Friday, February 10, 2017

Fallout Shelter Review (XONE)

Fallout Shelter has been on mobile devices and PC for quite a while now but it has finally, and I have to admit somewhat unexpectedly, come to Xbox One so the five of us in the world without a smart phone can see what the fuss is about.  The game plays surprisingly well with a controller on Xbox One, but is even better on your Windows 10 PC since this version of Fallout Shelter is an Xbox Play Anywhere title.  The core game is the same as ever, and still gets boring fairly quickly, but for Fallout fans that haven’t already played it, Fallout Shelter is worth spending a few hours with on Xbox One.  See all of the details here in our full review. 

Game Details

  • Publisher: Bethesda         
  • Developer: Bethesda
  • ESRB Rating: “T” for Teen
  • Genre: Strategy
  • Pros: Fallout fanservice; simple and smart design; quests
  • Cons: Boring and repetitive after a while
  • MSRP: Free (In App Purchases)

Fallout Shelter is available to download and play for free, but it also has some In App Purchases to buy resources with real money if you want to speed things along.  Unlike a lot of free to play games, however, it isn’t constantly smacking you in the face with intrusive “BUY ME” buttons and doesn’t have a lot of bottlenecks designed to block your progression until you start spending money.  You earn plenty of resources and consumable items just by playing the game, or by simply being patient, and don’t really feel tempted to start spending money.  It is nice that the option to spend money is there for folks that want it, but you definitely don’t have to in order to have fun with Fallout Shelter.

The premise behind the game is that you are the Overseer of a Vault Tec vault and can design it however you like.  The game takes place as a 2D view into the vault so you can see all of the rooms and vault dwellers inside and selecting a room or a specific dweller give you more options.  You have to build power plants, water purification, and diner rooms to supply your vault with water, food, and electricity, but you can also build other rooms to train specific S.P.E.C.I.A.L. traits of your dwellers, radio rooms, workshops, and much more.  You can also send dwellers out into the wasteland to scavenge for supplies and explore.  And, of course, your vault can be attacked by raiders or catch on fire at any time so you always have to be prepared to fight back.  The idea is that you have to find a balance between all of the essential resources while also expanding the vault, equipping dwellers with stat-boosting outfits and weapons, attracting new dwellers (or letting your dwellers have kids), and exploring the wasteland.  It is a deceptively simple setup that works incredibly well.  For a while, at least.

Eventually, however, you’ll figure out how to balance everything and make your vault run efficiently and at that point it gets pretty boring and repetitive and tedious.  I think it is important to note that Fallout Shelter isn’t necessarily a game that you’re going to play for long periods of time.  It is a game you sort of check in on for a few minutes a few times each day rather than sit down and play for hours at a time.  There just isn’t enough stuff to do, and since some tasks take hours to complete (unless you use premium consumable items to speed them up), it just isn’t something you have to actively play.  Honestly, it is kind of weird that it is even on the Xbox One at all because it really isn’t a typical “console” game.

On that note, I have to say I’m overjoyed that this is an Xbox Play Anywhere title because I have spent a lot more time playing it on my Windows 10 PC than on my XONE.  Not just because it is more convenient and easier to jump in and out of on PC, but because the Xbox One version has been a buggy and unstable mess of constant crashes to the dashboard so far.  Playing on PC just feels better, anyway, as you can zoom in much closer on specific rooms and see what your dwellers are doing and being able to simply click on a room or dweller works a lot better than using a controller on Xbox One.  The Xbox One controls are fine, just a lot slower since you have to scroll though all of the rooms and dwellers.  Hopefully the stability issues get fixed.

One other slight complaint I have with Fallout Shelter is that it doesn’t quite go far enough into the Fallout universe for my tastes.  I want it to be just dripping with Fallout references and fanservice, but it is really just a trickle of items and an occasional character you may or may not remember.  You could slap any license on the core gameplay of vault management and not change much because it just doesn’t really scream “Fallout” at you.

Thankfully, the game does get a little more into the nitty gritty of the Fallout universe once you build an Overseer’s Office and can start doing quests.  These quests let you send dwellers out on specific missions with actual stories that take place in memorable Fallout locations.  Scrounging for items, fighting iconic Fallout enemies, talking to other survivors, and exploring recognizable slices of Americana is what Fallout has always been about, and doing quests in Fallout Shelter actually delivers on that somewhat.  Of course, the quests take many realtime hours to do since your dwellers have to slowly walk to and from the locations, but they’re totally worth it and the best part of the whole experience.

As far as presentation goes, Fallout Shelter looks good and scales incredibly well.  Being able to zoom all the way out to see your entire vault all at once and then zooming in a specific room so you can see what your dwellers are doing is smooth and very cool.  The art style is appealing and the little Vault Boy-style character models for everything is very nice.  The sound effects are lifted directly from the other Fallout games, but the music is mostly the subdued and atmospheric tracks and not the old timey licensed tunes Fallout has become known for.

Fallout Shelter is very smartly designed and surprisingly polished and it is nice to see on Xbox One.  It may not keep you occupied for very long, but it’s hard to complain too much about a free game like this and it does deliver some satisfying Fallout fanservice if you’re willing to dig into the quest system.  As long as you don’t go in with the wrong expectations (I.E. expecting to play it a ton for long periods), Fallout Shelter is a fun little distraction for Fallout fans.