Sheltered 2 Review: Surviving Dumpster Diving

A copy of Sheltered 2 was provided for Gideon’s Gaming by the publisher for the purpose of review. I reviewed Sheltered 2 while playing on a variety of difficulty settings.

A video version of this review can be found here!

Overview

Sheltered 2 is a colony survival game where you guide a newborn faction aiming to conquer or unite six other factions in a bid for supremacy.

You decide what type of faction you want to run with a fully customized leader. But before you can even think about your quest to rule the wasteland, you have to learn to survive in the first place. Sheltered 2 feels like an interesting combination of several other games. The Sims meets Rimworld with a healthy splash of Fallout Shelter and Oxygen Not Included.

Every bit and bob matters

The result is something is that feels unique. The strategies you use to survive, differ from them all. In particular, a single game of Sheltered 2 will make an episode of Hoarders look like minimalists. Even the most mundane pieces of junk can be vital to your survival.

Paper Clips And Belly Button Lint

Survival games are my jam. I’m practically an expert in the genre, and yet I failed time and time again. Any old habits I had from games like Rimworld had to be tossed aside because while Sheltered 2 wears the skin of other colony sims, the fleshy bits underneath are an entirely different beast.

Your overall goal isn’t to just survive. It’s to consolidate power, take over territory and ultimately rule the wasteland. You accomplish this using diplomacy, violence, or a mixture of both. Sending expeditions out in the world is just as important as actually running your underground shelter. It’s out there, that you will find items crucial to your survival.

I’m talking stray wires, old crates that can be broken down, plastic jugs, nuts and bolts, and anything that we may take for granted in real life. Not only are these things important, you almost never have an ongoing supply of them. Many builder games can be solved by creating infinite resources from nothing, that’s rarely the case here.

Work, work.

Every bit and bob is acquired by going out in the world and gathering them, trading for them with your other valuable gizmos, or by dismantling another item. Your stock of supplies is always dwindling, and everything is always in demand.

The scarcity makes Sheltered 2 a micro-heavy game. A lot of your time will be spent in menus sorting through and managing junk; anything from pipes, bulbs, glass shards, circuit boards, whatever. It’s heavy-handed, but it actually works in the game’s favor assuming you want this kind of survival experience.

You have to manage and keep track of these items because it’s crucial to planning your long-term survival strategy. You need to know exactly what you can afford to build using a hodgepodge of very specific parts. Planning ahead isn’t just a suggestion, it’s mandatory even on lower difficulties.

Every mechanic of the game is interwoven in some way that affects your faction’s ability to survive. You need water which is primarily gathered with your water collector and purifier when it rains. Survivors also need food and while growing vegetables with seeds might seem like a no-brainer, watering the plants consumes the precious liquid, as does showering or using a toilet.

Expeditions are how you scavenge for resources, but they can lead to conflict.

Survivors get more sustenance out of food by cooking it, but many early recipes consist of soups that also take water. You might not have much trouble in the rainy spring. But what about when summer rolls around and the days between rainfalls are farther apart?

So maybe you cut back on water use, but then winter comes, and growing food outdoors is a no-go. Do you have enough water to keep the indoor greenhouse watered? Or did you store enough food to make it through the cold season?

Don’t forget about power! Electricity is required for anything from simple lights to indoor greenhouses to the shelter’s oxygen generator. A windmill can generate power, but is unreliable and needs batteries to store the energy to really take advantage of it.

A generator is reliable but continually needs gasoline. An incinerator can burn anything for power, from coal to wood, and even the corpses of invaders. Finding things you’re willing to burn is difficult because every single piece of the survival puzzle eats away at your hoarded junk.

This is all without taking into account the physical and mental needs of your survivors. Each of them has a different personality. The need for equipment, so that they can defend the Shelter, and fight while exploring. Or supplies your potential allies may request.

You can tweak the difficulty.

There is never a moment in Sheltered 2 where you will just sit and stare at the screen while things progress. You will constantly be tweaking, planning, and altering what’s being built, and who is doing what. That lack of downtime is great because it keeps you engaged.

The overworld map is procedural. You will constantly have to adapt to what type of facilities you can find to loot and which factions you plan on being friendly with, and which ones you will fight. No two games feel exactly the same.

The intense micromanagement of your resources ends up being a lot of fun because it puts you in complete control of your Shelter as the faction leader. You have all the tools you need to forge your path to eventual victory or utter defeat.

Witness Me

Your faction members have personalities, desires, and several statistics between strength, perception, intelligence, and more. These dictate their effectiveness in several ways. A stronger character can carry more loot, while smarter ones create higher quality items when crafting. Every stat has a ton of perks under each category that’s similar to the Fallout series. Some can even grant special attacks that can be used in combat.

The combat itself is unique for a colony sim. It’s turn-based and the positioning of your team matters. Those upfront protect the ones in the back from melee attacks.

Different actions consume Action Points, and characters regain some every turn. You and your enemy can both target specific body parts that can have a variety of effects. Attacks to the head might daze them, while one to arm might break it. When you combine those factors with the various weapon types, it makes for a fairly deep and enjoyable combat system.

The turn-based combat is pretty cool.

