Nightmare on Vault 666 – 10 Things I Learned about Fallout Shelter

Let’s Play: Fallout Shelter Survival Mode

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After scouting the internets to know why the Radscorpions aka butt-scorpions were so horrible, I learned another thing! And I had already learned a thing or two during my latest game. This is a collection of 10 of those things.

1. Butt-scorpions
So yeah, the butt-scorpions were a huge power drain, even if evaded by dwellers. Or should I say especially when they’re being left alone. It is possible to kill them relatively fast, but it’s pretty unlikely around the time they first start appearing.

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2. Endurance-hack
The other thing I learned was the silly business about the endurance stat. Those loading screen tips had already informed me that dwellers gain hp while leveling, and the amount depends on their endurance. Somehow I had not thought about it much. I certainly considered endurance an important stat, but it hadn’t occurred to me to dress everyone up with max endurance from the get go.

There are two issues about this system that rub me the wrong way. Firstly of course the lost opportunities. If the endurance isn’t pumped up at the lowest possible level, the dweller in question will never be able to reach the maximum hp amount available. I dislike things like this, and I really dislike it when it’s something that the player should be tracking all the time with all the characters.

Which brings us to the second issue. Knowing the aforementioned bit of info pretty much forced me to go through a gear swap every time a dweller leveled up. And when there are 50-100 dwellers, it’s a bother. The thing’s the definition of tedious.

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There are a lot of level ups. Gear swapping for it gets old fast.

I am still uncertain if it’s really possible to get the full 17 endurance points (10 base + 7 from gear) each level-up, or if it maxes out at 10. Or something else. And I’m too afraid to check. I don’t want to be stuck on issues like this. But then again I don’t want to gimp my characters, so I can’t just ignore the issue completely. (And why I don’t just know how much hp my guys get? Well, because the hp doesn’t show anywhere.)

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These are all the dweller details available.

3. Micro-managing
Constantly gear-swapping dozens of dwellers only adds to the already existing problem of excess micro-managing. There is no way to automate anything, so the burden of management just grows exponentially with the population. I tend to get bored even with Civilization and the likes during the later years, and these games have automated workers and suggested buildings and all that. Vault dwellers don’t get smarter.

The only half-automated thing to help the player is Mr. Handy, and they are pretty rare unless bought with real money. Mr. Handy collects the completed resources and assists in disasters on the floor it’s assigned to.

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4. Healing-whack-a-mole
The growing population also affects how well the disasters can be handled. There are new guys around that get killed by anything. The dwellers run around like headless chickens during disasters, and often the health-bars bug out (as in they don’t show up).

Luckily the icons for radaways and stimpaks will become visible on top of the dwellers’ heads, when they are injured enough. With higher population and stupidly long-lasting disasters the player might be needed to play a game of whack-a-mole for a couple of minutes with the silly dwellers. It’s not really as fun as actual whack-a-mole.

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Sometimes the health bars don’t show up during disasters.

5. Boring Combat
Which brings me to the combat. Combating inside the vault is pretty much just that whack-a-mole thing, and praying for the best. Enemies don’t show any kind of hp bars so the player can only guess when they’re going to drop dead. Those butt-scorpions may fall in the first room they appear, by a single gunman, or they can roam to 8 rooms being gunned all the time. One never knows.

Also often raiders do a dramatic slow death, when they walk around the room before collapsing. All while still draining the vault’s resources. Basically with a 3-merged and updated room, they may circle to the back, to the front and to the sides. It takes forever.

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Combat inside vault is messy.

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Raiders limping around the room before dying.

The combat on the missions is another thing. It’s a lot better for once, but it still has some issues. The enemies have health-bars to track and they can be hit critically to smooth the combat. But they still take ages to kill. There’s really just way too much hp with every mob. One can easily beat them with over-geared dwellers with good stats, but anything closer to the dweller’s own level takes even longer to beat than those disasters in the vault.

At least I noticed (really only just a while ago) that it was possible to direct a dweller to attack another target. Some of the bosses call for backup and things like that, so at least it is possible to focus fire. But still just watching the slow, slow, slow attacks while hoping for random crits and smacking heals when needed. It’s not really fun. I’d much prefer a bit more control.

6. Statistics
Something else simple and obvious, that I learned only rather recently, is the in-game statistics. I was seriously cursing for the lack of details on those resource meters, but there actually is a separate statistics page I had managed to miss. Lots of nice info. Too bad nothing else directs to the page, like clicking from the stats or resources.

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7. Lazy Port
Lazy lazy. The things that could have been improved for PC. But there’s nothing, really, a couple of hotkeys. And it’s not only menus and such that needed an upgrade from mobiel version. The biggest issue for me is the lack of mouse optimization. A mouse has at least 2 buttons. Yet there is no separate button for drag+drop as opposed to scrolling the play area. Honestly. WASD is an option, but hardly ideal.

PC version also requires more precision, which unfortunately is a bad thing. It is harder to hit those injured dwellers, and that was pretty much the only control in the fights anyway. Also the dweller anchors are sometimes a bit elusive, mostly during different working and training animations.

8. Cloth sexism
Not only am I supposed to keep getting endurance into every gear – or at least swap it to everyone leveling up – I’m also supposed to keep track of which gender can wear what. And there is no logic to this. Military fatigues are unisex but the soldier’s uniform is for ladies only. Surgeon scrubs are for ladies and ninja outfit for men.

And if it only was just this. The thing is, that the gear cannot be swapped around freely, because someone might be wearing something for the opposite sex. That gear doesn’t even show up on the selection window, because direct 1 on 1 swap isn’t possible. There are also similar restrictions about pets. Those items just disappear from the lists altogether, if I’m looking to gear up a specific dweller.

I definitely would understand some restrictions in gearing. Like in fantasy games I’d be completely on board with gnomes and ogres being unable to wear the same sets. I’d also understand restrictions like men not wearing skirts. Even though I wholeheartedly disagree with certain cloths being male or female IRL, at least there would be some kind of logic behind it. In Fallout Shelter some cloth pieces change their appearance completely depending on the gender of the wearer. And then some basic overalls cannot be worn by both. It’s insane.

9. Doing something too long makes you see all the downsides
Yup. I’ve been totally hooked on Fallout Shelter. I’ve loved it. But when you play something a bit too much, the seams start to eventually crack. I’m slowing down and will take a break soon, so I don’t end up ruining the whole game for myself.

10. What I like
This has been a long post, and mostly very critical. Even though I consider myself somewhat a positive person, I do like to whine now and then. And this was my whine post. There are still many things I like about Fallout Shelter, and I will definitely try to remember them when I eventually write the actual review with a score.

But there is one thing that I really, really like about Fallout Shelter. And I really like that I realized the whole thing.

I like RPGish adventuring, with a home/family/base to return to. Some place I can fiddle around with. So basically I really like the combination of RPG adventure and a simulation. This is a lovely union, and I’ll be looking out for more games like this.

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