Fallout Shelter

Back at Bethesda's E3 conference, you may recall that I was more than a little excited about Fallout Shelter. It was—well, it still is—Bethesda's free iOS (and coming soon to Android) tie-in to the upcoming Fallout 4. The premise is pretty cool: you're an Overseer in charge of setting up, running, defending, and expanding your own Vault. Over time, as you expand, more residents of the Wasteland will show up at your door, requesting a place to live. You can assign these new inhabitants to the various types of rooms you can build, where their effectiveness will be based on Fallout's S.P.E.C.I.A.L. (Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility, Luck) system, in which different types of rooms grant different bonuses tied to a specific trait.

Speaking of building rooms, that's at least forty percent of Fallout Shelter's gameplay right there: some rooms generate power, some create food, some purify water. All three are necessary resources that your base consumes over time; to build more rooms with more inhabitants, you'll need more rooms generating more resources. Other rooms you can build include a medical center (over time, it will create Med-X and RadAway, which will be necessary for healing Dwellers you send out into the Wasteland), supply closets that allow you to store more items, like clothing (which affects stats) and weapons (you know what weapons are generally used for), and living quarters that allow you to take in more Dwellers.

And, yes, just as Bethesda showed off in their release trailer at E3, you can put a man and a woman in living quarters and, if they hit it off, they may eventually head off to a hidden area where they, presumably, get it on to a big band cover of Let's Get It On. It's some sort of Sexual Healing, I suppose. I've really Got to Give It Up with these Marvin Gaye puns. (I swear I'm done now.) After a while—not quite nine months, but it still feels like quite a long time—out pops a little Dweller, who will grow up with his or her own S.P.E.C.I.A.L. stats and who can then be assigned a task within the Vault.

Of course, the tradeoff is that the bigger your Vault becomes, the more risk there is of Raiders showing up to claim your supplies and kill your Dwellers. There are some counter-measures you can employ to defend yourself, the main one being upgrading your Vault Door so it sustains more damage, giving you longer to employ your defense strategy.

But... as far as actual gameplay goes, Fallout Shelter is hindered in the same way as games like Tiny Tower: that is, there isn't really all that much to do beyond building and clicking on rooms to collect resources. What limits Shelter most is that there's no end game. There is no ultimate goal beyond building and clicking. Trexels at least has a story, and you complete Star Trek-like missions on various planets: in Fallout Shelter, you're thrown into a game world and instructed to build. And that's it. As of now, the only goals you have to 'complete' are mundane tasks like sending Dwellers to the Wasteland or collecting resources that net you Caps (which you use to build and upgrade rooms) or Lunchboxes (which unlock special items, one-of-a-kind Dwellers, or bonus Caps).

I'm curious to see what updates come to the game in the future, though. Some exclusive Fallout 4 content would be nice, but it shouldn't feel like you're just unlocking content that was cut from the game. But maybe something along the lines of the one-of-a-kind characters you unlock in Fallout Shelter showing up to populate your makeshift cities in Fallout 4. But as it stands right now? I've played the game, and it didn't really give me a reason to keep playing.

Don't get me wrong, I appreciate Fallout Shelter for what it is. It's a well-made, stable city building game with a Fallout-branded wrapper. It is completely free to play, without any premium content or paywalls, unless you want to spend real money to speed things up in-game. But a game can be 'good' in the sense that it is competently crafted, without being 'good' in the sense that it is fun. And that's Fallout Shelter's big problem: the graphics are great, the coding is great, and the music is great.

But working as a Vault-Tec Overseer feels too much like being stuck in middle management: it just gets tediously repetitive after a while.

I don't think I ever won a single fight in Soulcalibur II. Thankfully, I'm marginally better at reviewing than I am at fighting games.