A Fallout Shelter guide is something I've been wanting to do for a while; the game's been out for some time now, and I think I've got a pretty solid handle on it. I've accumulated a good bit of knowledge after playing for hundreds of hours and scouring the Internet for the best advice (purely out of my own interest in playing optimally).
If you're enjoying this content, we have a lot of other Fallout-related articles for you to read. You could check out our Fallout 4 Salvage guide if you're struggling with the new game's salvaging mechanics, or maybe you'd prefer our 20-year retrospective on Fallout 2.
Fallout Shelter Guide
The Game is Generous (and Buggy)
The first thing you need to know in this Fallout Shelter Guide is that the game is surprisingly generous with its premium goods. I did buy a set of 5 Mr. Handys for my personal Vault since they were on sale for a ridiculously low price (around a dollar), but I didn't strictly need them. (In fact, I have more than five patrolling floors where they are not needed at all.)
The mix of objectives, quests, and the weekly reward will give you more than enough Lunchboxes, Pet Crates, and Mr. Handys in your time with the game. There really isn't much of a need to buy them, although I'd certainly be comfortable with tossing the developer a few bucks when things go on sale and come down to more reasonable prices. I have and I would do it again if I felt the need. The regular prices are okay, but the sale prices are much closer to what I consider sane.
The one caveat is the objectives - they're buggy. Progress will sometimes reset and this bug still hasn't been resolved to this day. It isn't evident what causes it, but it is generally known that closing out the game and opening it up again can result in your progress being erased.
This isn't so bad early on, but late-game objectives might require you to complete 30 Mole Rat disasters with no casualties and you're gonna end up spending a lot of time waiting for that to happen. You'll still earn plenty of premium goodies along the way despite this bug.
Don't Level Up Without Training Endurance
Fallout Shelter made an extremely stupid decision in my view - your dwellers' hit points are tied to their current Endurance stat when they level up. A Redditor noted this fact a few years back and it still hasn't really changed since then as far as we can tell. That means that a vault dweller with 2 Endurance who levels to 50 will have way fewer hit points than a dweller that had 8 Endurance and leveled to 50.
The solution is a bit unintuitive - don't level your characters. At least, not without training their Endurance up. The first thing I did for any new vault dwellers was to stick them in the Fitness Center and get their Endurance to 10. I would then sent them out into the Wasteland with the best weapon I could muster and an Endurance-boosting outfit equipped.
The best item is Heavy Wasteland Gear, a legendary outfit that provides +7 Endurance. Unfortunately, it's a pain to get one unless you're extremely lucky. I was content to use standard Wasteland Gear to level most of my dwellers. If you're a perfectionist, you may find yourself crafting a bunch of Heavy Wasteland Gears and kicking out the weaklings.
As an aside, Endurance is important for mitigating radiation damage in the wasteland. An Endurance over 10 means that dwellers in the field won't need to worry about RadAways unless they encounter a spontaneous quest.
Regarding Stats on Questing, Crafting, & More
A vault dweller's stats aren't all that important most of the time. High Endurance is desired for higher hit points. A higher Luck stat means that you'll earn more money when the Luck bonus kicks off upon collecting from a room. Finally, a higher stat for the room (Agility for the Diner, Strength for the Power Generator, and so on) will make them more efficient at their job.
This means that most vault dwellers only really need three stats trained up to ten to perform to maximum capacity: Endurance for the hitpoints, Luck for pulling in bonus cash, and the stat for whatever room they're in.
There are three exceptions to this rule. The first is your wasteland explorers - they'll face stat checks in the wild and will succeed more often with higher S.P.E.C.I.A.L. stats. The second is your crafters - both weapons and outfits require different stats, so it's just a good idea for your crafting crews to have max training in everything.
The last group you would want to have maxed stats is your questing teams. Ideally, you should have three teams of three trained up to the max stats and with as high of an HP pool as you can muster. I strongly advise that you equip them with Heavy Wasteland Gear so they level up with the maximum possible Endurance stat of 17 (and thus get the highest possible hit points).
Other stats serve important functions in questing, too. These can affect how fast you fill up your critical meter and just how difficult it is to land the best critical hit, so train those dwellers up!
