Developer: Unicube, Team 17 Digital Ltd.
Publisher: Team 17 Digital Ltd.
Genre: Indie, Adventure, Strategy, Board Game
Platform: PC (and the X-Box Games Store)
Rating: I say T (for Teen), fantasy violence, mild blood, apocalypse stuff
Release Date: August 4, 2015 (WIP)
Oh, the mighty simulation game. Especially if it’s set in the aftermath of a world devastating event. Whether it was WWIII, a nuclear accident, zombies, what-have-you, a lot of people seem to like simulation games about surviving in the apocalyptic wasteland (see my review on Mad Max, or the hype for Fallout 4, for example). It’s no wonder there are like eight of these types of indie games out there right now. I am a bit tired of the zombie fandom, though. Sheltered by Unicube and Team 17 Digital is one that I decided to try on my own, since it looked equally intriguing and there were no zombies (as of the latest build).
Granted – it’s not the most beautiful thing graphics-wise, but that doesn’t mean anything if the game is really good. Sheltered is a good game, with solid design and game mechanics. It’s clear they went this direction so they could make a cheap but fun game, focusing on the gameplay over the looks and sounds. That means the game is also very HARD, since it is hard to survive in a world full of radiation and crazy people.
Well, hard up to a point, then it gets easier as you go along.
You start out with your simple family of four people plus a pet. You can customize how your family looks, their genders, their names and their starting stats. I like to try to emulate my own family, although I only have one child, so the other kid is kind of … well, let’s say I picked him up on the roadside on the way to our shelter. You can also create a family of two male parents, so it’s very open-minded in that manner. Granted, there’s no sex in the game to speak of, so to some it won’t matter. You can always have the game randomly generate every person, as well, leading to some insane and tough situations later on. You also have the option of bringing a cat (which is highly independent and catches rats) or a dog (which takes up food, but is a great companion later). Choose wisely.
Your people not only have numerical stats (in terms of Strength, Dexterity, Intelligence, Perception and Charisma), but they have Traits. These are both good and bad, and you only get to choose one good Trait for each character (the game will give them one BAD one after the game starts). Traits include everything from:
= Sleeping soundly so they rest faster.
= Light eaters, so they don’t require eating as often.
= Resourceful, to find more stuff on surface explorations
= Hands On, so they get more spare parts back if they disassemble something.
The game starts with the family retreating to their humble little shelter through a hatch on the surface. There’s also two steel doors that the player will have to open and close to let people in and out of the shelter that keep radiation from getting INTO the shelter. That’s why the doors require your manual touch – if left open, everyone can get sick and die. There’s a Geiger counter on a table to check the levels of radiation in the air. Air circulates in through a small pipe on the surface with a filter that often needs repairing and upgrading to prevent more radiation from getting in. This sealed environment is now the last refuge for these poor people, until they can assemble the camper that sits right above the shelter and move on (victory condition). Do not go outside without a suit or a gas mask, unless you want your people dying of radiation. You have rad pills, but those run out fast.
Of course, you’ll notice right away that there are several problems. Rain filters in through a catch pipe on the surface (that will require constant repairs) and fills a small water tank for drinking (which people will want to do often). You also have a generator that provides power and requires periodic maintenance. You only have so much food before you run out. Your people don’t have a toilet or a shower, or anywhere to sleep. In fact, they don’t have anything to keep them from getting bored, either. The pet also poops everywhere and cans start to pile up on the floor … okay, this shelter doesn’t seem like much of a shelter at all, once you look around. It’s then you also notice that you have limited space as well. How is anyone supposed to survive in this dump?
Well, luckily, this family collected a store of supplies that might include everything from wires to metal to duct tape and rope. They also have a crafting table in the basement. What the player will do from here on out is give the family orders to craft and repair things for the shelter. Everything from a place to go the bathroom, to a shower, to more water tanks and shelves to hold food, to toy boxes and bookcases. You can also upgrade your air and rain filter, your generator and your workbench to build more things. First things first (hint) – you might want to build somewhere to sleep and go the bathroom before you move on to other necessary (but not incredibly important) stuff. People can survive a long time without reading a book, you learn quickly. Things also degrade in this game, so you’ll be spending some time fixing or upgrading things to stay in good shape for the long run.
Eventually, you’re going to run out of supplies to craft and maintain things with as well as food to eat. Food just doesn’t magically appear in your shelter, so you’ll need to go look for some. This is when you start considering forming expeditions. You can send two people out at a time and equip them as necessary (or as you have stuff they can take). Once again, send everyone out with a gas mask and a weapon like a pipe, just in case. You can also send extra supplies to trade with anyone who might be willing to trade. After doing that, you open the map and choose where to go next. Perhaps the abandoned www.shop-phentermine.com church your family saw nearby when they first came here? It’s not that far of a walk, and your family knows where it is. There’s only two or three spots on the map to start, so after pillaging them and building up, you might want to travel further out and explore. Your only limitation is your water supply (yes, it consumes water to travel on the surface).
Things can happen out on expeditions. You can either find more supplies, more food or other survivors. More supplies means more crafting, more food means longer living, and more survivors means … well, it means a few things. You’ll either trade with them for supplies you need using stuff you brought with you that you don’t want. You might recruit them to join your little family in the shelter (meaning more workers and explorers, but more mouths to feed and drink your water). Or you might end up fighting them because they are violent and crazy. The last one is a big pain if they are stronger and faster and carry better weapons. You can always try to flee or walk away. Try being the key word there. After you resolve any situations, you then loot the location for supplies. It’s random draw, and sometimes you don’t have enough spaces or strength to carry all of it. Pick your battles and your supplies carefully.
You can also trap food if you find enough supplies to build traps on the surface. It also only works if an animal walks by and your trap works. Traps are one-time use, so you might want to use them sparingly (unless you find an over-abundance of rope and wood). But it works in a pinch if you are waiting for water to build up for more expeditions and need food badly. People might also find your shelter and ask to join, so there’s that to consider, too. Over time, you’ll expand your shelter to multiple levels with more rooms and more water tanks/lights/food shelves/beds to house more people. Once your main explorers get competent enough going out far enough, they’ll find parts for the camper. That’s your end goal – fix up the camper. You just have to survive long enough to do it.
Again, Sheltered is not fantastic to look at or listen to, but it is well designed and a solid challenge. It can be a fun challenge if you are up to it. As I mentioned before, it’s hard, until you get a fairly self-sufficient shelter going with at least six people. Then it’s a matter of time until you find all the wheels and parts to get the camper going. I’ve lost five families in the process of learning how to play – the tutorial is slightly helpful, but still fairly light that you have to try stuff out to play. If you don’t like that kind of exploration/experimentation gameplay, then you probably won’t like Sheltered. Or you can go find a wiki or forum to figure it out. I don’t normally do things that way, but I know other people do.
Sheltered is also a game that’s a Work in Progress. The current game as-is is complete – the creators however want to add more to it. They aren’t satisfied until their buyers are, so they take suggestions and keep implementing new features (or fixing bugs that pop up from time to time). It’s fun to come back to, see a new update and play with the new stuff. I recommend the game if you are a simulation survivalist. It’s come a long way since it was announced, and it keeps getting better.
Nathan is a 40-ish year-old gamer, father and programmer. His hobbies are board games, video games and watching his son. He wrote for http://www.ironmanmode.com/ for the years of 2012 and 2013 to make money for Child's Play. He has been basically playing games since the 1980's in one form or another. His very first favorite video game was actually an arcade game called Dig Dug. He has played every generation of video game console (including the Magnavox Odyssey)