Fallout Shelter review: The post-nuclear world is way more fun than you'd think

Fallout Shelter is from the creators of the popular console game Fallout and is available for Windows 10 PC and Xbox One consoles. The free game has plenty of in-app purchase opportunities, and it places you in control of a state-of-the-art, underground vault and its occupants. You begin by maintaining core resource generators and slowly expand the vault's features by adding medical bays, radio rooms, training rooms and more.

Graphics are outstanding in Fallout Shelter, and the gameplay may be the most challenging we have seen in a city-builder-style game. We've already delivered a comprehensive guide to survival for Fallout Shelter, and today we focus on the gaming experience this Windows 10 game offers. It is a fun game, but it does require a level of commitment to have any hope of surviving the dangers of the wasteland.

Fallout Shelter

When you first launch Fallout Shelter, you are guided through the steps needed to create your first underground vault. The game requires permissions to access your Xbox Live account and gameplay can be synchronized between devices. The initial connection to your Xbox Live account and synchronizing gameplay both require a data connection, but otherwise, the game can function disconnected. This makes it a good option for use on your Windows 10 tablet.

At its core, gameplay with Fallout Shelter is not very different than any other city-builder-style game. You begin with a very modest layout that covers the basics for the vault. This includes a generator, water treatment facility, a diner, living quarters and a secure vault door. These rooms represent the core resources needed to maintain your vault, and production levels for the energy, food and water are displayed at the top of the game screen.

Fallout Shelter

Dwellers arrive at your vault, seeking shelter and a place to call home. Dwellers vary in ability and are assigned to the various rooms of your vault to perform tasks. They can also be a moody bunch, but placing them in the right jobs helps keep their spirits up. Happy dwellers also mean a happy, productive community. You can monitor the dweller's happiness by clicking on an individual to pull up detailed information that includes skill levels, equipped gear and happiness. To view a summary of the entire population and related status, just click on the gear located in the top-left corner of the game screen. Additionally, dwellers also emit emoji from time to time for a quick reference on their mood (green smiley faces are good, red smiley faces are bad).

There is a point where new dwellers from the wasteland become few and far between. To help your vault population grow, you can play the role of matchmaker and watch the romantic sparks fly. Children of dwellers give your population numbers a boost the natural way, and eventually these kids grow up and can be assigned to tasks to help with productivity.

Vault Expansion

As your population grows, the variety of vault rooms increases. You can add medical labs to develop healing vaccines, science labs to develop radiation treatments, a radio room to attract new dwellers, additional storage space and more. There is also the option to expand existing rooms and upgrade their production abilities. There is also an Overseer's Room available that unlocks a quest feature where you send dwellers out to the wasteland to tackle an assortment of missions. The missions range from defeating a local radioactive monster to rescuing neighboring dwellers from raiders. The Overseer's quests are a fun departure from the time management aspects of the game.

Adding new rooms or upgrading existing ones comes at a cost. Fallout Shelter includes an assortment of performance objectives that can earn caps (gaming currency), and when dwellers level up in experience caps are earned. You even have a mysterious dweller decked out in a trench coat that appears randomly. Tap on him before he disappears to earn bonus caps. You then use the caps earned to build and upgrade the vault facilities.

Fallout Shelter

Game controls for building new rooms and accessing various features are in the lower-right corner of the game display. The hammer pulls up the construction choices, while the radio icon expands to reveal access to the game's settings, inventory, objectives, a comprehensive help screen and more.

Along with worrying about having enough food, water or energy there are a few dangers to contend with at the vault. You have attacks by hostile raiders that you must fend off, infestations of post-nuclear life forms, and now and then a room catches on fire. While these dangers deliver a little action to the game, they can also prove fatal for your dwellers. Should a dweller die, they can be revived, but it will cost you a handsome amount of caps. With dwellers not knocking down your vault door to join your community, the expense may be worth it.

Fallout Shelter

While there is plenty to keep you busy within your vault, dwellers can also leave the safety of the vault walls to explore the vast wasteland. You can track their progress as they encounter inhabitants of the wasteland, fight off dangers and discover loot, ranging from toys to weapons and clothing. These items can also be collected from defeated enemies who raid your vault.

Dwellers can be equipped with loot collected in battle or while exploring the wasteland to better their chances at survival. Some loot can be used to craft stronger weapons and gear in workshops that become available for your vault. Items you don't have a need for can be sold for caps to give your bank account a boost.

Overall Gaming Experience

The gaming experience with Fallout Shelter is rather involving and finding success, measured by the happiness of your dwellers, is challenging. The graphic quality for Fallout Shelter is outstanding and game design is user friendly. All of the features in Fallout Shelter can be a little overwhelming, but it doesn't take long to get used to things. Throughout the game, tips appear to help point you in the right direction and once you become an old pro at Fallout Shelter, you can turn off these tips in the game's settings.

It is best to start out slow and avoid overbuilding your vault too soon. This extends your resources and makes it difficult to maintain happiness and productivity. Should your generator be unable to keep up with demands, rooms lose power and productivity comes to a halt.

Fallout Shelter

While you need to pace your growth within the game, Fallout Shelter is not a game that you can pick up from time to time and play. Giving the game your full attention can be a rollercoaster ride, and downtime can be devastating. When not playing the game, activity is still taking place as Fallout Shelter lays dormant. If you leave the game for a few days with a dweller exploring the wasteland, when you return the dweller will likely be dead and buried. Downtime with Fallout Shelter can also result in a depletion of resources, unprotected raids and other events that can prove fatal for your vault's success.

Fallout Shelter is definitely a Windows 10 game that requires attention every few hours or, in the least, an amount of preparation to handle longer down times. For example, you can make sure you leave the game with ample supplies and all dwellers safely in the vault.

As far as stability and performance are concerned, Fallout Shelter ran smoothly for the most part but I did experience a few crashes during gameplay. It was nothing detrimental, and the instability could easily be due to low resources on my laptop that's not built for gaming. Playing Fallout Shelter from a Surface Pro 4 was smooth but I did experience longer load times. The delays were not painful and, again, this is more a resource issue with the Surface tablet than an issue with the game.

All in all, this free Windows 10 game is an enjoyable way to invest your time. If you aren't a fan of city-builders, Fallout Shelter may change your mind on the genre. Just give it a little time to grow on you, and it may surprise you how addictive this game can be. While I was skeptical of the game at first, Fallout Shelter ended up being an entertaining, challenging and sharp-looking game. I wouldn't mind seeing a Windows 10 Mobile version find its way to the Store to help you manage your Vault while on the go, but giving the game a rest isn't always a bad thing.

If you've given Fallout Shelter a try, let us know what you think of things in the comments. And if you need help prospering the post-nuclear world, check out our survival guide for Fallout Shelter.

Download Fallout Shelter from the Windows Store

George Ponder

George is the Reviews Editor at Windows Central, concentrating on Windows 10 PC and Mobile apps. He's been a supporter of the platform since the days of Windows CE and uses his current Windows 10 Mobile phone daily to keep up with life and enjoy a game during down time.