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Four Ways Fallout Shelter Needs To Improve If It Wants To Survive Post Hype

by Alissa McAloon on Aug 26, 2015 at 12:40 PM

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Fallout Shelter dominated the mobile phones of Fallout fans for weeks after its surprise E3 release. The seemingly simple resource-management sim casts players as an overseer in one of the many Vault-Tec vaults scattered across the post-nuclear world of the popular Fallout Series. The object is to create a stable and populated vault by building rooms, breeding dwellers, and managing resources. That simple-yet-challenging objective, combined with the charming iconic look of the Fallout universe, makes for an incredibly addictive game that can be hard to put down.

In its first month of release alone, players spent nearly nearly 30 million hours managing over 85 million vaults. Two months after its initial iOS release, a content update brought the game to Android phones and introduced Deathclaws, Molerats, and Mr. Handy into the world for all versions. But even with a small sprinkling of new features, many players are struggling to maintain a relationship with Fallout Shelter after progressing past the early stages of the game.  If Fallout Shelter wants to continue to stand out in the fast-moving mobile game market, it needs to make some changes.

1) Up Its End Game

As noted in our review, most of Fallout Shelter's challenge comes early on when you're still struggling to find a balance between power, food, and water production. Once players have a basic understanding of that dynamic, the game becomes a slow march to increase the total population of the vault. New unlocks, such as skill trailing and more efficient production rooms, do a good job at giving players a sense of purpose but the motivation doesn't last long. The vaults in Fallout Shelter cap out at 200 dwellers, but the last unlockable room is delivered just as the population hits 100.

Without a clear driving factor or end game in sight, Fallout Shelter leaves seasoned players asking: "Now what?"  A late game devoid of content presents a perfect opportunity for Bethesda to periodically add new rooms and challenges into the game. While the latest Deathclaw and Molerat addition seems like a step in the right direction, the lack of substantial rewarding content still makes late-game Fallout Shelter a hard sell. Introducing more rooms into the mix is the easy answer. Just like how upgraded production rooms unlock starting at 24 dwellers, upgraded, multi-skill training rooms seem like the next logical step.  From there even more rewarding rooms could be included into the game. A room that let you craft or upgrade weapons and outfits would be a both welcome addition and a subtle nod to the new weapon customization options coming in Fallout 4. Even just a reward for reaching 200 dwellers, like a room that slowly generated bottlecaps, would go a long way to increase the longevity of the game as a whole.

2) More Replayability

Fallout Shelter offers players control of up to unique three vaults at once. The extra two shelters act as an easy way to start from scratch if things don't go as planned in your first attempt, or as a nice time-filler while waiting out timers in your primary abode, but the game never presents players with a compelling reason to even want to manage more than one vault at a time. Fallout Shelter needs content that encourages players to come back to it once they've maxed out a vault or gotten their fill of the game.

Even just a slight touch of variety would add hours of playtime into the overall experience and Bethesda has a gold mine of material that could fix this shortcoming. Something as simple as the inclusion of a New Game+ would do the trick. Allowing players to carry a chunk of their progress from one vault to the next in some way, shape, or form both gives players a goal to strive for and a reason to keep playing after maxing out their first vault. To add to the challenge, New Game+ vaults could be influenced by different factors similar to the perks system in previous Fallout Games. Players could periodically apply new perks to their vault, but each would come with an upside and a downside. For example, a New Game+ Perk could allow all vault-born babies to possess maximum strength, but as a result their intelligence could never be increased.

3) Take Advantage Of The Lore

The Fallout series is known for crafting a living, breathing, post-apocalyptic world filled with diverse characters and tough decisions. Fallout Shelter needs a slice of that famous narrative design. The player takes on the role of overseer, but the only real job is to micromanage the vault at every turn. Dipping the vaults of Fallout Shelter into some of the Vault-Tec lore from the console games would both unlock new gameplay options and widen the lasting appeal of the game overall.

In the Fallout Universe, the Vault-Tec vaults are notorious for the strange and usually cruel experiments performed on vault residents. Introducing something along the lines of those experiments into Fallout Shelter would both add depth to the game and help fix the issue with replayability mentioned earlier on. Another way to do this would be to introduce positive, narrative-focused random events into the mix. The game could periodically introduce scenarios that require the overseer to choose between two possible solutions. Just like rushing a production room, any choice would carry with it the chance of a positive or negative outcome.  This small feature would help introduce more positivity into a random event system currently filled only with fires and enemy attacks.

4) Fallout 4 Crossover

For most people, Fallout Shelter has been a convenient way to channel their Post-E3 Fallout 4 hype into something productive, but the release of the long-awaited game shouldn't mark the end of Fallout Shelter. Connecting the worlds of the two games would both reward players who spent time with the Vault simulator and insert a whole new layer of immersion into the post-apocalyptic landscapes of Fallout 4's Boston.

The addition of a quest in which your Fallout 4 protagonist encounters a character from your active Fallout Shelter vault could do just that. The wandering dweller could share the location of the Fallout Shelter vault with Fallout 4's protagonist. The ensuing quest would send the protagonist toward the vault you created in the app, complete with all of the familiar dwellers you managed. Of course, things are bound to have gone bad; perhaps it's an abandoned vault now, where you must battle the molerats and radroaches to collect valuable resources from the familiar rooms. Or maybe you instead encounter a heavily armed Vault Door and barter with the dwellers, rewarding your vault with more supplies within the Fallout Shelter app.

Players have had enough time to get the most out of Fallout Shelter, but the game's true potential remains untapped. While the current version is a good starting point, new objectives or rooms could make the app a stable Fallout experience. Bethesda could easily keep Fallout Shelter relevant in the months leading up to and after the release of Fallout 4, but the quality and content of future updates will ultimately be the deciding factor.