Fallout Shelter has been recently released for Android, a freemium mobile that picked up $5.1 million on the first two week as an IOS app. It’s purpose is to be a cute marketing tool for Bethesda’s upcoming Fallout 4 (So excited :D), play a couple hours for its novelty but don’t get hooked onto it. As smarter people have pointed out, it’s a shallow game experience that will take time (and even money) and leave you nothing but a somewhat empty feeling. It didn’t have to be. It’s set in one of the most creative post-apocalyptic universes in video game history and could have been so much more. Here’s how.


Needs Challenging Gameplay

Unlike other mediums, video games are interactive, and even eschewing conventional narratives elements, a game with challenging and varied gameplay can still be fun. It’s how Mario’s entire premise can be summed up as: plumber saves the princess from spiked turtle. Yet still be one of video games most iconic franchises. In Mario and other classic games, there is an ending and gameplay that becomes more challenging as you continue playing. In a way, challenging gameplay is how video games hype up a sense of conflict within its narrative.

In Fallout Shelter, instead of a plucky wastelander scouring post-apocalyptic America for adventure, you are a vault overseer, in charge of defending the vault, building it up with more vault dwellers and keeping them productive and happy. As with most simulation games, there’s no ending, only objectives to build up the vault, something you would be already doing regardless of said objectives. As smarter people have pointed out, nothing changes in story or gameplay, after raider attacks nothing much ramps up, meaning you would have already faced every challenge in the first couple hours. If Fallout Shelter had missions such as finding rare items, or increasingly stronger raids attacking the vault as the vault gets bigger that would be something.

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Recent outings such as Journey or Bioshock have shown that videogames are credible as a narrative medium as movies or books. Bioshock is a great game for offering an impressively engaging narrative which combines with its gameplay. Meanwhile, the video game Rage had some of the most impressive graphics and gameplay at the time of its release. However, it’s almost hilarious absence of any narrative made it utterly dull.


Needs Narrative Elements

For many simulation games, MMO’s and multiplayer games, games without a defined ending, creating a narrative is difficult. Fun is often found through moments playing with friends, that is organic narratives where players can create their own story within the game. A lot of people took this to heart with Fallout Shelter, finding some funny moments while playing the game.

However moments such as that is limited by the tools within the game. MMO’s and multiplayer often come and go because the gameplay is strictly limited to fighting and selling loot, leaving limited opportunity for fun. One of the reasons why World of Warcraft persists is because it’s setting is built off the stories taken from it’s previous strategy games on the series as well as its continued expansions adding new worlds and events/quests to keep players engaged and interested.

It’s uncertain if Fallout Shelter 2 is coming anytime soon, however, something like random events beyond radroach infestations would increase the opportunity for stories to “organically” grow. A great opportunity for Fallout Shelter if it actually followed the real purpose of the Fallout Vaults and added “Experiment” objective that you as the overseer had to carry out, that was ultimately against the objective of growing the vault and keeping residents happy. That could develop into an amazing narrative and keep things interesting.


End Result: Losing Money

Freemium games are growing in the videogame market because it’s all about keeping players constantly buying additions for a “free” game with no fixed end. Such as DLC add-ons for The Sims, or freemium mobile games such as Game of War: Fire Age. These games aren’t designed to impart an engaging narrative or rewarding gameplay experience. They are tailored to create a sense of misplaced responsibility or desire for achievement and get you addicted to them and make you blow your cash on them. Fallout Shelter is thankfully not as obtrusive as other freemium games, but the basic concept is there: the responsibility, nagging push notifications, and a game that doesn’t end. 

Games can offer a rewarding experience just like any narrative medium but can also act as a time and money drain. So ask yourself is the game you are playing offer the personal satisfaction of having accomplished or learn something or have you already blew a couple grand on a mobile game that stuck you on a perpetual status of just surviving?