Bobby Rogers is battling a swarm of radroaches in your water-treatment room while the children break off running in a panic. This is your fault. Food and water supplies are low in your vault, and in an effort to save your wavering colony, you issued a rush order to the room. This desperation move could have earned you extra supplies, but also carried a chance to start fires or start radroach infestations. Today, luck was not in your favor. Bobby’s dead, and it’s going to cost a precious handful of bottle caps to bring him back to life.
The beginning stages of Fallout Shelter that can bring ruin to your titular base of operations are the most interesting, as you scramble to juggle the three key resources: power, food, and water. You need to keep them all topped off in order to have your colony thrive into a powerhouse that can train dwellers and get troops suited up to head off into the vast unknown wasteland to collect choice gear and currency.
If you’ve played another popular iOS series, NimbleBit’s Tiny Tower titles, the core concepts of Fallout Shelter are familiar. Match a character up with their corresponding room for optimal results. At the beginning of the game, you won’t have a lot of great fits, so the challenge is surviving until specialized training rooms unlock and allow you to raise your characters’ stats to make them incredibly efficient workers. Fallout Shelter is at its best during these early stages, where poor planning and “rushing” (A risk/reward system that allows you to intelligently gamble for immediate payouts) resources can create challenges and friction. You struggle to juggle resources, get a solid base going, and explore the wastelands outside. An early mistake might even make you abandon your efforts and start over completely.
Once you’re established, the vault becomes fairly automated, with no real goal in sight outside of hitting the 200-dweller cap. Making super-dwellers who produce gobs of resources is easy, and the enhanced resource buildings that become available later make this even easier. The only activity of interest that remains is simply gearing up dwellers and firing them off into the wilderness with gigantic pouches of stimpaks and radaways, hoping they bring back some rare gear – which you won’t even need at this stage.
When you do hit the endgame, which starts at around 60 population and goes all the way to 200, you’re pretty much just going through the motions and checking your hauls a few times a day. It pretty much plays itself! Sure, you can still try and punch out objectives to try to score some extra lunchboxes (premium store items that can be obtained several ways, through standard gameplay and daily logins).
On that note, the cash shop option in this free-to-play game is completely unobtrusive and unnecessary, and there’s no time-gating or stamina wall to throttle your ability to progress. You never feel the need to spend to get ahead, so kudos to Bethesda there. If you want the unique dwellers contained in the lunchboxes, you can get them eventually through normal play.
Fallout Shelter is a cool concept, and a nice mobile title to pop on to for a few minutes each day (after spending more significant time chunks getting your facility sustainable). It could use some more content and things to do later on; special events, new rooms, or anything else that adds variety and interaction would improve the otherwise pleasant formula.