources, level-up icons, etc.—are bright green. A neon sign in the Lounge room is roughly the same color as the graphics of stuff you should be clicking.
When some people scroll through their vault (such as myself) they’ll pause and be confused momentarily.
The Fix: Make it any other color than the one used for all the stuff you’re supposed to be clicking on in Fallout Shelter. Please.
4. Vault dwellers move around a lot during some Incidents and this makes it difficult to click on them to heal them.
The Problem: Dwellers in Fallout Shelter take damage over time during all Incidents, whether it’s a fire or a bunch of Molerats burrowing out of a hole in the ground. When combat is happening, your vault dwellers will move around the room. Sometimes they’ll end up stacked on top of each other, and it’s difficult to click on some of them. To heal a dweller, you need to click on them and click the Stimpak button, but this is difficult to do if three vault dwellers are practically standing on top of one another. Dwellers die as a result, and it costs you Caps (the currency in Fallout Shelter) to revive them.
The Fix: If Dwellers absolutely must move around, at least make it so they don’t end up stacked on top of each other so they can be properly healed. Another idea to consider is an option for vault dwellers to automatically use Stimpaks when they get below a certain threshold of health.
5. Selling items is a chore, especially in a late-game Vault.
The Problem: When vault dwellers return from the wasteland, they’re bringing a lot of garbage with them. Every single weapon and outfit is a godsend for all of your poor little dwellers in Fallout Shelter’s early game with nary a weapon in sight and only the default Vault Suits to hide their shame. Late in the game, however, most of this stuff is garbage and has to be sold.
Furthermore, there just isn’t a whole lot for most of your vault dwellers to do outside of explore. A vault can be sustained by less than half of the maximum 200 population you can reach in Fallout Shelter, and when you consider that each vault dweller exploring the wasteland can potentially bring back a maximum of 100 individual items, you can see the problem.
Selling can be done in one of two ways. You can tag items while they wait at the Vault Door one at a time and all of the tagged items will be sold once you hit “Collect” and bring them into the Vault. The other way is to go into your Vault’s inventory and click on each item three times. Highlight the item, click on it to sell it, and click again to confirm. This becomes tedious very quickly, especially considering that as you progress in Fallout Shelter you end up selling more stuff than keeping it.
The Fix: Fallout Shelter features a very nice “Collections” menu that shows you all of the different equipment in the game. Modify this menu so you can tag items as “sell” or “keep.” When explorers come back from the wasteland, the items are appropriately tagged so you can just click “Collect” when they make it back without worrying about having to click dozens of different items.
6. Repopulating a Vault is a chore without spending tons of money or exploiting the game.
The Problem: If everyone’s dead and gone, it’s really unlikely that new dwellers are going to run up to your front door. Your vault will sit there empty and lifeless forever.
The Fix: If a Vault’s population reaches zero, the game should send ten dwellers to wait outside so the player can get their Vault restarted and not lose absolutely everything they’ve done.
7. Renovating your Vault (or outright rebuilding it from scratch) is practically a puzzle game unto itself.
The Problem: Every brand new vault has a mandatory tutorial that must be completed first. After conclusion of Fallout Shelter’s tutorial, a new Overseer may want to move some buildings around. They’ll find, much to their dismay, that they simply can’t. If you misplace a room or want to move something you have to demolish the room. That’s perfectly understandable.
What’s less understandable and more frustrating is how the rooms are linked together, especially at the start. I had an idea for a U-shaped gauntlet that would act as a place to station guards for my vault. Unfortunately, you can’t remove rooms that are linked to one another, so you have to work your way upwards from the bottom. Even more unfortunate is that you cannot delete the Living Quarters if you have even one living dweller in your Vault. If you want to (for any reason) completely build your Vault from scratch, you have to save up a pile of Caps (so as to pay for the rooms), get a bunch of new potential Dwellers stacked up outside (either through the handful that come in the early game, the Radio Station, or Lunchboxes), and then make sure every single vault dweller is dead. Only then can you delete the Living Quarters and build your vault however you like.
