Fallout Shelter - One Year (Or More) On

By Sean Couture 27 Oct 2016 0

Last year, Bethesda's mobile spin-off Fallout Shelter released to a more positive reaction than I’d ever guess a F2P title could receive, given the industry's cynical view on F2P AND tie-in games (bar notable exceptions). Despite fading from mainstream awareness, Bethesda has still lavished it with a considerable amount of updates. We thought it’d be nice to have a look at how things have progressed.

Fallout Shelter is available on iOS and Android. You can read Owen's original review here.

What’s Changed

The biggest change by far is of course the quest system that was added in the 1.6 update back in July. When your vault reaches the point where you’re housing at least twenty dwellers under your roof you unlock the overseer’s office. From there you can send teams of up to three dwellers on quests and upgrading the room allows you take on multiple quest at the same time up to a max of three. Like everything else in Fallout Shelter going on quests takes time, with the quickest I’ve seen being just under an hour whilst the longest was fifteen hours. Of course Fallout Shelter has always lent itself more towards being a game you tinker with briefly and leave it for a while rather than one you play for extended periods of time. But even then twelve hours and above wait times seemed a bit silly. Also even though they’re not quests dwellers out exploring the wasteland can often find abandoned buildings through which they can rummage. These work just like quests but on a smaller scale.

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When the wait is finally over you are blessed with the lovely sight that is an area other than your vault. You can move your little away team around the quest location by tapping rooms: they will always move together and it’s impossible to split them up. Before long you run into some form of combat which works like it does back in the vault. On missions, enemies have the good graces to both wait for your whole party to pile into a room (path-finding issues means there’s almost always one straggler) and stay in the room you’re fighting in rather running about like headless chickens. Another change to combat in missions is that it tries to be a bit more tactical by giving enemies health bars and allowing you to order party members to pick their targets. To target an enemy you tap and hold on a party member, a cross hair will appear and then you drag that over to the desired target. While that sounds nice and useful in theory, the practice is a bit of a hot mess as Fallout Shelter’s tap and drag system has always been a little unreliable. Since party members and enemies both love to huddle up you rarely actually select the right target.

The last improvement to combat is that sometimes party members can land critical hits. When that occurs a yellow cross hair with a check mark inside it appears above the enemy, tap it and you then have to play a mini game where four arrows move in and out of the cross hair. You want to tap it at the right moment so you catch all four arrows in the centre of the cross hair. If you’re way off you do 1.25x normal damage and if you get them all dead centre it’s 5x normal damage, which basically will one hit kill everything.

The other big addition to the game comes in the form of crafting. Just like in Fallout 4 you can collect innocuous items and junk you find around the wasteland and turn them into weapons and armour in a bizarre and violent form of up-cycling. Both have separate rooms which take up three spaces and I found the wait times for most items is round about 2-4 hours. Unfortunately though in my experience by the time you reach the point where you can build these rooms you’re often swimming in weapons and armour anyway. As a small note recipes for rare items require both rooms to be upgraded before you can use them, so no they're not disappearing as soon as you find them. Shelter doesn't do a great job of conveying that.

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Speaking of new rooms there is also the barber shop where you can change the look of your dwellers, tier two version of all production rooms; nuclear reactor (power generator), garden (diner), the water purification plant (water treatment) and the nuka-cola bottler (diner again). I was a bit crestfallen to find out that last one is not a room for producing nuka-cola quantum, which is Fallout Shelter’s version of premium currency. It can be used to speed up the production of some special rooms such as the ones designated for crafting as well as expediting travel to and from the wasteland. Nuka-cola quantum can be found in lunch boxes which work like crate in CS:GO. They’re often found in buildings out in the wasteland or are given as rewards for quests though they can also be bought with actual money.

Lastly on the list of changes we have pets and survival mode. The former essentially serve as walking (or flying in the case of parrots) stat boosts and sadly don’t really make much contribution to the game at large. On the other hand survival mode does such a good job mixing up the game that I would say it’s the only way to play, unless you're a complete newb. Fallout Shelter on normal can get a bit too easy too quickly. Sure things are tough to begin with but before long you’re drowning in bottle caps and cackling maniacally when a group of raiders attack only to discover that everyone in your vault is passionate about exercising their 2nd amendment right. Survival mode makes attacks more deadly and doesn’t allow you to resurrect dwellers along with a couple other tweaks. While that may not sound like much it makes the difficulty curve a bit steeper and prevents you from reaching a zone of relative comfort and safety so early on.

Problems that remain

Despite Fallout Shelter’s popularity early on it did draw some flak over some design choices and technical issues. Bethesda have definitely made a valiant effort to remedy these but some have yet to be fixed. For instance crashes are still fairly common, with switching from the vault to quest locations and vice versa being the biggest culprit. I myself had to restart the app three times before even getting my vault to load the first time. The tap and drag interface is still unreliable as I mentioned prior. Raider attacks continue to be more of a hindrance than an actual threat as their erratic, nonsensical behavior coupled with their bullet spongy-ness makes engaging and subsequently killing them feel like an unnecessary chore.

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Changes I’d like to see

A big part of basically every Fallout game has been the factions within the universe. As of Version 1.8 released earlier this month, you can theme your rooms using the brand new Theme Workshop that has recipes for the Minutemen, the Institute, the Railroad and the Brotherhood of Steel. It would be nice to see these guys represented further though, via a system where appeasing different factions awarded you different benefits and/or enemies depending on your choices. Other things I'd like to see are more 'quality of life' improvements – enabling explorers to travel in groups, like Quests, or simply allowing me to post more guards on the Vault door. Everyone knows by now attackers always come in groups of three anyway.

Summary

So -while not exactly rising from the ashes like a new-born phoenix, Fallout Shelter has certainly grown and evolved over the past year. I, for one, am glad Bethesda has continued to give it the support it has. It’s a testament to both them and the game itself that it’s able draw in people like my girlfriend despite the fact that she’s not even interested in the Fallout series as a whole. Still, even with the combat improvements and the quest system, this is still essentially a management sim – the problems inherent within that have not gone away.

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