At times your Shelter will even come under attack, and you can unleash traps you have built on the intruders before engaging them. It all works really well. Combat is frequent enough to break up the experience but is also rare enough that it doesn’t become tedious or feel grindy.

The nature of the combat makes for some incredible weirdness though. The first time I found a handgun I nearly peed myself in excitement. The first time I used it, I was utterly disappointed. A single swing with a baseball bat does far more damage than a pistol shot. I get it, it makes sense from a mechanical standpoint.

Swinging the bat takes four action points. Shooting the pistol takes one, so overall you get far more damage from the pistol. However, in a relatively realistic and gritty survival game, it looks comical. The enemy’s head jerks back three times like you just slapped them in the face with a roll of toilet paper before keeling over on the fourth shot.

Each of the six factions has a unique theme, fighting style, and items for trade which is pretty neat. They range from the woman-only Black Roses to a clan that honors the old ways like a group of overly nostalgic millennials that refuses to play anything that isn’t Mario or Zelda.

You can choose to fight them or attempt to win their favor by completing their missions and eventually form an alliance. This adds another degree of strategy when dealing with the factions as being diplomatic has long-term value. But choosing to fight them gains you much-needed supplies now, at the cost of making enemies.

Positioning, action points, and targeting body parts make the combat tactical.

The game stumbles a bit here as well. Whenever you run into a group on the world map you are usually presented with the option to fight, or flee. Fleeing has a chance of failure causing you to fight anyway, even if you have a decent reputation with the faction. That can be super frustrating since you lose reputation for killing them in self-defense.

It’s also super disconnected from the dialogue, as most of them the time they are like, “Fancy meeting you here”. Then they proceed to turn into Two-Face, flip a coin, and gun you down if it lands on tails.

Micro Headache

While I can appreciate micromanaging resources in the name of allowing the player to handcraft their own survival plan. Sheltered 2’s micromanagement bleeds into the rest of the game. This shoves it into the realm of extreme tedium that’s made worse by a poor interface.

The only thing you can automate in Sheltered 2 is a survivor’s basic needs, eating, showering, sleeping, pooping whatever. Everything else is done by ordering them to do it. This is okay when it comes to building or crafting, but nearly every object deteriorates over time and needs to be repaired, plants need to be watered, and generators need to be refueled.

While it can be semi manageable with just a few survivors and a small shelter, as your population and space grow it becomes very messy. The tiny bit of automation that you can assign will actually trip you up and make things worse.

As your shelter grows, so does the tedium.

You might assign a survivor to refuel the generator because the power’s out. Then jump to another survivor and have them repair the water purifier only to find that the first survivor decided to take a nap before refueling the generator. You can disable them from automating needs, but then that piles on even more to micromanage.

It’s not uncommon to spend in-game days pausing and unpausing time as you click, assign and reassign simple repairs, garden care, and plant harvesting like some kind of resource clicking predatory mobile game. It’s exceptionally tedious.

The interface offers only a few ways of sorting through your hoard of junk to find what you need. To make matters worse, if you happened to assign someone to create items at one workbench, but then they went pee, and another person you assigned also needs that workbench, it will delete the entire work order off of the first survivor. Meaning you have to reassign it all over again.

If a survivor has a mental break, they might just light everything on fire.

Prepping for expeditions is a total nightmare. You choose who is going out, what they are taking in the group inventory, the number of travel rations, and outfit each and every person going on the expedition, every, single, time. There is no way to set character presets or anything like that.

You have to scroll through and handpick all of it every time, even if you’re sending out the same team that just came back 10 seconds ago. At that point, you feel less like a leader playing the role of quartermaster, and more like a babysitter running a daycare full of toddlers while the building collapses around you.

Verdict

As a fan of survival games, Sheltered 2 strikes a lot of chords with me. It’s a base builder that manages to keep you on the edge of your seat. It requires you to form a long-term strategy because, without one, you won’t survive your first season change. Keeping tabs on a thousand small pieces of scrap might be a turn-off for some, but it forced me to make careful decisions about how to play.

Sometimes I needed to prioritize water usage with more efficient showers. Other times I had to rely on hunting for food instead of growing it. I had to constantly think about how to power my Shelter, and how often I could afford things that weren’t strictly required to survive, such as traps.

You can customize your faction’s leader.

All the mechanics wrap around each other to form a cohesive package. At the same time, the incredible tedium of commanding every minor task drained my will to play a great deal. Expeditions are core to the game and they are exciting as you explore the world. But I sighed in despair each and every time I had to spend five minutes handpicking gear for them with an unhelpful interface.

Sheltered 2 offers an apocalyptic survival experience that will put your planning and management skills to the test alongside nifty turn-based combat. Yet, the tedium of such excessive micromanagement might have you wishing for the world to end again.

You might also enjoy my review of State of Decay 2

Pros

  • A challenging survival experience with a focus on resource management
  • Solid turn based combat is a neat twist for the genre
  • Difficulty settings are present
  • Creating your faction leader lends a personal touch to the apocalypse

Cons

  • Extremely tedious micro management to keep the the shelter running
  • Unhelpful and clunky interface for managing inventories
  • Thematic disconnect when it comes to guns and faction interactions