Sheltered 2 meticulously selects elements from a multitude of other games with the selectivity of a cherry-picker picking cherries in an orchard full of particularly cherry-looking haemorrhoids and marries them together with the care and attention of a vicar marrying Kim Jong-un to a velociraptor. It takes aspects from The Sims franchise but getting into violent knife fights makes it a LOT easier to kill the characters under your control without resorting to removing any ladders from any swimming pools. There are bits of Sid Meier’s Civilisation games in there except without the troublesome ‘civilisation’ bits and a focus on the faction relationships and the existence of hexagons. There are also strong Fallout Shelter vibes but where the expectations coming from mimicking that entry in the Fallout series are subverted by Sheltered 2 being good.
In Sheltered 2 you control an emerging shelter-dwelling faction of survivors in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Much like The Sims, each of your survivors has needs that must be fulfilled: food, water, hygiene, etc. You can either let your faction members deal with their needs themselves, dropping whatever tasks you’ve given them to go and get a drink or use the bathroom when they need to. Or, if you want them to only indulge their needs when you say so, you can go into a menu and turn off their free will, a piece of technology Jess Bezos is undoubtedly working on implanting into his warehouse workers as we speak.
However, unlike The Sims, where you can place a shower to deal with an infinite number of ablutions, everything is a lot more difficult to build and maintain in the resource-scarce wasteland of Sheltered 2. Loosely speaking, this is where the game borrows from Fallout Shelter, where you can expand your factions shelter by building rooms and populate those rooms with the vital pieces of equipment needed for survival. After all, a survivor is going to struggle to empty their hygiene meter without a shower and some of those little soaps from a fancy hotel. They’ll need food to empty their hunger meter but what happens when the vault runs out? They could build a snare to catch rabbits but what are they going to make that out of? You’ll need resources to build and repair the stuff your survivors need to continue being survivors. This is where you’ll need to leave the relative comfort of the underground shelter and go on expeditions to raid (hopefully) abandoned locations for resources.
To set up an expedition you need to choose who you’re going to send, what they’re going to take and where they’re going to go on a hex-like map. There’s a risk-reward system here. You can send your whole faction but then there’s nobody around to defend the shelter against attackers, the place will slowly degrade without people to maintain it and, when your away team returns, everyone will need to fulfil all of their needs all at once. But the benefit of sending more people is a greater amount of inventory space to bring resources back to base and more hands/knives/bees available to fight off any violent locals you might run into. I found the best early-game tactic was to send out Matthew, the most expendable member of my faction, with a very specific shopping list of resources to bring back and minimal survival rations in case he did get jumped by overwhelming combatants.
There are a range of likely looking combatants roaming the wasteland but a significant portion of those potential opponents are made up of other factions. However, you don’t have to be enemies with those factions. Much like the Civilisation games, once you’ve encountered another faction by bumping into one of their expeditions in the wild, you can talk with them via the shelter’s radio. Those relations can become unfriendly very quickly but if you manage to keep them on-side by trading resources and building your trust with them by completing loyalty missions, you can build up some strong allegiances with the groups with whom you’re sharing the wasteland. Alternatively, you can send Matthew into their main base and attack the faction leaders armed only with brass knuckles and a plucky disposition. This isn’t advisable.
As for the combat, I won’t go into too much detail here as I tried to avoid it and be as peaceful as possible (attempted assassination aside) and I wouldn’t say the combat system is a main thrust of the game. That said, it is more than competent. The combat is turn-based and you have several options for what to do on your turn depending on your equipped weapons, your character’s skills and your available stamina. Your odds will be significantly increased with a larger party, just by virtue of having more turns per enemy turn. There isn’t anything particularly groundbreaking here but what’s there is challenging, fun and solidly put together.
As much as there are a lot of similarities in mechanics to other games, Sheltered 2 brings them together in a way that is more than the sum of its parts. There’s a complex collection of game mechanics on offer here, bridging base-building, survival and exploration in a way that each mechanic complements the others like a wine pairing with a boeuf bourguignon. There is a comfortable sense of familiarity in Sheltered 2 which it manages without throwing away the crucial factors of novelty and intrigue. Now, if you’ll excuse me I have some tense relations with a faction to repair while arranging a funeral for Matthew. Well, what’s left of him.