The new addition of ‘quests’ allows for small stories to be told outside of the player's vault, but mostly act as opportunities to grab new, sometimes timed exclusive loot items. These are the only real forms of story, and are usually rather isolated; so if you are wanting something akin to the epic plot lines of the numerical entries in the series, then I’m afraid you’ll have to conjure these tales yourself.
I am glad that these small departures away from the vault were added, though, as I remember playing on my mobile when the game was first released, where there were no quests at all. In contrast to how it used to be, the change in scenery is very welcome indeed, giving the player a peek into the world outside the claustrophobic vault they are used to staring at. It’s a shame these small outings can sometimes take over a day to complete (in real time), as they are very well done. I like the innovative decision to allow the player choice in which path to follow within a building, and leaving the rooms black until entry to create some suspense. If you play in any way like me then you’ll find yourself investigating every single room regardless, but it is nice to have the option in the first place.
The game gives you a base amount of ‘caps’ (which anyone who has every played a Fallout game before, will know is the currency used in the world) and also some resources to start out with. From there it is down to the player to choose which rooms to build, and where to put their vault dwellers to work. Slowly the vault becomes more functional and self-sustaining, requiring resources to simply be collected by the player with the click of a button. As more dwellers arrive it is important to pay attention to the statistics of each, as higher stats in one area will make them better at certain jobs. For example, if a dweller has high strength, they would be best put to work in a power generator, whereas highly intelligent dwellers would be utilised better producing 'stimpaks' in a med-bay.
The gameplay is relatively simple, you simply click on a room to collect its resources, and drag characters between rooms to move them or change their role in the vault. The same point and click method is used for most of the games functions, making it significantly easier to play on Windows PC than Xbox One, simply because it’s easier to change perspective and swap between rooms. On many occasions I would be zoomed in on a room in my vault, and attempt to click on a resident, only to be brought down to the bottom of my vault, as I hadn’t realised that my Xbox controller was still hovering over that room. Or I would try to select an area to build a new room, and kept having to tell the Xbox that I, in fact, did NOT want to destroy a rock at the bottom! On PC if you click there is no shifting of perspective, as the mouse is instantly where you need it. All in all, as the game is more of an app than a game, I think it lends itself, in general, more towards mouse and keyboard, with the mouse having the precision required that the Xbox lacks. That is not to say the game is unplayable on Xbox, in fact, the port is very good, but if given the choice between the two I would recommend utilising the ‘play anywhere’ features and play primarily on PC.
Microtransactions sadly play a huge part in progressing quickly in Fallout Shelter, though if you have patience you can simply wait for things to play out at their natural pace. The game seems designed around breaking any patience you do have, however, with quest’s taking up to and beyond 8 hours just to reach the start, and actions such as crafting being tediously slow. Many options are given to ‘speed up’ the process of various tasks, each costing the player multiple rare ‘Quantum Cola’s’ or the purchase of in-game items with real money. I found that personally, playing or doing something at the same time as playing Fallout Shelter was desirable, as I didn’t want to spend real world money, and there isn’t much to do around your vault whilst waiting between completion times or gameplay lulls.
GRAPHICS AND AUDIO
The graphics and art style featured in Fallout Shelter are fantastic, they are perfectly fitting in a number of ways; from the style of the vault dwellers, based on the iconic ‘Vault-Boy’ from the series, to the adorable 50s clothing and imagery. These elements combined tie the game well into the series as a whole, but also lend themselves well to the bright, contrasting colours used, making the game pop and highlighting the characters well against the complex backgrounds. Of course, when zoomed right out, the dwellers can become hidden and blended into the rooms they are in, but this is to be expected and doesn’t affect gameplay with most actions taking place at a closer perspective. A small addition I really enjoyed was the appearance of the Vault-Boy himself, who will appear briefly in the corner, giving you his classic ‘thumbs up / nuclear distance check’ when you complete a task. Although it doesn’t add to the gameplay, I really enjoyed this little addition.
There were some issues with the sound design, but generally, it works great, using catchy little notes and tunes to alert the player when a certain task is complete, or item is ready. One odd thing I noticed on PC was that the volume of a room when zoomed in, becomes significantly louder than the rest of the games audio. This can be avoided, however, it can also be jarring when you are automatically zoomed into a room when checking on a dweller.
The graphics and audio design are key in letting the player know when there is an invasion from raiders on their vault, a room fire, or resources are ready to be collected. It achieves this well, only becoming confusing or messy when multiple actions complete simultaneously, triggering multiple sound and visual cues.
In all, I found Fallout Shelter was a great but brief distraction, and simply wasn’t engaging enough, or high enough on content to keep my attention for very long. I enjoyed the time I did spend with it, particularly when I was working to save enough caps to get a new room that I was excited for. However after a while, even the new room prospects became dull, and there just wasn’t enough to keep me coming back for more. Perhaps if the game had a quicker pace, or the faster completion times weren’t locked behind paywalls, I would have enjoyed the game more by itself. As it is, I mostly just log in once, check on my vault then quit out to play another game.
I would recommend Fallout Shelter if you have never played it on mobile, or are a huge fan of the Fallout series looking to kill some time. However, if you’re looking for a game with some weight and longevity, I would stick with games like Fallout 3 or 4.
+ Fun graphics
+ Quests are refreshing
– Lack of depth
+ Free to play
– Slow progress
– Lots of microtransactions