One advantage to being in the Microsoft Store over Steam, or at least so we think, is that it comes with Xbox Live integration for achievements. So what you get here is basically the same experience as we've had on the console, except on Windows 10 PCs.
Sheltered came through the Xbox Game Preview program, so it's been around in some form for a while. It's not very expensive, accessible to a wide range of computers and rewarding while offering a stiff challenge. It's one to check out.
Sheltered isn't a graphics intensive game, which means that the system requirements are pretty low. Here's what you need:
- Processor: Dual Core CPU
- Memory: 1 GB RAM
- Graphics: GeForce 7800, AMD HD 4600, Intel HD Graphics 3000 or above
- DirectX: Version 9.0
- Storage: 600 MB available space
As you can see, a large number of Windows 10 PCs should be able to play Sheltered comfortably. For the purposes of this post I've been running it on a 2015 Dell XPS 13 with an Intel Core i7 and 8GB of RAM. There are a small number of settings to change, you can alter the resolution, for example. I've been running it at 1080p because there's no reason I'd need this at QHD+!
Sheltered is a survival sim set in a post-apocalyptic time. You and your 3 other family members are forced underground into a shelter to set up home away from the perils of the irradiated world above. It's not much, but it's home.
From the outset the objective is simple: Protect your family and survive as long as you possibly can. People might get sick, they might get tired, they'll definitely get hungry and need to use the restroom. You have to take care of your family members while building up your shelter.
You'll need to outside some times. You'll have to explore the world, scavenge for supplies, trade with other survivors. It's perilous, but necessary. Without fuel your generator will stop and you'll have no power. Without food and water you'll starve. Without medication, you could die of radiation poisoning. And unless you collect tools and materials with you can't expand your shelter, creating the essential creature comforts for a happy, healthy life.
And so the challenge is simple: survive.
Graphics and gameplay
Sheltered isn't much on the graphics front, but that doesn't mean its not attractive in its own right. It's a pixel art extravaganza with a distinct retro feel but a very atmospheric look. Day turns into night which turns into day. The wasteland looks like a post-nuclear world and your little bunker has lights and sounds consistent with the experience.
Since Sheltered was first released on the Xbox One, the Windows 10 version comes with full support for the controller. But, it's not exactly a complex system, so you'll probably find it much easier to get around using keyboard and mouse.
Right clicks on items bring up things to do, such as fixing, upgrading or just actioning. The generator won't fill itself with fuel and you have to tell the kids to go to sleep, or shower.
Characters can be set to automate so they'll take care of basic functions on their own such as eating, drinking, using the toilet. Or if you're more comfortable being in total control you can monitor their vitals and take care of it all yourself. You'll also assign them jobs to do, making sure to spread the load so as not to compromise the health of one over another.
As with other games of this type there is a lot of going through the motions. You can speed up the passage of time by holding down the shift button on the keyboard to make tasks finish quicker.
One important part of Sheltered is getting out into the wasteland and gathering supplies. You'll need to wrap up in a radiation suit first, else risk succumbing to poisoning. Once you're ready you set up an expedition with up to two members of your party, equip them with gas masks, food, water, weapons, anything you think might be useful on the jaunt. The map will have areas that have been discovered and a lot that are marked with a "?".
I recommend getting into expeditions as soon as possible, too. Resources will quickly dry up and you don't want to end up in the position I did: no food or fuel and a tired family that couldn't go outside. Whoops.
While your party is outside they'll radio back asking questions for you to answer, with your actions determining the outcome of the expedition. You'll also occasionally run into other people out there in the wild, sometimes friendly, sometimes less so. But you get a choice of interactions to have with them, including trading and bullying. As you progress and collect parts you'll be able to fix your camper and take it out on expeditions, too.
People will also try and enter your shelter. Every so often you'll be buzzed on your intercom by a wandering survivor seeking refuge and its up to you whether to let them in or not. They may have useful skills or you may just be in a nice mood, but you have to balance an extra body against your resources.
If your shelter can't cope with the load then your residents will start to suffer, get sick, and maybe even die. This is the grizzliest part of Sheltered as you then have to decide what to do with the corpses. If you have a freezer you can harvest the body and feed everyone a little longer. Or you can go outside and bury them. Deaths will have psychological effects on folks inside the Shelter. For example, a parent will suffer trauma if one of their children dies.
And so on, and so on. You have to survive as long as you can.
Sheltered offers a full 1000 Gamerscore but not a particularly long list of achievements. The crown jewel is worth 200 for cracking the code.
Achievements do unlock, but so far I've been seeing something of a delay on them and no notifications from the Xbox app on the PC I'm playing on. Notifications have come through on my Lumia 950 XL before I've seen anything on the PC. So don't worry too much if you don't see them pop up, they will still unlock.
The bottom line
Sheltered is a rewarding game to play so long as you're prepared to invest some time in it. This type of experience isn't for everyone, but there's a genuine challenge to be had here keeping your little community safe and well for as long as you can.
Because it's also a fairly low-intensity title, lots of people can play it. It doesn't require much in the way of hardware and runs wonderfully well on non-gaming hardware. It's well priced, too, at just $14.99 or £9.99, there are hours of entertainment to be had for not a big outlay. And with achievements through Xbox Live, it's got a little differentiator from the Steam version already out for PC.
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