I love the recent Fallout games. I love Vault Boy and his general cheeky art style. I’m also a sucker for Skinner boxes. Don’t ask how long it took for me to get bored of Farmville.
This adorable little phone game was a surprise announcement at E3, and I naturally jumped right on it.
After a couple of rough starts and do-overs, Vault 707 had me addicted. Bring in the initial crop of potatoheads – lovingly termed as such because of their oval skulls and potato grade stats! Hook them up and enjoy the corny pickup lines as they make woo-hoo and reproduce! Then, enjoy the kiddie dwellers’ non sequiturs as they wander around your vault!
Get some sweet weapons and outfits and stronger dwellers from lunchboxes – random reward dispensers slowly earned in-game or optionally purchased! Fall off the couch laughing when one of said dwellers happens to be randomly named after your spousal unit!
As your vault population increases – slowly, to keep it manageable – you unlock more rooms to build. Make medical supplies! Max your potatoheads to god tier in the training facilities! With boosted stats and healing items, send them on long wasteland expeditions for stuff! Find Gauss rifles in a coffee machine! Dress everyone in pope hats and hockey masks and fancy robes for no reason beyond your own amusement!
And so I patiently developed Vault 707 in anticipation of the Big Huge Update to be released alongside the Android version of the game. I expected some degree of rebalancing likely to give me more grief. But I also expected solid end game content – higher rewards to go with the challenge. More room types and upgrades and loot. More to build and earn, adding to that satisfaction of developing a solid and well-run vault.
Into Each Life Some Rain Must Fall
Big Huge Update was a rebalance, all right – but more of a rubberbanding.
New enemies were added. Molerats, who steal electricity because they clearly have a use for it beyond arbitrary resource drainage. Deathclaws, who hit like fanged freight trains and steal all your key resources because of course they do, and are triggered by opening the vault door and therefore largely exist to throttle your outflow of wasteland explorers. Not that those explorers have much to find. Previously, a certain wasteland event – over two real-time days out and only reachable by strong dwellers – had a small chance of yielding legendary loot. This event is legendary no more. Instead, you must rely on a general infinitesimal drop rate that never seems to deliver.
I dealt by building another medical supply room and sending out explorers less often. No real hardship – especially compared to the struggles of newer players without the same opportunity to fortify themselves first – but overall unrewarding. This update did add Mr. Handy, a helper robot acquirable with money or extreme lunchbox luck, but he’s more a side note than a new tier of content. And, as described, you don’t exactly build or earn him.
Ain’t That a Kick in the Head
Rubberbanding or not, I could still enjoy Vault 707, even without flipping its name over. I could continue to collect spiffy outfits – albeit more slowly – and build up my potatoheads in hopes of more construction and upgrading fun further down the line.
Then I learned I was leveling my dwellers all wrong – permanently kneecapping them without forewarning.
A dweller’s health is king in Fallout Shelter, critical to surviving vault disasters and long wasteland expeditions. To max their health, you must boost their endurance stat before leveling them up. If you do it the other way around, you get diddlysquat for all your stat-boosting trouble – which takes days of real time to max out. As detailed in this discussion, the potential difference in health is significant. Your only recourse, which really isn’t one, is to kill off the weaklings, breed replacements, and go through all that training time before leveling them up. To identify weaklings, I hope you have a save editor. The actual health stat isn’t visible in-game.
I don’t like to kill my potatoheads. It makes me sad. More importantly, I expect order of operations-dependent stat calculation from a more hardcore game where careful character build planning is part of the challenge. I do not expect it from a casual time sink, especially when the game never lets on.
I’m Movin’ Out
Fallout Shelter is fun to a point, and I’m glad I spent time with it. Up to that point, I dug its well-paced treadmill of building and upgrading and collecting. Hopefully a future update will bring a true content-rich extension to said treadmill, plus a fix for that silly health stat nerf. For now, this overseer is on coffee break.