The Fix: The pipe dream is for some kind of better build mode where you can shuffle buildings around at a cost. The much simpler solution to this problem is to allow a Vault to support a minimum population without any living quarters, just so absolutely everyone doesn’t have to die. This will make rebuilding mildly less painful overall, although I would sincerely appreciate a more robust Build Mode.
8. When it comes to stats, Endurance is king, and the leveling system has a serious flaw.
The Problem: Pretty much all games in the Fallout series use the Endurance stat to calculate your HP when you level up. A higher END means you get more HP at level up. Bethesda made it so Fallout Shelter acts much the same way.
Unfortunately, this creates a problem with an element of Fallout Shelter’s gameplay being really unintuitive.
You would naturally want to click on vault dwellers who are ready to level up, but if you do that while their Endurance is low, then you’re wasting Hit Points. A dweller who levels to 50 (the maximum level) with 1 Endurance will have approximately 1/3rd the HP of an optimally-levelled dweller. HP affects survivability in Incidents as well as in Wasteland Exploration, so this can leave a new and inexperienced player with a vault full of people he doesn’t even know are irrevocably crippled in the HP department.
The Fix: Keep the Endurance/HP calculation, but also run a check against it when a S.P.E.C.I.A.L. skill is levelled up. If a player has a vault dweller to 50 with 1 Endurance, this would let him recover the lost HP by training that dweller’s Endurance up.
9. 500 Caps and 100 Caps lunchbox cards are redundant.
The Problem: When you open a lunchbox in Fallout Shelter (the sort of “pay us money to get stuff” mechanic they have going), you can get a 100 Caps (Rare) or 500 Caps (Legendary) card. The issue is that Rare Weapons & Outfits sell for 100 Caps and Legendary Weapons & Outfits sell for 500 Caps. When you see you got 100 caps, you’re really looking at how you got screwed out of a weapon you might have wanted. After all, if you didn’t want it, you can sell it and still get that amount in caps.
The Fix: Just do away with the Cap cards entirely.
10. The various weapons and outfits become gradually less useful as time goes on.
The Problem: When you first start a vault in Fallout Shelter, you’ll be happy with anything other than a Rusty BB Gun—at 0-1 damage, it’s actually worse than just punching baddies with your bare hands. After you’re up to 50 or 60 vault dwellers, you are probably going to be trashing 80-98% of the equipment you find. All for ten caps apiece.
The Fix: A new type of room could be created where vault dwellers can gradually upgrade a weapon based on certain skills and other conditions. A player, if they so desired, could work a Rusty Sawed-Off Shotgun up to an Enhanced Sawed-Off Shotgun in a few days. This makes “junk” loot useful for a little more than just Caps.
11. Radio Stations don’t level vault dwellers like other production rooms do.
The Problem: Radio stations don’t level vault dwellers like other production rooms do.
The Fix: Radio stations should level vault dwellers like the other production rooms do.
12. The Clipboard isn’t on some rooms, and this can make it more difficult to move people around.
The Problem: If you have a difficult time moving dwellers around in Fallout Shelter, you’ll be happy to learn that there is a clipboard that pops up on the bottom left of the screen when you select a room. Simply click on it and you can fill vacancies in the room you’re focused on. The vault dweller in question will automatically come and fill the position once you’ve moved him or her.
Unfortunately, the Clipboard doesn’t exist for every room. It’s not around in any of the training rooms, for instance.
The Fix: Put the Clipboard in every room so players can move vault dwellers around as needed.
13. The individual S.P.E.C.I.A.L. stats in Fallout Shelter aren’t all that useful outside of their related production rooms and exploring the wasteland.
The Problem: Dwellers have seven different stats that affect their performance in Fallout Shelter: Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility, and Luck. Every production room is associated with one of these stats (with the exception of Luck). Endurance affects the HP of your vault dwellers in Fallout Shelter, and Luck affects Rush success chance as well as the chance for bonus Caps to spawn when a Rush completes or when you collect a resource from a room.
