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Fallout Shelter [Android] – Review

Fallout Shelter

In a vacuum, Fallout Shelter can become tedious and boring. In the weeks since its Android debut, I’ve played it a few times a day. Early on it served as the highlight of my work break and bedtime gaming session whereas nowadays it triggers the forgetful “oh yeah, that game!” response. With others playing concurrently though, the experience promotes healthy “watercooler conversations” about each individual’s vault. Ultimately, this is a marketing vehicle disguised as a free-to-play game; one that provides ample enjoyment upfront but has little incentive for long-term attachment.

Room production could be rushed, at a risk.
Room production could be rushed, at a risk.

I’ll preface any further exposition with the acknowledgment that I’ve not played a Fallout game in any material way. I did play a smidgen of Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel – arguably the worst title to play in the series – but that doesn’t color the otherwise rosy impression I’ve developed of the series from word-of-mouth.

Fallout Shelter is a resource management game portrayed like an ant farm. On startup, I was introduced to a barren vault which a few wasteland wanderers wished to call home. With them safely inside I was then taught about the three core resources that promote everyday vault life: power, food, and water. I quickly expanded my vault size with the addition of rooms that generated these resources and with a little more education, I was on my way.

New room types were unlocked after meeting certain dweller requirements (20 inhabitants, 30 inhabitants, etc.) and the existing rooms could be added on to and upgraded to yield more resources or skill experience. Each dweller had seven skills that could be increased via their outfit, skill training, or just leveling up. Assigning them to rooms and having them produce resources, babies, or focus on skill training helped them increase levels, as did sending them out to the wasteland. Accordingly, I could also equip them with weapons which came in handy during exploration, enemy raids, or radroach infestations.

Zooming in reveals the dwellers having conversations or spouting one-liners.
Zooming in reveals the dwellers having conversations or spouting one-liners.

There’s no traditional story to the game and there’s not one end-game objective to shoot for. There are always three minor objectives to work towards at any time (collect x amount of resource y, assign x amount of dwellers to the right room, etc.) and these yield rewards for completion. The most coveted are lunchboxes which contain four gifts, one of them guaranteed to be rare. Ideally the rare gift is a special dweller, outfit, or weapon. Personally, I received a rare weapon early on and I was set for wasteland exploration afterwards and thanks to the bottle caps I began generating, my vault expansion took off.

Expanding the vault entails burrowing deeper underground and in total, there are about two hundred spaces to make use of. My current vault occupies about forty spaces and I’ve got a population nearing seventy dwellers. Having gone through a tumultuous period where I was under producing vital resources and not generating enough bottle caps, I’ve slowed progression considerably. I’ve got a couple steadily having children, a far cry from the two or three I had previously. I’ve also focused on equipping everyone with outfits conducive to the rooms they occupy, maximizing resource production, or skill advancement. I’m not overburdening any one resource and by expanding slowly but surely as I now am, I’m more confident in my growing layout.

There were always three random objectives to work towards.
There were always three random objectives to work towards.

Still, I’m struggling to find incentive to play as much as I once was, which is natural. After all, the newness has worn off and I’m no longer being introduced to new concepts. I find the lack of an end-game objective to be a double-edged sword. The upside is the ability play relatively endlessly with little hindrance. The downside being the lack of an incentive for someone like me who isn’t chomping at the bit to play anything Fallout related and only finds this game marginally enjoyable. Wanting to feel like I accomplished a definitive objective, I’ve set a personal goal of unlocking the final room – it requires 100 dwellers in the vault. I’ll probably play for a brief span of time afterwards, but I’ll eventually delete it, and life will go on.

As I mentioned earlier, the game is more engrossing when playing alongside others. I learned through this game that one of my coworkers is a major fan of the series and he was able to provide many solid pointers as his vault remained way more developed than mine. Having conversations with others drove me to continue expanding my vault and compete in a sense. The actual game lacks any sort of involvement or connection with others however, outside of the Google Play Games functionality. I could imagine trying to steal resources, gear, or dwellers from other vaults could be fun, in a Clash of Clans sort of way. Even being able to view other players’ vaults to get ideas or compare/contrast layout would’ve been cool. As it stands, I’ve got little incentive to continue on other than my self-imposed endgame.

My vault, zoomed out to the ant farm perspective.
My vault, zoomed out to the ant farm perspective.

I’d still recommend downloading Fallout Shelter though. It’s free after all, and it is the opening act for what will undoubtedly be one of the year’s defining games. Be warned though–you may begin booting the game up and finding yourself with little to do often. You may even forget about the game for a day or two and then boot it up to find a few dead dwellers. Asking the question “why am I still playing this?” could become common. Friends playing as well will invariably enhance the experience. Then, like me, you may keep the vault in the forefront of your thoughts and want to continue checking in on your dwellers. Heck, you may even want to purchase Fallout 4 this year.

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In Between Posts, July 8, 2012

Well it seems I’m feeling better. My fatigue left me towards the end of last week and I got back into the groove of things proper by working my tail off in the produce department, completing research and homework, and playing video games. I’m seeing The Amazing Spider-Man later tonight so I’ve got something to look forward to. Afterwards, I’ll be neck deep in homework relating to business ethics and the environment. I tell you what, nothing will make you think the phrase “business ethics is an oxymoron” like reading in-depth about business practices and how they relate to the environment. On the bright side, there’s a lot of room for improvement.

