On Random Destructive Events. Also: Fallout Shelter

PSA 1: I finally got a job.

PSA 2: I still didn’t manage to play Ep. 4 of Life is Strange. Next weekend. Hopefully.

PSA 3: The Great War mod-Let’s Fail didn’t happen, and wont. As a total conversion, it took over the “machine guns don’t work” but which, well, bugged me towards the end of Empire. The Great War becomes semi-unplayable without working machine guns.

And now – drumroll – the promised content:
Random Destructive Events in simulation games suck, and I can prove it. At least I will rant about it.
I recently picked up Fallout Shelter, the mobile spinoff of the famous postapocalyptic RPG-series, in which you build your own vault, tend to the needs of your dwellers and fight off random dangers.The vault building is fun, the resource management is easy-ish with some pitfalls. Too many new dwellers in too little time without enough funds to build facilities (power, water, food), and you’re going down. It’s quite a nice city builder-ish game so far.

BUT: There are random events. Incidents. Molerats, Rad Roaches, Fire, Raiders and Deathclaws. They all suck, and none of them adds any value to the game. Why? You get these five, they feel repetitive VERY fast and you can’t do shit about them.
Okay, that’s over-simplified. You can arm your dwellers against vermin and intruders. You can also send more dwellers into the affected structures to help. Rad Roaches, Molerats and Raiders are quite easy to fend off, provided the vault has some basics weapons. Deathclaws just run through your vault, hacking at your dwellers for a moment and continue to the next room. Sending citizens around is basically useless, as the pack moves too fast for micromanagement. The best thing you can do is having stimpacks ready to keep your people from dying, otherwise you’ll stack quite the resurrection-bill. It sucks. It doesn’t help that, as the game tells you, “opening the vault door or broadcasting a radio show drastically raises the chance of a Deathclaw-attack”. It sucks even more that I usually get one when I send my main explorer (with the biggest gun) into the wasteland, AND I CAN’T CALL HIM BACK UNTIL THE ATTACK IS OVER!

Most city builders feature one kind or another of random destructive events. Fire is a common one, crime and disease are other examples. Some go as far as using dilapidation as a game mechanic, where buildings in disrepair are in a far greater danger of catching fire or collapsing. However, these games tend to give you direct feedback, either using map overlays (Sim City, Skylines, Caesar) or symbols floating over buildings (Anno 1404 I guess, to indicate disrepair) to indicate that “something” is wrong or that an area doesn’t have sufficient access to public services. And if you fail to build another fire station, your city will burn. However, these games give you warnings and detailed feedback where those things will probably strike, so you can do something to prevent them. Which is good. You can see it coming, and if you didn’t, well… you just learned something about a game mechanic and you can use this knowledge in the future.
Or you can turn them off – the Anno-series offers this option, and I tend to use it in long-term open-end games where I just want to build THE CITY. Fighting or preventing the several disasters is space-consuming, and estate is in short supply in those games.

However, there are other kinds of disasters you can’t just construct buildings against. The Anno-series, as well as other strategy/builder-type-games feature natural disasters, which easily disrupt your carefully crafted value creation chains. You cannot defend yourself against them. They are there to screw you over. And that’s the category the FS-incidents fall into. You cannot defend yourself against them. You cannot prevent them. They WILL happen at some point, and you better be prepared – as far as preparation is possible. They do not add a single ounce of value to the game. Even worse: when you just want to take a quick look at your vault to gather some resources and level up some dwellers, a sudden attack can prolong the time you spend with the game by quite a margin. You’re essentially forced to look at the carnage and do some damage control (this is true for every single one of the five incidents).
This is harassment, not added value.
It’s fine if you enjoy those random fuck-overs. I don’t, and I would LOVE the option to disable them.

However: all things considered, Fallout Shelter is a fun game. It has a very friendly freemium economic, it is well designed in terms of graphics and has a Fallout-y feel. If your mobile device can run it and you enjoy resource management-city builders, you should give it a try. After all, it’s free.

The Deathclaws still suck.

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