Fallout Shelter
Bethesda Games
Played on Android Mobile
The Post-Apocalypse has been in the zeitgeist lately, in all it’s myriad forms of the end of the world.  From the cinematic wasteland of “Mad Max: Fury Road” to the small-screen shambling of “The Walking Dead.”  But perhaps the most iconic doomsday scenario is still Nuclear War.  And lately, nobody has taken more advantage of the irradiated wasteland than Bethesda Games’ “Fallout” games.  With Fallout 4 burning up the charts, Today seems like a good day to examine their free promotional game, Fallout Shelter for IOS and Android.
While the series is all about exploration, Fallout Shelter sticks closer to home, putting you in the chair of a Vault-Tec overseer.  Starting with some survivors, a few caps, and a hole in the ground, you have to keep your vault running, and your dwellers happy, safe, and healthy.  Imagine a simplified version of The Sims, but with more guns and radioactive scorpions.
The game is presented as a 2D grid, with rooms taking up 1 to 3 spaces on the grid.  As time goes by, and the vault population increases, players can dig deeper and deeper into the earth to expand.  While it requires a bit more horsepower than you might expect, the visuals are cute and engaging, based on the cartoonish Vault-Boy style of Fallout’s mascot.  It ran very smoothly on my Samsung Galaxy S5.  My iPhone 4S didn’t do well, though.
Each dweller has their own simplified stats and inventory based on Fallout’s S.P.E.C.I.A.L. attribute system, and most of the game involves choosing where to assign dwellers to get the best use out of their stats, which you can improve with equipment or training rooms.  Being more productive is also key to keeping dwellers happy.
One of the other main parts of the game is increasing your vault population, and unfortunately, this one wasn’t implemented quite as well.  There is only one really effective way to increase your population, and that’s the old-fashioned way.  Later in the game overseers can build radio rooms to call survivors out of the wasteland, but for the most part, your dwellers will have to get busy.  This is accomplished by putting two dwellers of opposite sex in sleeping quarters together and waiting for nature to take its course.  The result is that both dwellers get a big boost of happiness, and the woman is immediately super pregnant.  Then, both dwellers can return to their prospective tasks until the child is born.
The problem is that the game has a system for hookups, but not relationships.  Although it keeps track of parentage to prevent incest, which can accidentally happen when you have a 100+ dwellers, this information is hidden from the player.  By removing any lasting relationships, in spite of the romantic dialog they spout, the mechanic comes off as less of a wooing and more of a breeding program.  This is exacerbated by the fact that only male/female couples can hook up.  It’s not a deal breaker, but it has a lingering authoritarian (and homophobic) vibe to it.  This may have been Bethesda’s intention, as Vault-tec is usually presented as short-sightedly patriarchal in keeping with Fallout’s 1950’s-inspired vision of America, but if so, they didn’t fully commit to the message.  This is especially true considering that breeding dwellers is key to unlocking plans for new rooms.  If you want to build the best spaces for your vault, your dwellers had better get busy.
If you can get past this one glaring flaw, Fallout Shelter is a diverting and open-ended management sim with just enough style and charm to keep you going.  Fallout Shelter is free (with in-app purchases, naturally,) for IOS or Android.
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