It’s been quite awhile since I played Fallout Shelter on mobile, echoing from somewhere within the depths of my S6 Edge are the voices of what is likely now a very dead vault. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy the game (quite the opposite, in fact) it’s just that I’d kind of peaked in what could be done, and there was no real end game to keep things going. In the time that I stopped playing, however, there have been more than a few updates, including a recent release on PC. I needed something of a Fallout fix, it had been awhile since I’d ventured into the Wasteland, and, with the disappointing announcements of Fallout 4’s new content updates, I was unwilling to re-open old wounds. So, I installed yet another Game launcher (the Bethesda.net Launcher now brings the total to five) and installed Fallout Shelter for another go to see what’s changed.
Because, of course.
It takes a little while for the biggest changes in the game to become noticeable, with things starting out much the same way as they did in the mobile version. You’re forced through an annoying and unskippable tutorial that makes you place rooms in silly locations before being presented with a slew of recruits to fill your vault with. A few more people will show up to join you periodically before you have to start making your inhabitants pump out little vault dwellers the old fashioned way. Resource management is still very much the core concept of the game since a vault can’t run without essentials, and you’ll still be reassigning dweller roles to suit their various strengths.
It won’t be long before your vault earns a reputation in the Wasteland, and, of course, is attacked as a result, which is where I first started noticing the differences. Raiders are still the first outside dangers to attempt incursion, but killing them isn’t just satisfying, it’s profitable too! Whenever a raider drops dead, you’re now able to loot their corpses for caps and the occasional item. Another kind of external danger that’s been introduced since the last time I played is the presence of Deathclaws. Flawlessly living up to their reputation from the games, these things are dangerous as hell and will completely ruin your day if you’re unprepared for them. That was the position I found myself in when they tore through my vault, and, without exaggeration, reduced my population by half. The resurrection costs of my dwellers alone were phenomenal, nevermind getting my resources back to acceptable levels, so my vault went from looking something like this:
That’s one sweet looking start to Vault 69, now let’s just hope that– Wait, what’s that over there? OH DEAR GOD, NO!
When it comes to bad stuff happening from inside your vault, rooms spontaneously combusting and sudden Radroach infestations aren’t the only incidents you’ll deal with anymore, either. Molerats can take the place of Radroaches and are just a little stronger than the former, and even Radscorpions show up. Radscoprions are only slightly less lethal than Deathclaws since the little bastards can literally teleport to any room in your vault and will inflict additional radiation damage to your dwellers. When and how often these atrocities occur seems to be tied directly to your population levels; the more active dwellers you have on the go at once, the more susceptible you are to danger.
When sending dwellers out of the vault to venture into the Wasteland, the poor souls you send away can also pick up junk to be used for a basic crafting system. You can also engage in Quests, slideshow dwellers to mini-dungeon type areas based on buildings from the other Fallout games, such as the Red Rocket Stop or other vaults. Quests are fairly basic regarding navigation (you literally click on the rooms you want them to go to), and they include a very simple combat system, but it’s another level of engagement that makes good use of existing mechanics. In fact, taking into consideration the new rooms you can build, and the fact it doesn’t play like a slideshow, being able to play it on PC brings it pretty close to a fully fleshed-out game.
Yeah, I’m not kidding. It’s largely the same game, and you’re doing a lot of the same things, working towards the same kind of non-end goal, but a lot of these additions bulk out the game in some much-needed ways. Much needed, that is, if you want to extend the period of time before you get bored and forget about it. With Fallout Shelter open in one window and Reddit on the other, I probably split my time about 70/30 between the two in favour of Fallout Shelter. Once things really get going, and your vault expands beyond its very humble beginnings, you can ostensibly play Fallout Shelter now without stopping. You might have the odd moment where you’ll have to wait a minute or two for something to finish happening, and you will eventually tire of the same old stuff, but it could be done.
I guess that’s what I’ve liked most about coming back to the game, experiencing the smooth-as-silk framerate offered by playing on PC: The game kept updating, and I’m pleasantly surprised. In retrospect, there are still some design elements of Fallout Shelter that have been left alone since the mobile version that I actually have more issues with than my original review. For starters, how in the hell are Raiders draining my resources when they can’t even make it past the Vault entrance? Especially when the door guards are wearing Power Armor, equipped with Alien Blasters, and mow down invaders faster than you can say, “Haha, listen to the squeaky noises they make!” The same goes for internal dangers, like Molerat or Radroach infestations, and the rate at which you lose resources there. If I’m losing resources it would be because the little critters are eating away at them, not attacking my people, so why are the dwellers also losing health at the same time?
And how am I losing power when they’re in the damn kitchen!?
I also have a problem with pregnant dwellers not pulling their weight (tee hee) when it comes to dealing with fights or incidents. I can put them to work in any room, and they’ll happily get right to it, including the nuclear reactor room as though mutations aren’t a common occurrence in the Fallout world. The moment that bullets start flying or creepy-crawlies enter the picture, they run like dainty little daisies who have to protect their precious spawn. This isn’t a sexism issue, this is a control issue, which is to say: I CONTROL YOU, FOOLISH MORTALS. I AM THE GOD THAT CONTROLS YOUR WHOLE WORLD! I put that baby in you by mandating you have sexy times with Richard McNugget over there, and if I want to put it in danger for the good of the vault, I should be able to do exactly that, DAMMIT!
Above all, they’ve still got a few carry-over glitches from the mobile version that are inexplicably present in the PC version. There’s the classic having to exit and then re-enter the game to be able to move pregnant dwellers from quarters bug. Sometimes just clicking and dragging a dweller won’t work at all on the first couple of tries, watching their silhouette follow your cursor for half a second before disappearing. Another update was the addition of the Mysterious Stranger, who appears randomly somewhere in your vault. If you click on him in time, you’ll get a cap bonus ranging anywhere from a couple of hundred to over a thousand. He, too, bugs out and sometimes doesn’t show up; I know because I’ve screenshot my entire vault in the early stages when he’d show up and looked for him after the fact.
And no, I’m not crazy. I just don’t like tense parodies of “Where’s Wally?” when the objective is hidden entirely and my vault’s survival is on the line.
All-in-all, Fallout Shelter was a great little mobile game when it was first released, with a lot of updates and effort put into it since then. In-app purchases are still available for the truly impatient, but they really aren’t needed with the amount of content that’s now available. One of the reasons it may have been launched on PC is because it plays much more like a non-mobile game, and more like one you can focus on for extended periods of time. Sure, there are still a few problem areas like glitches that appeared in the mobile version or just some general design tweaks I feel could be implemented to make things betted. Otherwise, managing a vault is much more engaging with new enemies to fight and activities to carry out, and I hope they continue to update it with even more as time goes on. And hell, it’s still better than Fallout 4.