Sheltered Review

Do you like to micro-manage, and consider yourself a good survivalist? Well look no further than Sheltered, by developer Unicode and publisher Team 17.

Sheltered is a post-apocalyptic management simulation game where you take on the role of a family of four. Helping a family survive an apocalypse cannot be an easy task – we imagine you’ll need to care about your pixelated people. And what better way to make you care than to let you fully customise each and every member of that family – right down to the family pet!

You can choose what each member looks like, and even name them. Everybody always wants a pony for a pet – and here you can have one (is a horse really the most practical pet in an apocalypse?)

As you scroll through the characters (or just pick at random by pressing Y) you will notice each has different characteristics – ‘resourceful’, ‘little eater’, ‘courageous’ or ‘eats a lit’ for example. All these play a big part in the family management. For example, someone with the repair skill will get the job done in half the time.

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There’s something about video games that makes us gravitate towards the apocalypse – we’ve lost count how many times we’ve been asked to prevent one, or survive in the aftermath of one. In Sheltered – as in the thematically similar but emotionally richer This War of Mine – the apocalypse is brought right down the human (and occasionally equine) level. This could be any family. This could be your family. How would you cope?

Everything in your family’s shelter has to be micro-managed – and you need to assign tasks to each of the family members. There’s crafting to be done (need somewhere to store drinking water? Craft a water butt! Need somewhere to sleep? Craft a bed!) Crafted items, fixtures and fittings can all be upgraded given the right resources – upgrading the shelter’s doors to make them more secure for example. There’s trading, too – using the radio to contact other (NPC) survivors.

To craft items you’ll have to send a family member out to the over-world. Your chosen adventurer will need a hazmat suit for some areas – otherwise you could be a family member down! On the over-world you will meet enemies who will try to stop you on your quest for resources which are, as you would expect, scarce. That scarcity makes it all the more joyous when you venture back to your shelter with something to craft or something to use, though.

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Sheltered is a game you either love or hate. Thus user interface isn’t great – in fact it’s just about the worst interface we’ve encountered in a game – and can be confusing. No one said the apocalypse would be easy – Sheltered is a survival management game and so be prepared for failure after failure before you start to hone your strategies and help your little family stay alive that little bit longer. Our tips: keep a close eye on the ‘Needs’ meter for each of your family members or things will go downhill rapidly, and take every chance to stockpile food and water.

Your little band of survivors will tell you when they are tired and need a rest – even the pet (please tell us you didn’t pick the horse?) will let you know when it’s hungry.

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Graphically, Sheltered is simple with quirky pixelated people, though the sound design is atmospheric; even the dog whine (good, you didn’t choose a horse) is really convincing.

Overall, Sheltered is an interesting take on the survival genre. Yes, there are issues with the confusing interface, but it’s worth persevering with. If you are a fan of the genre and are not afraid to watch your pixel family die again and again before you find a strategy that works for you, then Sheltered is worth a look. Maybe with a few updates this game could hit its full potential, and maybe with a few tweaks to the interface it could be more accessible and user friendly.

Sheltered is available now from the Xbox Store priced £9.99.

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