by Derk Bil
previewed on PC
Not a sheltered life
When you sit down with the good folks of Team 17, you have a 50/50 chance to see something Worms related. Or so I thought, and then they showed us Sheltered, a post-apocalyptic survival game. It was unfortunate that Team 17’s announcement of Sheltered more or less coincided with that of Fallout Shelter. Yet seeing the game in action, it quickly became apparent just how different two post-nuclear-bunker-expansion-and-survival (say that quickly 5 times) games can get. And I’m not just talking about the pixel art.
While Team 17 games are generally lighthearted (I’m looking at you, Worms), the grim ambiance and setting make Sheltered the exact opposite. Much like This War Of Mine - with which Sheltered has more in common than with Fallout on mobile - the game is dark, gloomy and potentially a bit of a downer when it comes to the player’s mood, but in a good way.
It is the aftermath of a nuclear holocaust and the game starts you off with the creation of a family of four from scratch, or five if you count the cat or dog. You get to completely customize their appearance and can create same-sex couples as well, which is a nice open-minded touch of the devs. The young, enterprising family moves into a vacant nuclear shelter that they have stumbled upon and work starts immediately to make it a home.
Buckets of fun
At the start, you’re a million miles away from being comfy. Everything required to survive is in short supply and you will need to put what you have available to good use - wich isn’t a whole lot. The family sets out to create - or fix - the bare necessities for life. You build a makeshift shower, sew together a sleeping bag and scavenge a bucket to be used as a toilet. There will be some food, there will be some water, but not a whole lot.
In order to make it, you’ll have to manage hygiene, water use, hunger, fatigue and general health. This soon turns out to be a hellish task - anyone with a roommate will know that nothing takes as long as someone else using the shower.
Players should not underestimate what not being able to shower can do to a person, or to the people that are around that person. Not being able to eat, drink, sleep, poop, shower will increase the potential for trauma, and trauma may eventually lead to death. The good news is that your deceased family is edible (ewwww - ed). You can fill the pantry with parts of your dearly beloved. The bad news is that this will add to the trauma so you may not want to eat your relative after all.
The bulk of the items needed to repair, expand and upgrade your shelter with will not arrive on their own accord. Traders may visit occasionally but you cannot survive without venturing out in the nuclear wasteland, usually with nothing more than a gas mask and a radio. Only a few nearby locations will be visible at the start, everything else will have to be discovered. This too will require more supplies as the length of your journeys are limited by the water that you can bring along. Expeditions aren’t merely for hauling loot though, there will be encounters where you could end up fighting or trading with other survivors, some may even ask to join your little group.
There are advantages to expanding the group, such as more hands to help with work in and around the bunker and increased loot from your expeditions, but it will also mean one more mouth to feed.
It will be easier to sustain a bigger group later in the game due to economy of scale, but before you arrive at that point, you’ll spend a lot of time looting and surviving with your initial family. This is by no means an easy game to finish but you don’t have to take my word for that - Sheltered is in early access right now.