Fallout Shelter (Nintendo Switch) Review

Game Title: Fallout Shelter
Developer: Bethesda
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Availability: Digital
Battery Life: 4-6 hours
Download: 1.4 GB

Fallout has come to the Switch, but it isn’t what many people had expected it to be. After some false rumors dropped a few weeks before E3 about a supposed Fallout 3: Anniversary Edition, people were hoping to get some nice, fps, Fallout action on the go. At least, outside of PC handhelds like the GPD WIn / Win 2.

What we got was a little different. Bethesda thought to expand its Vault-sim past Mobile, PC, and Xbox One and bring it for PlayStation 4 fans as well as Nintendo Switch fans. So, without further delay, here is my review of Fallout Shelter for the Nintendo Switch!

Story

The story of Shelter is that you are the Overseer of one of the many Vaults built to shield humanity from going extinct during a Nuclear War. As the Overseer, your task is to recruit people to live in your vault and keep the vault running by running power generators, creating weapons for defending your home, and expanding to make it a good place to live.

There’s not a “Main” story to this game, but once you unlock Quests, you do have a very Fallout-esque feel to the Quest Chains. Each Quest gives you information about stuff that’s going on and the further you get into the chain, the more you learn about the areas you visit and the plot around those people.

It certainly won’t be winning any awards, but it does have some interesting tidbits to keep you occupied and interested in the Quests/Raids you’re doing.

Gameplay

Fallout Shelter is a free-to-play “City-building” Simulation game. Across the entirety of the game, you will be building and expanding a vault by recruiting residents and creating rooms to not only keep the vault running, but ever-expanding.

The basics of the game is that you’re in a sim. Your goal is to create a good vault environment to attract residents to expand it and keep the process going. You bring residents in and assign them jobs to keep the vault going. Some can provide power to keep it up and running while others can be assigned to Diners and Water Treatment Plants to maintain food and water to keep the residents alive to keep maintainig the vault.

This is a much more complex process than it sounds. Every new room you unlock and make adds more to the game, like Weapon and Item Development or Living Quarters for increasing your population. It’s an ongoing process of increasing resources and needing other resources to increase those resources. New rooms need new residents and more power to the vault, who need more food and water to work properly. The more you unlock and build, the more you need to stabilize the vault for those new resources.

This makes the beginning of the game pretty difficult. The game gives you residents to get started but, until you have enough residents to unlock the room that recruits more, the only way to expand is to throw boys and girls into the living quarters until they start having kids that can grow up and be the new residents to use those new rooms and provide power to those new rooms.

But that’s the beauty about this game. In most F2P Mobile-origin games, you get incredibly-fast pacing that eventually turns into super-slow pacing hidden behind massive Micro-Transactions for speeding things up. Fallout Shelter does the opposite. Like many simulation games, it has pretty slow pacing to start out, but the further you get in and make, the faster the pacing gets and the more you can do. While there are wait times for everything that can be shortened with IAP items, the pacing effectively just keeps increasing with the more you do.

That also brings us to the fact that this game is not meant to be left alone for too long. The game has an internal clock and will continue to run when it or even the console is shut off. So, if you put the game down for a day and start it back up, a day’s worth of questing, resource-generation, and accidents will happen. Being originally a mobile game, it’s meant for you to keep a constant eye on. If you don’t play for days on end, you’ll come back to a Vault full of dead Dwellers that either starved to death or were killed during Raider attacks, meaning you’ll have to spend a boatload of caps to bring them back to life and continue with their lives.

This is really my main concern with this version of the game. The Switch is a handheld platform, making this work, but with needing to check in every few hours and no way to turn off the constant internal clock from the Mobile release, it can be very difficult to effectively manage your vault, especially if you have a job that you don’t take your Switch to (which I imagine would be even more awkward in the PS4 version that released along with this one).

This isn’t just a sim game, though. Once you unlock the Overseer’s Office, you can start sending your Vault Dwellers on Quests to the Wasteland, where you can raid and plunder dungeons, from Vaults and Stores to Warehouses and Factories. This is where combat starts going into play, as your characters level as the game progresses and can be equipped with armor and weapons. In these dungeons, you have lots of enemies they fight and there’s a big focus on watching their health and giving them Medkits and Radaway when they need it.

This adds variety to the game. If you’re not that into Sim games but love Fallout, you won’t be constantly-bored with doing sim stuff with power and water when you can swap back and forth between the sim stuff and Questing when your party of Dwellers reach the destinations for those quests.

This also takes away from the typical F2P “Pay to Win” model. Caps are slowly earned as you progress the game, which can push you towards spending real money on resources, not only to speed up Quests, but give you more Caps to spend on new rooms and room upgrades. Thanks to Quests, though, you’ll have a constant inventory of items and junk, which can be sold for large amounts of Caps, easily outweighing how much you get through normal progression.

I mention that it takes away from it because when Shelter first released on Mobile platforms, it didn’t have quests and Caps were gained at a very, very slow rate. Ever since they added in Quests, though, there’s very little need to spend any money and still keep that increasing pace for progression. Even moreso because many Quests reward you with all of the special items you can buy through micro-transactions.

Now, all of this comes down to the game having tons and tons of stuff for you to do. There are two dozen different room types to unlock and a lot of quest-chains for you to navigate through. While you never will need to play for long at any given time, there’s enough content, variety, and pressure to keep checking on your dwellers to keep you occupied for a long time.

Controls

Controlling the game has variety to it in that it can be controlled with both the Joy-Con/Pro Controller buttons or the touch screen, like the mobile versions of the game.

But, this isn’t perfect, either. When using the touch controls or the button controls, it doesn’t always respond right away. This is much more apparent with the button controls. It’s not a huge issue, but it can be annoying when using the Left Analog to navigate rooms.

Basically, the controls go like this. The Left Analog Stick can move the “cursor” between rooms and people to select and take a look at information while the Right Analog Stick will move the camera/FOV around different parts of whatever area you’re currently looking at. The D-Pad is used quite a bit, as it is used to take a look at Quest Progress, Upgrades for Rooms, and using Stimpacks / Radaway on injured people.

The ZL and ZR triggers can be used to zoom in and out to look at different levels of detail, while the L/R triggers can be used to look at information like how happy your Vault Dwellers are, in terms of how much needed resources you’re keeping them supplied. with. Then, the face buttons. A is used to select options or drag dwellers around to different rooms. B is used to cancel options. X and Y can be used to check on Dweller info or change their equipment when you’ve selected them.

It’s not a bad control scheme. It’s just that it doesn’t always take your inputs correctly that is the problem with this aspect of the game.

Presentation

Visually, the game looks great. It’s all in 2D sprites, but they look very detailed and crisp, whether zoomed in on one room or zoomed out. It looks really nice.

The game performs great as well. There are never any freezing, stuttering, or dropped frame. It’s optimized well, as I expected it would be.

Battery Life

With this, I expected quite a bit of Battery Life, and that’s exactly what Fallout Shelter gives us. Here are my times, from 100% to 0%

Max Brightness + Wi-Fi – 4 hours, 10 minutes
Max Brightness + No Wi-Fi – 4 hours, 34 minutes

Low Brightness + Wi-Fi – 5 hours, 49 minutes
Low Brightness + No Wi-Fi – 6 hours, 13 minutes

As expected, you get a ton of Battery Life. While you don’t spend much time in each session, you won’t be running out of Battery anytime soon with Fallout Shelter

 

Summary

In conclusion, Fallout Shelter is a fun sim game for Fallout fans. Although the internal clock and some of the controls can be a hindrance, it's got a ton of content and great pacing to keep you interested and without having to pay for any microtransactions.

8.5/10