Tap, tap, win.
There’s no denying that mobile games are rapidly invading our gaming lives. And it’s understandable that core gamers immediately raise their shields, defending against freemium pay models and pop-up ads. But the truth is that there are some beautiful mobile games out there that offer an experience we haven’t seen on consoles or PCs before.
However, instead of turning their hand to developing the next Candy Crush Saga, Bethesda Game Studios took a slightly different approach with Fallout Shelter, a free-to-play resource management game for iOS and Android, that acts as the perfect gateway into the series.
In an ingenious marketing move a few months before the Fallout 4 release on November 10, Bethesda released their first mobile game, Fallout Shelter. Instead of stepping into the boots of a blue-suited vault dweller and roaming the wasteland for quests and loot (like in all previous Fallout games), you assume the role of the vault’s overseer. Like any resource management simulator, it’s all about balancing the needs of your dwellers with your ambitions to expand, all while defending against raiders and mutant Deathclaws.
For the first time in a long time, I was drawn into gaming on my phone more than my PC, at least for a couple weeks. It wasn’t that the games on my PC weren’t exciting, I just felt attached to my vault and wanted to make sure my dwellers had the place running in tip top shape. In Fallout Shelter, you can spend money on rooms and upgrade those rooms, but all the weapons and armor your dwellers need to protect themselves from attacks need to be sourced from the wasteland. That means sending your vault hero out with the biggest gun you’ve got, letting them scavenge and battle with enemies and coming home with the loot.
You can’t help but feel a bit of fear of missing out as you send your dwellers out into the wasteland. You do receive real-time text updates on their progress, what creatures they’re battling with and the loot acquired, but none of it is in your control. Not even the choice of whether to use a Stimpak or Radaway. The intrepid adventurers can die easily if you forget about them but can always be resurrected for a hefty fistful of bottle caps. This is where the Fallout rookies begin to wonder: how cool would it be to roam out in the world torching Radscorpions and rummaging through a steel boxes in search of loot?
It also stokes the fire for longtime Fallout fans. Every sound of bottle caps rattling in a transaction, the munch of collecting food resources, and even the iconic projector shifting onto the next title slide, it’s all here to leave you wanting more. I stopped playing the Fallout series after I finished New Vegas, which is almost five years ago now. With Shelter, I’ve been merrily managing my own vault, growing its population to more than 130 dwellers, all the while whetting my appetite for the behemoth of a game coming our way next week.
Bethesda has gone on the record saying that Fallout Shelter wasn’t about making money; it was about marketing. After earning $5.1 million on the iOS Appstore in its first two weeks, it quickly became clear that this freemium game didn’t cost marketing dollars, but it was making a substantial profit. With all the industry concern over developers like Konami jumping ship to mobile, it’s refreshing to see a triple-A publisher like Bethesda coming into the mobile market without selling its soul.
As much as I’ve enjoyed the many hours I dumped into Fallout Shelter, it remains ultimately lacking the depth I desire out of a post apocalyptic video game. Good thing the main event arrives next week.