Post-apocalyptic survival games are nothing new, and neither is being put in charge of maintaining a shelter and keeping the inhabitants alive. Unicube’s Sheltered isn’t a revolutionary idea in that sense, but it does capture the feeling of desperation as you try to help the people in your shelter to cling on to life in a dying world. You can do everything in your power, but the world itself can throw something up that unravels all your work.
You start with a family of four – two adults and two children – who can each be assigned a different personality type which affects how they behave and what jobs they’d be good at. The person with the highest strength may be the one you send out into the wasteland to scavenge, but their lack of alertness and perception may hamper what goods they find. On the other hand, your more perceptive dweller may also be your most intelligent, who’s good for maintaining the shelter’s systems, but simply wouldn’t be able to stand up to other humans in a fight.
Finding a balance within the family is just one of the keys to success, and even then it could yield failure. You need to work on improving the shelter beyond its very basic water filters, oxygen filters, and fuel-sbased generators. Water, fuel and food are the main resources you need early on, with water being the top of the list at first. You see, you need to scavenge the wasteland for supplies, and to do that your explorer needs to be hydrated.
When setting up an expedition you’ll need to equip your party with at least a gas mask to avoid radiation poisoning and a weapon to try and fend off any threats. When you select a waypoint on the map the water cost will be shown. The further you want to travel the more water you’ll need, so building storage for it is key at the shelter.
No matter how much storage you have, you do rely on the rain to fill the tanks up, and as the numbers gradualy decrease, you get more and more anxious for a downpour. At one point my shelter had no water to drink, to shower in, or to clean the toilet out. This also meant no expeditions could be carried out, which can effectively trap you. There only solution was to broadcast for traders with the radio the shelter comes installed with, but even then it is pure luck on what products the traders bring.
Traders will either bring you things you desperately need, or things you may need further down the line. Even if they do have what you require the cost could be too high, so you have to decide on instant gratification by selling a lot of your goods, or waiting and hoping you’ll find the items you need yourself.
You have to be careful out in the wasteland though, and be especially wary of other survivors and wild animals. Some survivors may want to trade with you, while others may ask for sanctuary in your shelter. You just need to be aware of the added drain on your resources if you allow them to join you. However, some may be hostile and try to steal your gear and kill you. In these situations you can either try and flee, or you can fight.
Fights in the wasteland can be auto resolved or you can take control. The battle system is a turn-based one, with options to fight, steal, defend, disarm, subdue and flee. This is where strength and having good weapons comes into play. Each fight has to be considered carefully and sometimes the best option is to simply run. If you lose a fight, that character will die which means you have one less person to help maintain and improve the shelter, as well as one less person to send out on expeditions.
The pragmatist inside may see their death as a decrease in resource use. A horrible thought to have, but if there are more resources for the others then at least the game will go on. The survivors in your shelter aren’t the only resource hogs though. You can have pets like a dog, cat, snake or fish and they require feeding too. They can have their uses like the dog going on expeditions and the cat keeping rats at bay. Rats are a big problem that appearing if you let your shelter get dirty. They will steal food from your supplies, so eradicating them quickly is required through the use of mouse traps, as long as you have the supplies to craft them.
Crafting is one of the key elements in Sheltered, with different tiers of goods. To access higher tiers and better equipment you need to upgrade the workbench. From here you can craft beds, toilets, extra rooms, gas masks, and other necessities. Keep an eye on what materials you’re using to craft new items, just in case those materials are required to update the life support systems. You can do without the jukebox until they’re upgraded.
Outside of exploring and crafting for the shelter there isn’t much else to do. There may be the occasional raid on the shelter, but not often, or you may come across someone who gives you a quest, but these are few and far between.
Additionally, Sheltered is a pixel art game so if you’re not a fan of the style then this may not be for you. Much like other similar games that have arrived in the genre Sheltered isn’t a light and relaxing experience. You can make your inhabitants take care of their basics automatically, but there’s much more depth into taking care of them yourself. Just like the inhabitants of the shelter you’ll be fighting the world around them, trying too dig out a small patch of peace to live in while everything is thrown at you.
Sheltered is one for people that enjoy a tough survival game, and micro management too. You need to be vigilant with resources and keep an eye on the inhabitants too. The game becomes one of trust issues too as you’re never sure which outsiders who seek shelter are good, and which are bad. Sheltered is a well crafted game that is quite tough at first to make progress in, but once you’re used to its systems there can be a rewarding experience. Just be prepared to lose people along the way.