Not Sure About Fallout Shelter

[Blaugust Day 20]

Months after it lost almost all topical relevance, Fallout Shelter was finally released on Android systems. After quickly downloading it and playing it for the last two days or so, I’m not entirely sure whether it’s actually good or not.

That room is so busy that I'm not surprised it burst into flame.

That room was so busy that I’m not surprised it burst into flame.

In the broad genre that is time management games – in which I place all apps that feature activity timers – Fallout Shelter attempts to ride the line between time management and “normal” games. It features the construction of resource rooms and trying to maintain certain levels of supplies, but the timers themselves are generally incredibly short. A Gold Mine in Clash of Clans might take 12+ hours to fill to capacity, for example, but a fully-staffed room in Fallout Shelter might be ready to be clicked in four minutes or less. String enough of these events along – including tapping Dwellers to level them up, rearranging room makeups, planning ahead, etc – and you can legitimately play for 30 minutes or more at a time.

It is also entirely possible that you enter a depressing death spiral from which there hardly seems to be any escape.

My first Vault was a disaster. I did not think I was expanding too quickly, but my glee at having a one-man repopulation strategy (mainly because it amused me) backfired when six, resource-consuming kids suddenly materialized. As it turns out, bitches be thirsty. The lack of water led to widespread radiation poisoning, reducing all Dweller HP down to 50% and zeroing out their happiness.

It seemed like a good idea at the time...

It seemed like a good idea at the time…

At that point, I did not have enough Caps to build more Water Treatment rooms, and Caps themselves are a resource that is only gained from A) Wasteland exploring, B) selling items, C) Rushing rooms, or D) spontaneously when collecting other resources. Between the radiation and everything else, I did not have anyone to spare to send into the Wasteland, which subsequently meant I did not have any items to sell. Collecting resources provided no bonus Caps for the last dozen times I collected them. That left Rushing room, which carries a ~30% (and increasing) chance of failure.

Well, let me tell you something: 30% apparently means 99% in the Fallout world because I Rushed six different rooms and failed five times in a row. Each failure is an automatic Incident, which could be a fire or Radroach or even Mole Rat infestation. All of which lowers the HP of anyone in those rooms, by the way. At the end of things, so many of my Dwellers were inches from death that I considered it almost a mercy to wipe that saved game from existence.

Instead of deletion, I went ahead and took advantage of Shelter’s 3 save slots and just started a new Vault. Two of them, in fact. The second is probably the most advanced, but the third ended up netting me multiple Legendary (or at least super powerful) items and some extremely high-stat Dwellers from the half-dozen free cash shop “lunchboxes” every new Vault gets. A friend of mine told me he somehow got a level 30 Dweller complete with Power Armor and an AK-47 right from the start too. All of which makes me think the optimal strategy is creating multiple Vaults from the beginning and deleting the ones that don’t give you good loot.

Less smiles, more crunches.

Less smiles, more crunches.

Incidentally, when I finally got back around to poking my head into the original disaster-Vault, everyone was still irradiated but back at 50% HP. I collected my resources and either hit the lottery or perhaps there is a timer-based failsafe on Caps collection. Plus, the six useless kids grew up to be rather useful Water Treatment slaves. The Vault turned around in a hurry, which leads me to believe that Shelter is leaning more towards the more traditional “play for 5 minutes every 5 hours” style.

Which would be nice… if not for the fact that Dwellers sent to explore the Wasteland continue exploring until they drop dead. You can revive them in the field for a (costly) fee, but the setup means they’ll die unless you log in every X hours. Or at least schedule yourself a log-in and send them a Recall signal. Which brings us closer to the “play in real-time spectrum.” Which is not useful for exploring, since the items you encounter are based on how many real-world minutes/hours your Dwellers are out in the wild.

The end result here is a bizarro game that is both fun and feels bad. Was my water death-spiral the result of poor decision-making on my part (probably), or an engineered trap to entice me to purchase lunchboxes (which always contains X Caps)? It’s nice that I can sometimes play for a longer period of time, but I also feel like I’m better off avoiding negative events by not playing for as long as possible. Except now I need to log in every X hours to retrieve my explorers.

Sigh. The things I do for love (of Fallout).

Posted on August 20, 2015, in Impressions and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Hehe, I’m a bit addicted, but I can see your complaints, because things are less likely to go bad if you leave it unattended and off. I initially started off playing on a tablet, only to realize after I started playing that I’d want it on my phone. I have two vaults running, and if I sit and micromanage a vault, it will certainly grow faster, produce more, etc., but it’s also more likely to have incidents and invasions, or deplete resources, if it’s just sitting there running. Kind of a nice unintended experiment. I’m not sure I’d have seen the time differences had they both been on one device.

    As for it’s biggest flaw, it’s probably the initial Lunchbox bonuses. On both games I started out with 21-24 dmg weapons from them, making my first Wasteland explorer very powerful, while the higher stat characters are all solid to amazing. In one game I got a guy with very high P and L, moderate in everything else but C, and good armor, in the other I got Three Dog (lvl 35), and even though he has really good non-C stats, you can’t use him in his canon room immediately, the Radio Station, until you unlock it at 20 Dwellers. Funniest part, he was happier making food than he is on the radio, so maybe it doesn’t matter. “Rerolling” for Lunchbox bonuses is definitely the “best” strategy, but unless you are looking for rapid internal growth, I’d say a good weapon for your first explorer is the best way to go.


    • Although I decided to keep my last Vault with its special characters and loot, it was actually a random drop laser gattling gun (or similar) that really sealed the deal. I was about to bring the character back home when I noticed he had it equipped, and still had 8+ Stims. So I let him keep going overnight. And most of the next day. And now he’s level 33 and could have kept going longer still, but I’d have to build extra storage rooms just for when he returns. And that guy wasn’t even one of the special characters, just some random dude.

      RNG is RNG.


  2. For me the problem wa simple, after reaching around 90 dwellers with no particular problem, the app simply started to crash instantly on startup, no message, no warning, no nothing.
    I uninstalled and goodbye…..


  3. My main issue with the game is it has no ‘end-game’. Getting to 100+ people is fun, but fairly short/easy, and after that building more and getting more people is somewhat pointless, especially once you max someones stats and get them into good gear so they can explore for 3 days+ in the wasteland. Yea they bring back 10k caps + dozens of weapons, but for what?


    • I’m seeing that same end soon. In fact, I started seeing it as soon as the “building tree” included the stat rooms, when there didn’t seem to be much of a point raising stats when armor alone was about good enough to make these rooms super efficient. Who in the world even needs to raise Charisma anyhow?


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