The Best Rooms in Fallout Shelter & Guarding Your Vault
Certain rooms in the game are clear upgrades. Power, Water, and Food generation all have a second-tier version that is definitely a clear improvement. In fact, level 2 of the tier 2 rooms can match the capabilities of a tier 1 room at its maximum upgrade level. The Nuka-Cola plants are the best for food and water, especially when they're fully upgraded. A total of four fully-upgraded Nuka Cola plants would be enough to keep everyone well-fed and hydrated.
One thing which you should not upgrade is your Vault Door. This might seem counterintuitive, but you're going to want to get invasions over as quickly as possible. A stronger door takes longer to break down and that means you'll be wasting time, unable to craft or send out any dwellers. It's best to get things over with quickly.
Speaking of the Vault Door, it's not a half-bad idea to have a team of vault guards. Three merged rooms (with six guards) followed by two merged rooms (with four guards) leveled up to the maximum and equipped with the best weapons are enough to stop any invading force dead, often before they even make it past the first six guards. Speaking of weapons...
The Best Weapons & Outfits in Fallout Shelter
It wouldn't be a Fallout Shelter guide without going over the best weapons. After hundreds of hours of experience, here is what I believe are the best weapons in order. Everything else can safely be ignored in terms of crafting and acquisition:
- Dragon's Maw (22-29) / Vengeance ** (21-26)
- Plasma Rifle (17-18)
- Pressurized Flamer * (15-19)
- Enhanced Sawed-Off Shotgun (6-8)
Your goal should be equipping all of your dwellers with these weapons from the bottom up. Of course, you can use something better temporarily, but the top of the list is the top of the list for a reason.
There are some caveats here notated by asterisks which I'll explain in this part of our Fallout Shelter guide:
* You're likely to find a few Pressurized Flamers, but don't craft them. Spend your resources on crafting Plasma Rifles, but give your Pressurized Flamers to anyone questing, exploring the wasteland, or guarding the Vault Door.
** Your questing teams should have 2 Dragon's Maw and 1 Vengeance between them. While the Dragon's Maw does the best damage, it does burst damage. Vengeance is technically a bunch of small, continuous attacks. If a questing dweller kills something with Dragon's Maw, s/he has to wait to reload before attacking again. If a dweller wielding Vengeance scores a kill, he'll continue his attack on to the next target. It's good balance to have them equipped thusly.
Your questing teams and wasteland explorers should be universally-equipped, too. I recommend Autumn's Uniform (Strength 2, Perception 2, Endurance 2, Charisma 1) for the men and Piper's Outfit (Perception 2, Endurance 2, Agility 2, Luck 2) for the women. These all give you Endurance over 10 (reducing the need for Radaways outside of quests) and the greatest increase in overall S.P.E.C.I.A.L. stats.
As for everyone else, give them the highest stat boost for their respective job - Strength for power generation, Agility for food production, and so on.
Building A Custom Vault
My final (and perhaps most difficult) tip involves how to build a completely custom vault. It's a little unintuitive, and it's best if you decide to do this at the beginning of the game. You can, however, elect to do this later.
The first thing you need to know is that you are going to have to completely evict everyone. Yes, everyone. How, you might ask, will you be able to run your vault without any people? Well, the answer to that mystery lies in lunch boxes and the Radio Studio.
You see, those people waiting to join your vault don't count towards your population. You can safely stack up ten people outside, completely clear out your vault, and start anew with those ten folks. That initial number can be supplemented by the dwellers you receive via Lunch Boxes.
Ideally, you should have a man and a woman each with a specialization in Strength, Perception, Agility, and Intelligence. These will give you a slight starting advantage at producing the things you need early on in the new life of your vault. It's not a strict requirement, but every little bit helps.
You'll probably have plenty of time to build your dream vault, too - you're going to want to save up a boatload of Caps so you can build it out properly. Once you have the funds saved up, kick everyone out and get construction underway!
Welp, that's it for our Fallout Shelter guide. You're now armed with the knowledge you need to succeed in the game without pulling your hair out! Have fun and do try to keep the morally-dubious experiments to a minimum.
Thanks for checking out this Fallout Shelter guide,