Red Dead Redemption has eluded me the past couple of weeks thanks to my increased focus on school. Still, the few hours I play it here and there keep me wanting more and continue to enlighten me of the impressive talent housed at Rockstar Games. When talking about The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Bethesda Game Studios was given massive praise and rightfully so. One comment that stuck out to me (and it could’ve originated internally) was that the worlds they created were done so well, they were essentially the main character. Indeed, Skyrim was an impressive area in it’s totality. Playing Red Dead Redemption, I can see a glimmer of the same awesomeness in the massive environment they’ve created, but truly, Rockstar Games’ skills lie in the narrative – specifically the characters. They’re multidimensional personas that are not simply out to kill someone. The journeys I go on with them, where I’m giving a heaping helping of dialogue, fills me in on their motivations, goals, and personalities to such a degree that it’s almost pathetic comparing other games to Red Dead Redemption. Needless to say, it’s engrossing.

Also, I must give enormous congratulations to my best friend and his wife for their newborn daughter. They’re two of my favorite people and I wish all three the best.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Collector’s Edition Review

The contents of the collector's edition of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.

I’ve written three articles covering collector’s editions of video games so far and they’ve all been similar. Namely, they all came in metal DVD cases; of course they contained other bonuses too but nothing spectacular in my opinion. Well, when it came to releasing a collector’s edition of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Bethesda Softworks decided to do it big.

The collector’s edition of Skyrim is hard to miss in a store thanks to the massive box it comes in. Because it houses a foot tall statue of the dragon Alduin, it takes up a lot of space, which is also why it’s been marked down from its original retail price of $150 to $100, so stores can get rid of them. That’s still a lot of money and the game itself is FANTASTIC and definitely worth playing, but maybe you don’t need all the extras the collector’s edition comes with.

Alduin is really solid, like, made of rock hard plastic, and he has many protrusions, so he’s hard to grasp and handle. Luckily he comes with a stand resembling a word wall from the game, although the stand is hollow and feels cheap, the opposite of Alduin. Regardless, that’s not disappointing because it does its job of displaying Alduin well. If you’re unashamed in your love of dragons it’s a wonderful display piece, if you’ve got the space.

Another bonus included in the collector’s edition is a massive art book, definitely the biggest and best I’ve ever received with a game. It’s not miniature like the ones I’ve received with other games; no sir, it’s a full size book. It contains nearly two hundred pages of concept art, computer-generated art, and descriptions of almost anything you can think of that’s in the game. It’s a seriously nice art book.

Lastly, the collector’s edition features a documentary DVD distilling many facets of the game. It never delves very deep into any particular subject, but, like the art book, covers so many features of the game. I wished I watched it before playing through the game or at least before beating it, but listening to the developers discuss various features of making Skyrim was still interesting.

The collector’s edition of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim sells for around $100 now and personally, I think the premium over the standard edition is worth it, if you’re into displaying massive statues of dragons. The statue of Alduin is badass, the art book is ridiculous compared to the ones that usually get bundled with collector’s edition of video games, and the documentary DVD provides some deeper insight into the game. Too bad the game doesn’t come in a nice SteelBook though.

Alfhedil’s Journal – Middas, 19th of Last Seed, 4E 201

Alfhedil's adventure begins!
I received The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim for Christmas and I finally began playing it today. For many reasons, I got the idea of doing a journal from the perspective of Alfhedil, my character. I will compile each post on the page labeled Alfhedil’s Journal; there’s more information there. Now, let’s begin…

I survived! Just as I was about to beheaded, a dragon caused a ruckus and I was able to get to safety. But that begs another question. Where’d that dragon come from? They haven’t been seen for hundreds of years. This journey began as I tried to cross into Skyrim…

I was to be beheaded along with a group of Stormcloaks, the Skyrim loyalists who are attempting to break from Imperial control. As I laid my head on the chopping block that dragon came out of nowhere, killing many, and practically destroying Helgen, the town I was brought to. The dragon caused chaos; it was remarkable how powerful it was! Luckily, Hadvar, a fellow Nord and I escaped via a tunnel and we made it to safety after fighting a handful of Stormcloaks.

When we were safe, he and I made our way to Riverwood, a small village nearby. Hadvar’s uncle, Alvor lived there and he promised me shelter. Hadvar is a member of the Imperial Legion and suggested that I should join and fight the Stormcloaks. Nord’s like us aren’t common among the Legion ranks but he was very convincing in his reasoning. He believed the Imperials offered the best chance for peace. I shan’t make a decision yet. I’ve only been in Skyrim a few days and need to get my bearings.

While in Riverwood I met with many, if not every, resident and offered to lend a hand to the shop owner, who just recently had a valuable item stolen from him. With a lead I traveled to Bleak Falls Barrow, a nearby Nordic shrine. Sure enough there were many bandits there and I did come across the shop keeper’s item. He rewarded me with a meager amount of gold but I was glad to help; I feel better introduced to my surroundings and the people now.

It’s been a rough couple of days and it looks like there’s much ahead of me. Alvor wants me to travel to Whiterun to send word of the dragon attack to a person named Jarl. Hadvar has been very persuasive in recruiting me for the Imperial Legion, but it’s no time to make a decision. Tomorrow I must head for Whiterun and deliver Alvor’s message.