In 1997, I spent many weekends playing Fallout, a post-apocalyptic role-playing game, or RPG, set in the 23rd century. The survivors of a nuclear holocaust live in vaults to protect themselves from the deadly radiation of the wasteland.
In the first game, a Vault Overseer sends the protagonist out into the wasteland to find a water chip. The latest iteration - Fallout 4 - was announced to much delight at the recent E3 gaming convention. The bigger surprise though is the immediate release of an iOS management simulation game, Fallout Shelter. This iOS game (Android version to follow) puts you in the role of Vault Overseer. Your job is to grow your vault by building rooms to produce resources for your dwellers.
You have to attract more dwellers, and send the better ones out to explore the wasteland to gain experience and acquire equipment. You also have to repel raiders' attacks and keep your vault dwellers happy.
Fallout fans will love the graphics, as the cartoonish characters are inspired by the franchise mascot, Vault Boy. The vault dwellers are just variations of the Vault Boy, differing by gender, hair, facial hair and skin colour. The in-game font and menu use the same 1950s pop-culture look found in the RPG franchise.
Power, food and water are the three basic resources in this game. So, you will need to build a power generator room to generate power, diner room for food production, and a water-treatment room for producing water. Later on, you will be able to build a storage room for your weapons, radio station to attract more dwellers, and fitness rooms to train your dwellers.
PRICE: Free (iOS, version tested)
GENRE: Management simulation
You place (by drag and drop) the right dwellers in the correct rooms so they can be happier and produce resources more productively.
Each dweller has SPECIAL (Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility and Luck) ratings. For example, power generator rooms require dwellers with greater strength, while water-treatment rooms need dwellers with better perception.
You can opt to rush the production to get the resources faster and gain more experience for the dwellers. But if the rushing fails, a fire will break out. When the resources are being produced, the resource symbol will appear and the dwellers will stop working until you tap on the symbol to retrieve the resource.
Thus, it soon becomes an addictive game of tapping to get finished resources and building more rooms to expand your vault. If you neglect the game and resources consequently decline, the dwellers may die, your vault may burn down, or it may be attacked.
To build rooms and expand the vault, you need bottlecaps (the in-game currency). You earn bottlecaps when resources are produced, and dwellers level up, or when you achieve objectives, such as collecting 100 units of water or delivering five babies.
Put a male and a female in the living quarters and they will soon start talking. When they become really interested in each other, they will start dancing, go inside a room and the female will become pregnant. So other than attracting dwellers, you can also increase your vault's population through constant cohabitation. Once I paired five females to a male with high charisma, to rush the objectives of delivering five babies.
Objectives are constantly being updated. At times, finishing an objective earns you a lunchbox, in each of which there are four cards that could be for bottlecaps, resources, weapons, special armour or even a high-level dweller. Alternatively, you can opt to buy lunchboxes using real money. It costs $1.28 to buy one lunchbox and $25.98 to buy 40. You can play the game well enough without doing this, but having extra lunchboxes certainly makes the game easier.
On the downside, when you finally have your vault working well with plenty of resources and delighted dwellers, you have less incentive to keep expanding.
The audio, although reminiscent of the franchise that mimics the howling wind of the wasteland, can be a tad lacklustre. I found myself turning off the music and audio, as it was just too boring.
Perhaps, the greatest flaw of Fallout Shelter is the crash back to home screen bug. It usually happens when loading a saved game, and forums have been abuzz with complaints about the issue. I did experience such an issue and had to start a new game.
• Fallout Shelter is an addictive resource-management simulation game that lets Fallout fans live their dream of being a Vault Overseer. Even for non-fans, its addictive gameplay will make them want to keep returning to the game and keep on tapping.