The deeper you are, the safer in Unicube’s strat­egy sim

XBox: The Official Magazine - - PREVIEW -

What does “fam­i­lyfriendly” mean to you? If you think it means “I must be friendly to this fam­ily”, con­grat­u­la­tions, you are of­fi­cially the right player for Shel­tered, a sur­vival sim in which a raggedy group of kins­folk try to carve out a home un­der­ground. If, on the other hand, your def­i­ni­tion of “fam­ily-friendly” ex­cludes ra­di­a­tion poi­son­ing, can­ni­bal­ism, wolves and the finer points of corpse dis­posal – there’s the door. Be sure to put on your haz­mat suit be­fore step­ping through it.

Cre­ated by Unicube of al­ready post-apoc­a­lyp­tic Wake­field, UK (I’m al­lowed to call it that be­cause I was born in the area), the game re­sem­bles an ant-farm held up to footage from Mad Max: Be­yond Thun­der­dome. Your fam­ily, a set of spindly but charm­ing 2D sprites, moves around in­side a metal bunker craft­ing things, fix­ing things, eat­ing, sleep­ing, hav­ing ar­gu­ments and do­ing their best not to suc­cumb to ei­ther sad­ness or mal­nu­tri­tion. Above, dead cities wither in un­for­giv­ing sun­light, and dust rolls over bruised ex­panses of rock.

Shel­tered may look prim­i­tive along­side, say, Fall­out 3, but it’s made up of thou­sands of vari­ables. Each char­ac­ter has to worry about eight re­source bars, in­clud­ing three that are psy­cho­log­i­cal. Let one of those needs go un­met, and the con­se­quences could be dire. Char­ac­ters also have dis­tinct strengths that grad­u­ally flip over into weak­nesses as they’re put through the wringer. Let all strengths be­come weak­nesses and the char­ac­ter may be­come cata­tonic – un­able to feed or help around the bunker. Sounds like some of Team OXM on dead­line.

Ex­plo­ration is an im­por­tant means of gath­er­ing food and craftable ma­te­ri­als, but is also a great way to meet other, equally des­per­ate hu­man be­ings. When this hap­pens, you’ll be whisked off to an en­counter screen where you can ne­go­ti­ate a trade, re­cruit the other sur­vivor or fight a battle (firmly the least pre­ferred op­tion, given that a sin­gle gun­shot can kill). The sit­u­a­tion in the waste­land also wors­ens as time goes on. Less pli­able threats such as mu­tants may attack your shel­ter, trap­ping you in­side: if they breach the air­lock, you can choose to hide while they nick ev­ery­thing rather than re­sist­ing. You’ll strug­gle to sur­vive later with­out all your hard-earned sup­plies, of course.

One of Shel­tered’s neater de­vices is a jour­nal sys­tem, which gen­er­ates a brief but evoca­tive scrap of text for ev­ery ma­jor event in your fam­ily’s sub­ter­ranean ex­is­tence. It sounds like a nice thing to pore over with your loved ones, all cosied up to­gether over a din­ner of bis­cuits and bot­tled wa­ter. “Hey, re­mem­ber this af­ter­noon from Au­gust, when that drifter pulled a knife on Timmy and your Ma shot his head off? How we laughed. Any­way kids, I’m just go­ing to take a lit­tle stroll up top. I may be some time.” Ed­win Evans-Thirl­well

// It may look prim­i­tive, but it’s made up of thou­sands of vari­ables//

The camper­van can be fixed up so you can ex­plore fur­ther away from home.

Char­ac­ter bi­ogra­phies fea­ture perky snapshots of pre-apoca­lypse life. Look at those won­der­ful green hedges! Bet they taste good.

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