WHAT TO EXPECT: Post-apocalyptic part strategy, part simulation. Randomly generated open world on a hexagonal grid to explore in real-time. Driven by a factional conflict for domination of the wasteland. Character fulfilment with automation. Comprehensive base building in 2D and real-time. Static screen, menu-driven, turn-based isometric combat. Detailed character customisation. Action based RPG skill system. Lots of crafting. Factional goals to unlock aspects of gameplay. Challenging gameplay, with dynamic events. Can be micromanagement heavy without automation. Unbalanced elements that need a lot of QoL. Missing features from first game. Single-player only. Steam cloud and leader-board support. Remote play on TV support. Full controller support.
ACHIEVEMENTS: REQUIRE EFFORT. AIMED AT MID/LATE GAME.
STATUS: IT HAS BEEN RELEASED AND IS BEING SUPPORTED.
WHO FOR/WHEN TO BUY: FOR ANYONE WHO ENJOY DEEP AND DETAILED SURVIVAL GAMEPLAY. NOR MINDS POTENTIALLY GAME-BREAKING BUGS. PRICE IS ABOUT RIGHT.
Sheltered 2 is the sequel to the 2015 original of the same name. A feature-packed strategy game of management and simulation set in a post-apocalyptic world, twenty years after the fall of mankind. Gameplay combines three strategic tracks that bring together a comprehensive survival-themed experience. At its core is the struggle for domination of the wasteland against rival factions that requires resolution by conflict or diplomacy. This plays out over the longer-term with an emphasis on task allocation and character fulfilment taking place while base-building, exploring the world and accumulating resources.
The player takes ownership of a base that begins in the same shape at the start of every game. One that takes the form of a bunker that sits at the centre of a randomly generated game world, populated with locations and factions. Players create their own faction of three members; a leader and two subordinates, using a detailed customisation system to set the faction flag and name, but also set character appearance, traits, stats and skills to their preference.
As the base grows to handle extra capacity more characters join the faction. An essential part of the game, as individuals are the drivers that allow the assignment of actions inside and outside the base. The issuing and queuing of orders takes place through sub-screens or menu systems for all individuals inside the base.
The majority of gameplay demands the upgrade, maintenance and expansion of the base of operations. For the construction of facilities to create life-sustaining supplies, fulfil character needs and expand the player’s faction, in terms of population and region control.
A 2D side-on viewed, multi-level bunker provides the platform for base-building, character fulfilment and party management. A hexagonal grid map depicts a game world full of locations that provide the means for strategic exploration, resource acquisition, scavenging and questing. Both of these screens utilise real-time with pause. Small-scale tactical combat takes place on an isometric screen, which is menu-driven and turn-based. Faction interaction, diplomacy, trading, inventory management and power usage take place on static sub-screens.
While a lot of these items and resources are available at the start of play, many of them require crafting once their availability begins to dry up. Resources are the key to building facilities and other creatable entities. Up to four tiers of crafting recipes are available eventually. These can build better and more efficient facilities and constructs. Only becoming available through faction goals or by finding them scattered throughout the wasteland.
Without resources nothing is possible. They remain a rare commodity so when they begin to dwindle, more complex resources can be disassembled to create those that are badly needed. Conversely more advanced or rarer resources can be constructed through the use of basic resources. At least when the appropriate recipes come online.
The manufacture of basic items is always available but advanced equipment such as weapons and ammo require the appropriate facilities to exist. Until then they can only be looted or traded for. Dynamic events periodically occur to change-up gameplay. Traders arrive to sell their wares, foul weather and the day and night cycle affect the normal operation of the base. Not only do these aspects test the player ability to react, they change the status of their base.
Once the player’s faction is ready to explore, expeditions of up to four characters are sent into the surrounding wilderness. Their goal is to look for locations to scavenge for resources, Sometimes taking over facilities in order to ‘mine’ them for larger quantities of resources in real-time. Weapons for combat and items can fit within a mini-inventory to provide or enhance factors such as: combat attacks, map viewing range and fulfilment needs. Helpful while the party is away from the base.
In addition a shared inventory holds items which are accessible to all party members, with meds and ammo being the most common. Food is automatically allocated from the base to spare micromanagement. Character fulfilment also continues in the background. The longer a party is out travelling the more party members become tired, dirty, hungry and thirsty. Encounters with other parties routinely happen. Depending on the relationship between both factions, this can lead to trading, an amicable withdrawal or combat.
