The last couple of days have once again shown us just why Bethesda is one of the most respected game developers in the world. They respect their fans and they genuinely love what they do. One example of this is the way they don’t just deliver on expectations, they shatter them. Case in point: at their E3 presentation Sunday night, they didn’t just give us all kinds of new details and information on Fallout 4, they also dropped a whole new iPad game – Fallout Shelter – on us THAT NIGHT. For FREE! This is like Toyota unveiling their next car for next year, and then just giving everyone a free motorcycle to tide them over.
Fallout Shelter is a mix of a lot of the current casual-game tropes that dominate these days – but it is all put together in a polished and appealing way that is unusual.
Now, even a free motorcycle is useless if it doesn’t run – so how is the Fallout Shelter iPad game? Well having played some of it, my first impressions are that it is really good. It is essentially a tower-sim, like TinyTower, but done in the style of Fallout, with Fallout characters and themes. Plus, there is resource-management as well. As far as game-play, I find Fallout Shelter to be a mix of a lot of the current casual-game tropes that dominate these days – but it is all put together in a polished and appealing way that is unusual.
You are the Overseer of one of the vaults in Fallout, and your job is to build new rooms, assign citizens to jobs, and keep everyone happy. You need to manage the water, power and other necessities in your vault (which you choose the number for at the beginning), and deal with any issues – like rad-roaches, for example. People will periodically line up outside your vault, and you have to assign them to a room with a job to do. You unlock more caps by upgrading your vault rooms and completing objectives. You use caps to do things like build new rooms, and add more vault-dwellers to your vault.
While the premise of Fallout Shelter and its gameplay are not anything we haven’t seen before, what sets Bethesda’s entry apart is the visuals. This game has got so many visually-appealing touches that it is a joy to play, just to live and feel the Fallout universe on an iPad game. Your vault-dwellers are done in the same cartoony style that Fallout “instruction manuals” have used in previous games, and the vaults are decorated in a way that will have you feeling both nostalgic for Fallout 3, but even more excited for Fallout 4 than you already were.
There are enough cool Fallout references and motifs to make you smile and enjoy this game, at least for a while.
I was really impressed with the level of technical polish in Fallout Shelter. The rooms of your vault can all be zoomed-in, and if you do that, you will see that they are all rendered with incredible detail. Once you have expended your vault to a lot of rooms, it becomes a really impressive complex, a beehive of activity, with all your little denizens busily working. Bethesda deserves high marks for clearly putting a lot of time and thought into the design of this game. There are lots of cute extras, too – like when you pick up a vault-dweller like God, they swing like ragdolls through the air, or the fact that you can put a male and female in the same room to make them procreate. It is cool playing this game to discover all of the treats Bethesda has put in there for you to find.
My only criticism of Fallout Shelter is one that would apply to many of these casual, sim/resource games. Despite Bethesda’s assurance that this is not a “pay to win” game, it of course does encourage you to pay of you want to speed up the game’s sometimes-slow pace. Yes, you can play without paying – and to be fair, Bethesda’s game does give you more free play options than most in this genre. But bottom line, if you don’t like the casual, “build-then-wait” model, you will probably not enjoy Fallout Shelter beyond the nostalgic experience of playing a Fallout game.
Overall, as casual sim games go, Fallout Shelter is better than most, and there are enough cool Fallout references and motifs to make you smile and enjoy this game, at least for a while. It certainly doesn’t come close to tiding us over while we wait for Fallout 4, but it is a neat new experience that all Fallout fans should try. Bravo Bethesda, for a game that is completely free, you’ve given us a very nice treat – now get back to work on Fallout 4!
**Reviewed on iPad**