Wasteland explorers will face skill checks for all of these stats ,and as such it’s a prudent idea to eventually train all of your explorers to the maximum for every stat. However, the vast majority of your vault’s population in Fallout Shelter will stay inside the vault, and they will only really need three out of seven stats trained up—Endurance for their HP, Luck for bonus Caps & Rush chance, and whatever stat they need for the room they’ll be working in (such as Strength for Power production rooms or Agility for Food production rooms). Although your homebody dwellers will have to deal with Incidents, such as fires and Deathclaw attacks, their stats will have zero effect on their chances of success outside of how long they live.
The Fix: Make the stats affect the performance of dwellers during incidents. A high Agility dweller should be able to avoid more attacks. A high Perception dweller should do more damage with guns in combat.
14. The camera zooming in on events can be really annoying, especially when you’re moving dwellers around.
The Problem: One of the realities of Fallout Shelter is that you will be doing a lot of micromanaging every now and again. You’ll move dwellers between rooms, send them out to explore, and manage Incidents as they come up.
Certain events, such as two dwellers shacking up or a new dweller being born, will cause the camera to pan over to the event and zoom in. This can be especially annoying when you have a lot of micromanagement to do at the time.
The Fix: Provide an option to turn off the camera moving to events.
15. You can’t upgrade Residences after you’ve reached the maximum population cap.
The Problem: Once you’re in the late game you don’t have much to spend your caps on in Fallout Shelter aside from building and upgrading rooms. Unfortunately, it appears that you can’t upgrade Residences anymore after you’ve reached the capability to house 200 dwellers. There’s no real need to upgrade Residences after you can support the max population of 200 dwellers, but it’d certainly be nice to have all of the rooms in your vault looking their best.
The Fix: Allow players to upgrade Residences after the 200 dweller population cap is supported.
16. The flag in the classroom is misaligned.
The Problem: Fallout Shelter takes place in a world where something called the divergence happened—the world of Fallout (and by extension, Fallout Shelter) is different in many ways from our own world from after World War 2 and onwards.
Despite those changes, I imagine the U.S. Flag Code still applies. The star field should always be in the top left when facing the viewer.
The Fix: Flip the flag horizontally so it’s oriented properly.
17. The game can get really laggy as the size and population of your vault expands.
The Problem: Fallout Shelter certainly has memory issues of one sort or another. Once your vault starts to grow in size, you’ll begin to encounter lag as you move around. The lag increases in severity as the number of rooms and dwellers increases.
I would understand the problem if I were playing on an older phone, but I’m playing the game on a Galaxy S5. It isn’t exactly a dinosaur.
The Fix: Problems such as graphical lag in a game like Fallout Shelter are difficult because it can end up on many different kinds of hardware. The lag won’t be an easy beast to slay. However, a good temporary workaround already exists in the game and should be expanded on.
When you zoom all the way out in Fallout Shelter there’s a transition from 3-D to 2-D. All of the rooms are flat and all of the dwellers stop moving. Lag is practically nonexistant in this mode. Providing an option to keep a vault in “flat” mode at all times for users with complex vaults (or less powerful devices) would be a good compromise for this problem while Bethesda hopefully works towards optimizing the game better.
18. It’s easy to lose dwellers behind certain bits of scenery.
The Problem: Some rooms have objects in the foreground to give the illusion of depth. It’s a nice effect, but unfortunately it also means that you can end up losing track of your dwellers when they’re standing behind the object. I’ve found myself looking at three dwellers in a Storage Room that I thought had four dwellers only to find that the fourth one was hiding behind a console.
The Fix: I think the foreground objects are a nice touch, but maybe the dwellers should be programmed to avoid standing behind them.
Well, there it is. The sum total of my complaints about Fallout Shelter. And the reason I spent so much time writing about all these issues isn’t because I dislike the game; rather, it’s because I’ve been enjoying it so much in spite of these problems.
Fallout Shelter is a really simple experience at face value that has a surprising amount of depth in it for what amounted to a side project for Bethesda. I just wish they’d clean up some of these little issues that have been affecting the game, it’d go from good to great in my book, at least.
What problems do you have with Fallout Shelter? What’s the number one thing that Bethesda needs to fix in your opinion? How often does that little green note get the better of you? Share your complaints about Fallout Shelter and neon signs in the comments below!