Along with base management this is perhaps the activity that takes up the most time and requires the most effort during play. Faction members must periodically drink water, eat food, wash dirt off their person and relieve themselves in bathroom. These are the fundamentals of fulfilment. Characters morale will begin to deteriorate and some omissions may cause them to become ill and even eventually die, if the facilities or items to fulfil these basic requirements are not available. This element of gameplay can be automated and tweaked to suit the player’s preferences to two levels or it can be turned off.
Its all in the Nuance
There exist a number of minor features that introduce some variety to gameplay. Power generation remains a factor until the base has enough sources that it can supply all the needs of the facilities contained within its levels. A fuse box allows player’s to delegate which portions of the base electricity flows to in the event of a shortage.
Faction members do not immediately die if attacked in the base and are critically wounded. They can be resuscitated if any other faction members survived the same encounter. Blueprints for vehicles can be found scattered through the wasteland. Finding a rusty frame, engine, pedals and other correct components allows players to build a number of distinct vehicles that accelerate travel across the game world.
- A randomly generated world map with a fog of war divided into territories and full of locations for the party to find and scavenge for resources. Encounters with other groups can lead to trade, combat or quests from factions or other sources.
- Comprehensive character creation using 8x categories: name, body, features, hair, accessories, clothing, stats and traits.
- Extensive shelter components for building facilities that deliver: accommodation, energy provisioning, resource generation, storage containers, character stat upgrading and crafting platforms.
- Intimate turn-based tactical combat fought on isometrically viewed, static locations. Menu-driven tactical options derived from character skills and carried equipment. Personal hit locations determine applied damage and statuses.
- A large inventory of useable items and resources to find and use. Split into numerous classes such as: food, crafting resources, weapons & ammo, medical supplies, armour, character equipment and junk to disassemble.
- Meaningful trading that implies all resources are an important priority. Rendering all items and resources as valuable.
- Scores of simple animations portray shelter activity that are makes the bunker seem alive.
- Achievable faction goals open up advanced gameplay elements such as: crafting tiers.
- No game continuation on leader death with the faction falls apart. Could have done with nominating a new leader.
- Combat encounters require balancing. Some are terminal with the leader dying without the ability to flee or perform any actions against superior enemy parties.
- Not all combat tactics are available immediately and require a good dose of investment in skills.
- An auto-resolve feature is badly missing in combat.
- Minor GUI issues. Unable to choose multiple options to eat from the same screen. Losing a character does not update a reduction in party carry weight. Cannot tailor actions on the action queue. Cannot select specific resources to use.
- After combat, items left behind from defeating enemies because of weight limitations disappear.
- Not enough dynamic / strategy elements on the world map: Binoculars do warn of nearby travellers. Previously visited sites lose any items found there on previous visits. Cannot perform actions on parties travelling world map. No resting, eating or healing.
- ‘Soft-lock are possible,’ by not having the resources to keep your survivors alive. Water conservation especially can overly punish progress, wasting many hours of play and requiring a reload at the very least.
- There exist a number of bugs some of which can be game-breaking. Bug encountered: characters can get stuck upgrading shelter facilities and stops them from being reassigned tasks. No amount of restarting or loading previous saved helped.
- Significant micromanagement occurs when fulfilment automation is set to off.
- The expedition GUI screen also does not remember past selections.
- Other issues exist. GPU workload can fluctuate to extremely high. Some players have reported black screens and problems when changing resolutions and using windowed mode.
AND THE REST:
- Automated fulfilment allows the AI to take control of mundane aspects of the game. Reduces micro-management but can use up resources to quickly.
- Remains a work in progress with fans of the original reporting that some features missing from the original game. Such as no children or pets.
- Some repetitive mechanics make base-building play out essentially the same in every game. There is some nuance to the experience. i.e. blueprints and floppy discs add to build options inside shelter. Fires can cause facilities to burn.
- Characters can increase character stats by gaining experience points in disciplines through action. I.e. taking part in combat, reading books, using exercise equipment etc.
- Some session creation options but not enough. Cannot select the number of factions to go up against.
