In games media, especially recently, the discussion about whether or not games must be fun is always an ongoing topic. There are those who believe that if a game does not provide a certain level of entertainment, then it is not worth the time to play. However, on the other side there are those who say that a game doesn’t have to be fun, as long as it is interesting. The Sheltered is a game that adheres to the latter principle, as you are often faced with impossibly difficult decisions that put your heart and mind to the test. You’ll often second-guess your earlier decisions, which can often have dire consequences not only for you, but for the people around you as well. The ability to destroy a person’s life completely because you realistically cannot afford to keep them around in terms of supplies is not by any means a fun mechanic. However, it is definitely a compelling mechanic, and it provides emotional storytelling like no other medium can accomplish.
The Sheltered puts you in the shoes of a survivor of a nuclear apocalypse that causes many to become infected with a deadly disease, which in turn causes humans to become vicious monstrosities. The government has decided that the proper course of action in their situation is to launch a bomb to devastate all life in the area and eradicate the infected threat. Luckily, you have access to a fallout shelter in your yard, which is stocked with enough food and supplies to hold out. The only issue is that other survivors in your area have found out, and they will come to your for assistance, whether it be peacefully or aggressively.
The main mechanic of The Sheltered is that survivors will occasionally show up at your fallout shelter and ask for assistance. The challenge, and the most emotionally draining aspect of the game, is to decide if you actually have the supplies to support all of the survivors that you’d like to provide assistance to. You will often find that bringing in too many survivors will lead to massive supply usage, which will mean that you will never be able to survive the nuclear attack. This creates a dilemma in which you must either turn away people in need, or you must go scavenge the dangerous land in order to find extra supplies with which to take care of your group.
While the mechanics seem simple, the use of emotion to tell the story in The Sheltered is the strongest aspect of the game, and really makes it worth a try. With seven possible endings that are affected by your choices throughout the game, there is a solid amount of replay value, especially since the game does not take too long to complete, with most people finishing right around the two hour mark. The Sheltered is a short, yet compelling game that I definitely suggest having a look at if you’re into games that provide unique, emotional experiences. It is available now on Steam for $1.99.