Sheltered (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Renan Fontes 26.12.2018

Review for Sheltered on Nintendo Switch

The survival "genre" is less like one unified category, and more like a style of videogame. While different titles can embody survival elements, the genre itself is a conceptual one above all else. Mechanics do not necessarily translate from game to game, and any semblance of categorical cohesion comes from what it means to "survive." With that in mind, what does it mean to survive in Sheltered? Brutally hard and often obtuse, survival is not a given, but a right that must be built up to by every member of a family. Survival is solidarity.

The survival genre is one of the few in the medium that can consistently get away with a higher difficulty curve - at times, even bordering on unfair. When it comes down to it, surviving any post-apocalyptic scenario should be a challenge. If a title that touts survival as the goal doesn't make survival something that needs to be built up to, it begins to lose its essence. At that point, it may as well be a different game entirely. At the same time, however, too high a difficulty curve can be alienating.

Overwhelming audiences with challenge will spark motivation in some, but most (especially casual fans of the genre) will find themselves dropping the title more often than not. Sheltered's approach to the fine balance of difficulty comes not in simply offering different difficulty modes, but by allowing players to fully customize the difficulty to their liking, as at the start of each session several different factors can be edited to lighten of heavy the load of survival.

Screenshot for Sheltered on Nintendo Switch

The chance of rain can range from frequent showers to borderline drought-like extinction; resources can range from scarce to plentiful; mood can be adjusted so that survivors maintain an optimistic or pessimistic view; and even fog can be toggled on or off. As far as custom difficulty goes, just about every possible option is accounted for. It is worth mentioning that difficulty cannot be edited once a session starts in full, though.

Although more customization is absolutely a positive in this case, allowing players to edit the level of challenge once the act of surviving actually begins would both lessen immersion and cripple the overall flow of survival. Presets do exist, as well, ranging from Easy to Hardcore, ensuring that there are at least four deliberate difficulty modes designed by the developers themselves. What the more than generous difficulty slider does not account for, unfortunately, is the inherent tedium of surviving.

Screenshot for Sheltered on Nintendo Switch

The day to day gameplay essentially devolves into a repetitive back and forth where each member of the playable family must keep themselves alive by eating or drinking, while also fulfilling whatever chores are most appropriate at the time. It's a defined gameplay loop, but it is nowhere near as engaging as it could be.

Survival is more busy work than anything, particularly on higher difficulties, where the RNG will often not work in the player's favor. On one hand, part of surviving is to adapt to whatever just so happens to rear its head, but any system that relies so heavily on chance will sooner or later fail to give families what they need to survive. At least in regards to the standard Survival mode.

Screenshot for Sheltered on Nintendo Switch

Alongside Survive, Scenario acts as a more "narrative" driven experience where families and set pieces are already set in stone. From there, the gameplay takes a more puzzle-esque approach to survival. Sadly, many of the scenarios can be off putting thanks to their sheer difficulty. Although it is by far the better of the two modes, it does expect audiences to have sunk enough time in Survive to fully understand how to game the mechanics to their benefit.

…Which, in itself, shines light on Sheltered's biggest problem: it expects too much and offers too little. The scenarios expect to be taken like emotional narrative beats, but barely offer any story or character to elicit any real reaction; the gameplay expects players to take life one day at a time, but the loop does not offer nearly enough engaging content to justify long play sessions. Survival simply isn't worth the effort when it comes to Sheltered.

Screenshot for Sheltered on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

5/10
Rated 5 out of 10

Average

Sheltered makes for an engaging time killer in short bursts, but very few of its survival themed mechanics serve in benefit to the overall experience. Where Scenario actually makes good use of the premise, Survive suffers considerably due to poor RNG, a tedious loop, and a difficulty curve that, while adjustable, does very little to accommodate newcomers. There is an admittedly strong thematic cohesion between the gameplay and atmosphere, but this doesn't do nearly enough to do its premise justice.

Developer

Unicube

Publisher

Team17

Genre

Strategy

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  5/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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