- Finding the appropriate blueprints and components allows for the construction of vehicles.
Sheltered 2 does not looks like it was ready for release even if it retains a good share of content. With so many issues to deal with, it is in no way complete. A feat that also afflicted the original game, released in a similar unfinished state, to be fixed and completed post release. In all fairness the game should be marked as an Early Access title, with the amount of work that remains.
When it was possible to play Sheltered 2, it demonstrated some enjoyable elements. Only being affected periodically by unintentional pitfalls that stalled gameplay. The biggest being a real need to conserve every drop of water at the start of games. A handful of games of one to three game months were attempted. All but one of these concluded in unfinished restarts. Either due to early leader death or a crippling design aspect such as the need to conserve water or having my leader killed by an overly powerful enemy party. The last prematurely ended with a game-breaking bug, potentially one of several that were present at the time of playing. Potentially there are workarounds for some issues, but no way to tell if these work for everyone, every time. Developers are doing what they can to help bypass these problems.
Building up to its Best
Feature-wise the game contains a fair amount of content. At times showcasing some wonderful gameplay with a growing addictive quality. These look to combine the best elements of the genre to generate a mix of varied strategy and tactical styles, keeping the player immersed in an interesting world. Base-building, upgrading and maintenance proved to be the most enjoyable aspect of the game. Closely followed by the sending of expeditions to explore the surrounding wilderness and to scavenge for resources.
The Art to Warfare
Combat was an intimate affair rather than the encompassing experience I had hoped for. Electing to deliver low-key battles that called out for a better variety of weapons to be available. The host of tactical options hidden away in menus was fiddly. A few unbalanced encounters emerged towards the end of the early game, spoiling what would have been a decent aspect of the game. These curtailed the ability to flee or heal up when overly powerful enemy patrols look to decimate expeditions is no fun. Especially when killing the faction leader ends the game prematurely.
The use of a static battlefield resulted in abstracted tactics that curtailed any need for players to perform them onscreen. The shying away from using cover, flanking and all that good stuff rendered the combat less than it could have been. Choosing instead to deliver tactics through a combination of violent and non-violent menu options, the rotation of character positions and the use of hit locations to deliver blows and status effects. This kept combat straightforward with a fair level of strategy but less time-consuming. It also proved to the only true turn-based element of the game.
What glimpses there were of expansive combat evaporated with the need to invest in the right combat skills immediately. Something that takes time and grinding for XP in those skill areas. The need for more firearms and a lack of bows in such a game also took the shine off. Maybe these will become available later on but given that developers should encourage players to become invested as early as possible, these should have been in the game from the start.
In the Failed Pursuit of Fulfilment
A fair number of issues dulled the experience. The biggest being the constant need to micromanage character fulfilment. Occupying to much time and effort just to keep a small population of three or four characters fulfilled. Faction relationships never really got going and felt peripheral in nature with to much emphasis left on the player’s lap to generate enough goodwill with the each group through the questing system.
There are some mundane aspects to gameplay. Keeping the base clean and the facilities maintained may be realistic but at what cost? It certainly adds to the micromanagement and seemed unnecessary, something that could have been abstracted or automated to the extent that one character could become unavailable a single day every month.
Balance, balance, balance! There were quite a few minor issues that would add to the positive experience if they had been dealt with. The faction system did not immediately bare any significant results up to the three or so in game months. It would be a boon to see more immediate effects. Locations previously looted had to be re-searched when returning to claim any items had been left behind on previous visits to a location. The difficulty in encountering mismatched patrols, some base events or the limits to available resources also tended spike the difficulty across games.
Sheltered 2 is not perfect. A game with the potential to be a very good survival management sim. Albeit not completely turn-based, it possesses the right blend of features and activities to make it a WORTHWHILE play, but needs more QoL and balancing. It remains playable but under-developed in certain areas, missing features that were present in the first game. There are game breaking bugs but not as many as when first released. The developers are assisting players get past any issues they are experiencing.
At the time of playing Sheltered 2 was certainly enjoyable but given its issues, a guilty pleasure. One I look forward to returning to when it has matured and reached the potential it promises. While in this state it remains a work in progress that I would only recommend purchasing for those prepared to work through potentially game-breaking issues. Otherwise waiting would be the prudent course of action.