Bethesda’s debut at E3 was impressive, with video footage of upcoming games, and announcements on the titles that fans love such as Doom, and Fallout 4. When they announced Fallout Shelter for iOS devices, it wasn't long before the mobile game took the top spot on Apple's free app store, with everyone wanting to know what Bethesda would bring to mobile gaming. I wanted to know too, and so downloaded the game in the hopes that I wouldn't be disappointed; moving the Fallout series to iOS intrigued me and so I'm here with an honest review.
The fact that Fallout Shelter is free-to-play is a good start, and I didn't enter the game thinking that Bethesda was going to try everything in their digital power to milk me for cash (which I don't have). I played the game for two days before I got tired of the notification messages and repetitive tasks, but I did give the game a go, as I believe Bethesda do make some good games. I genuinely sigh when I say that the banality of mobile gaming in its entirety is what ultimately lets this game down.
Fallout Shelter requires players to create and take full control of an underground vault, building as many underground rooms as possible in a bid to keep the vault dwellers happy. The vault dwellers could be described as cheerful post-apocalyptic survivors; happy to work for an omniscient player they can’t see, and O.K. enough to wait outside a prison-like vault until needed.
The rooms in the vault rely on resources such as power to keep the rooms well lit and functioning, and food and water, so our dwellers have some provisions. As the player, your job is to assign dwellers to various work roles, and you make those decisions by checking their profiles and skills. The skill system works by using the word SPECIAL, like other Fallout games, and assigning an attribute to each letter, which is supposed to aid in the efficiency of resource collecting. Assign the correct dweller and you might level up, depending on how far along in the building phase you get.
As you begin unlocking and upgrading more rooms in the vault, you can increase the dwellers stats, which can only be a happy situation. Another happy situation focuses on the dwellers and their need to reproduce inside the cheerful underground vault you’ve just created. Yes Fallout Shelter has an element of the bump and grind kind, and you are encouraged to make any and every dweller have sex with one another, get pregnant and have children who, like their parents, end up working in the vault. There is no relationship building in this game, unlike the necessary building of the vault, and soon your underground shelter is filled with copulating dwellers that are oblivious to the fact that they’re all sharing the same partners.
If they’re not pro-creating, they might be out in the waste land on their own little adventures. Out in the wasteland a vault dweller will accumulate EXP when they encounter enemies, as well as armor, weapons and caps. Wasteland exploring is probably the single most profitable task a vault dweller can be given, and as the player you are not kept out of the loop with streams of text appearing on screen, detailing their battles and finds. If you leave them out in the wasteland, they’ll collect more gears and resources (hopefully!), but make sure you remember that they need to eat, or you’ll find them dead, while you face the prospect of losing a heap of caps to revive them.
Once you get past the initial excitement of the quirky cartoonish graphics, and SimCity gameplay comparisons (character skill building and environment building) the buzz will wear off when you realize that all you’ve been doing is tapping and swiping at the screen for the whole time. The problem with Fallout Shelter isn’t so much about the game itself, but more about the limitations of mobile gaming. Saying that, Bethesda could have added to the gameplay and story by perhaps throwing in a mini-game or adding some extra weight to the characterisation of the vault dwellers. I've given Fallout Shelter a 5 out of 10 and that's a shame because the game does have some potential. For me, it just didn't have that exciting longevity that I look for- the thing that makes me addicted to a really good game.
Your best bet is to take the game with a pinch of salt, and that way you won’t find yourself getting frustrated at the lack of story development, or soundtrack for that matter. Fallout Shelter is available on Apples iTunes store—free to play—though as always there are in-game purchases you can make if you want extra loot. If you’re an Android user, you can expect Fallout Shelter to be with you in a couple of months.
Fallout Shelter is free to download.