Unicube’s Sheltered puts you in control of a family of four after the devastating events of a nuclear apocalypse. Housed in a secure bunker, you will have to fight, steal and scavenge your way towards survival. Managing resources, upgrading systems and crafting items is paramount when keeping your family alive.
The gameplay throughout this randomly generated 2D survival strategy game is divided between life in the shelter, putting you in charge of managing your survivors, upgrading systems and crafting items and encounters out in the wild, where you will bump into other survivors who are looking to trade, join you or fight you. The key aspect of Sheltered is managing your resources in order to survive for as long as you can in this harsh new world. Food to eat, water to drink and clean and fuel to run your generator are your key resources making gameplay quite intense when stocks are low because without them life in the bunker will become incredibly difficult.
At the beginning of each playthrough you are able to choose and customise your own family of four, deciding how each individual looks, setting their traits as well as their stats. Each of your survivors has a number of different stats that can help out in certain situations. You will also choose a special trait for each of your characters, each effecting small aspects of their character, a deep sleeper will allow their tiredness stat to decrease quicker while sleeping or a small eater will allow food rations to relieve more hunger. After customising each of your characters you are able to choose a family pet. Each pet comes with their own pros and cons, a horse can be taken out on expeditions, being able to carry extra items and decrease the time spent on the road. The dog is also able to explore with you, boosting your perception level and helping you in combat. Or you could choose a less helpful animal such as a snake that can drive away rats, a cat that can kill rats or even a goldfish, that doesn’t really do much at all.
Sending survivors on expeditions in search of items and resources is incredibly important when trying to craft and upgrade your shelter. Each person sent out can be equipped with one weapon, a rucksack and two items other items, such as gas mask to prevent radiation poisoning, a bulletproof vest to increase your defence during combat, binoculars to discover locations or a metal detector to help find items. When sending people out scouting you will need to plot their path, whether that be discovering new locations or visiting old and familiar ones. Each expedition will contact the shelter via the radio and you will help guide them along their journey, for example, whether they should approach people or wildlife or whether they should search certain locations. Only actually taking control of these characters when entering combat or having an encounter with another person. Encountering people out in the wild usually can go one of three different ways, entering a trade screen where you can trade your items on hand for theirs, trying to recruit them to join your shelter, or engaging in turn-based combat. This combat is fairly straight-forward, allowing you to either attack viciously for the kill or try and disarm and subdue your opponent. Combat can be incredibly brutal and many times I had my survivors killed almost instantly against tougher foes. As your survivors progress further into the game and last longer, different gangs will start to show up on your map, taking over some of the busier areas, such as the towns or cities, making it riskier to head to these locations for supplies.
Time in the shelter mainly consists of managing your survivors who aren’t out scouting, much like games like The Sims, each of your people has a number of needs that need to be addressed, working and staying up makes people fatigued which means they need to sleep, this goes the same for eating, showering and going to the bathroom. Keeping all of these needs in check is vital when keeping your survivors happy and healthy. People at your shelter can suffer from radiation poisoning, food poisoning, bleeding and trauma. If some of these sicknesses aren’t attended to quickly your people could wind up dead.
The main reason you will have your survivors braving the harsh outdoors is to not just to obtain the three key resources but also to collect the huge number of different items that can be used to craft new equipment or upgrade one of your four main shelter systems. Crafting equipment such as freezers to keep raw meat, showers to keep hygienic or snares to catch wildlife roaming on the surface is just some of the litany of items you are able to craft at the communal workbench. Upgrading your workbench allows you to build improved items such as bigger freezers and better beds. Sadly, as you progress further into the game, when your shelter starts to become almost self-sufficient and resources tend not be a worry at obtaining, exploring for supplies usually boils down to searching desperately for only a handful of items, this can make searching quite laborious.
The four main systems needed for survival in your shelter is the air filter, water filter, reinforced entrance door and generator, each of these systems can be upgraded in different ways. The air filter efficiency can be upgraded allowing you to house more people in shelter, the water filter collects rain water and can be upgraded to help keep water uncontaminated and this is incredibly important when it hasn’t rained in days and you only get contaminated black rain coming in. The generator can also be upgraded to more efficient and hold more fuel. You will need to feed the generator fuel every so often to keep all of your systems and equipment working. Your shelter’s entrance door can be upgraded to become reinforced making it harder for intruders to break in.
At the door to your shelter there is an intercom that allows people from the surface to come down and buzz through for a chat, these people are usually looking to trade or come in and join your shelter. Each new member of a shelter has to gain loyalty by helping out around the shelter, by fixing things and upgrading objects. Once enough loyalty is gained they will become a proper part of the shelter and are given the all clear to start going on expeditions for supplies. Recruiting new survivors with high stats is important and will allow you to send more and more expeditions out at the one time. Not all of the people that come to your door are friendly, some are either looking to extort your group or even just break in a steal items. However, you are able to set up security measures such as a paint can trap or shotgun traps to help stop these raids. Although in one of my playthroughs where I had lasted over 200 days, I had only been raided once. Making the threat of a break-in not as imposing as I thought it would be.
Even though the gameplay can slowly crawl into the same rinse and repeat expeditions towards the back half of building up your shelter, there is easily enough here to keep the base building and supply hunting entertaining for hours on end. The randomly generated nature of the gameplay allows for no playthrough to be the same making starting with a new family incredibly worth it as your self-sufficient family becomes a bit stale.
This review is based off a retail copy of the Playstation 4 version of Sheltered developed by Unicube and published by Team 17.
- Randomly generated gameplay
- Exploring new locations
- Base building
- Searching for switches