I’m not a fan of survival games since, I’ve been told, that I critique them too harshly. So when a friend suggested I review Sheltered 2 I was keenly hesitant knowing that my patience for games like this does not run deep. But she insisted, so I obliged.
Sheltered 2 is the sequel to the 2016 hit Sheltered and takes place during a post-apocalyptic event as seen through the eyes and experiences of a group of survivors. Of course, some will read more into the narratives and be convinced it is the start of the post-Covid pandemic world. Even the crazy twists of the story that didn’t quite work impressed me with its ambition in a story that gets incredibly dark and narratively moody.
Sheltered 2 is the sequel to Sheltered and takes place during a post-apocalyptic event as seen through the eyes and experiences of a group of survivors. Of course, some will read more into the narratives and be convinced it is the start of the post-Covid pandemic world.
Sheltered 2 opens with a group of people taking refuge in a very dank and claustrophobic underground bunker. As their phones burst out with static warnings and an uneasiness lingers in the air, they remain sheltered in place waiting in the darkness to see what they should do next.
New to the game is the faction or group system which is used to increase the likelihood of survivability. Casting you in this new social status, you can influence, persuade, or join forces with other factions to seize control of an area. But as it is in most group settings, internal conflicts pose a serious threat. There are deep-rooted indifferences and mistrust whenever you have a dynamic group of characters together, and the tension displayed will clearly only get worse from here.
Being confined in a bunker with dwindling food and supplies would be bad enough, but things get much worse when it is revealed that something other than dangerous radioactive weather is happening outside and around this confined space. Looters, scavengers, and faceless individuals with bad intentions try to take what you have and more. And you and your team will have the arduous task of facing them.
Sheltered 2 sports a more up-to-date 3D look as opposed to the pixel graphics of the first title. While I do like the new look, the animations are stiff and robotic. To be fair, the animations weren’t great in the original, but they were easily forgiven because of the solid gameplay. The developers embed their tone aesthetically with a dark gloomy undercurrent that reminded me more of This War of Mine.
As with all survival games, the goal here is to simply persevere and stay alive. Locating and adding fuel to the generator to gain light which then provides warmth is a must. No food or water and your characters wither away decreasing your group’s chances of survival. When you’re not scavenging, you’ll be constantly working to repair things; large and small. These types of scenarios gives you some ideas of the downright dire situations in which these cast of characters finds itself.
What I liked the most about the first game, and what Sheltered 2 seems to lack, is the sense that I really had no idea what was going to happen next. Because of the game’s micro-management approach, you’re often asked to do so much only to feel like you’ve accomplished so little because you have to manage almost everything about the game. The autonomy is mostly missing and you are effectively holding everyone’s hand which makes the whole experience feel like more work than it should be.
Survival games are often a predictable genre, and the first game managed to turn right when you expected it to turn left. Sheltered 2 is more static and non-fluid. When it goes left, it goes to the extreme left. Take for example the User Interface: clunky, cluttered, but serviceable for the most part. You would think that something this important to the gameplay would be easy to use, yet, I am not able to filter out the useful/useless items without going through each one.
There are deep-rooted indifferences and mistrust whenever you have a dynamic group of characters together, and the tension displayed will clearly only get worse from here.
Despite how much effort has gone into the game, some will feel that Sheltered 2 is ultimately a little shallow and slow compared to the original, and the narratives that reveal some details about how these people got here didn’t quite work for me. But then again, in a video game, it doesn’t really have to.
Despite my initial criticisms, Sheltered 2 really sticks the landing, closing the game in a way that makes it feel like even more of a post-Covid/apocalyptic world and suggesting, at the thought at least, that we were close to returning to normal only to find ourselves returning to more mandates, restrictions, and precautions.
You have to be open to, and even curious about each character in the game if you’re to know what makes it so unique. The game may have certain flaws, but the overall ‘feel’ it creates makes it more than a game, but an experience.
Maybe Sheltered 2 is giving us clues about our own personal existence that are deeper and more complex than what we expected. But during these uncertain times, I wouldn’t mind being stuck at home. At least I’ll have more time to play the game.