Might And Delight returns with the third installment in their recognized animal survival series. Control the leader of an elephant pack under spiritual guidance to roam the land and reunite with your herd. The 3-D tangram character models, and the almost picture book aesthetic juxtapose the harsh realities of mother nature in this brief, yet touching story. Does Shelter 3 live up to the praise of the previous installments? Is it accessible as a stand alone title?
Lead With Me Reva..
Play as Reva, whom is given the task to reunite the surviving members of an elephant herd under the navigation of an almost evangelic-like entity. Travel slowly, and I mean slooowly, through deserts, forests, and mountains to reach the end game goal. You’ll be tempted to hold the run button almost the entire way, but pay attention to your herd; stamina is limited and famine is a real danger. Thankfully, there are fruit trees that can satiate your hunger needs, and waterways to drink from. You will also need to do routine elephant calls to see if anyone in your pack needs solace, or nursing. Times are tough and elephants will die if you are not careful or considerate.
I noticed a lack of collision detection with the character models. Elephants seamlessly pass right through each other when traversing. Also, when you approach a group of deer, all of the models slide right through each other like air. Maybe this was to compensate for the slow movement, but I was hoping for the animal interactions to be a bit more eventful, rather than when alligators appear. This makes the non-threatening animals feel like they didn’t need to be in the game at all, aside from aesthetic purposes. All in all, the physics and game engine feel a bit unfinished.
Choose Your Path
The journey is broken up into four or five checkpoints, preceded by a a moment between Reva, and her spirit guide. You simply walk up to the entity, and you will both look into the sky and pick from two directions, represented by constellations. Should you stay near the waters, where alligators linger? Or maybe risk the barren desert wastelands with less to eat and drink? The choices are a nice touch to spice up the gameplay, but this intermission feels very repetitive. You walk up to the spirit guide in the same spot each time before choosing your next path. Pair this with already slow movement speed and, this can feel like a bit of a slog.
The Shelter series do feel more like experiences, or art pieces, than actual games at times. That’s mainly due to the intricate artwork and carefully composed soundtrack to make up for the limited controls. While there was very little to interact with, the world you roam does feel like a nice place to get immersed in. I loved the color palette of each area and how each model is made of simple geometric shapes. The music is touching at points and comes in at the right times, as expected with this genre. Listening to the cries of hunger, thirst, or bereavement of your elephant herd really brings out the mother, or pack leader, in you to tend to their needs before moving forward.
A Second Playthrough
Upon a second playthrough, I took different paths and thought I still visited similar places at times. It felt like in some areas checkpoints were simply moved around, and the landscapes were recycled a bit. The final destination was also in the same place as in my first playthrough. After losing Reva’s pack due to famine, or predators, I kept a couple elephants alive this time around and experienced the exact same ending. This creates no real incentive to keep your group alive, aside from the dread you feel as your herd walks away from a fallen calf. The somber nature is a recurring motif in Shelter.
I didn’t play the other releases before Shelter 3. The first installment was a linear adventure, and the second was more open world. I see how the developers wanted to create a new kind of adventure with the “choose your path” mechanic, but I don’t think that it worked as well here. Also, I know elephants are slow moving in general, but the walk speed can push some away as well. The art style and audio are great, but if you want the best experience play Shelter or Shelter 2. I heard those were quality playthroughs. This third release, however, feels solely to scratch the itch of the fanbase.