Fallout Shelter: Beginner’s guide

Fallout Shelter is a resource-management, simulation game running cross-platform on smartphones (Android and iOS), Windows devices, and consoles (PlayStation, Xbox, and Switch). You cannot sync between platforms (though there’s a workaround if you’re interested).

Your goal is to build your Vault. You are the Overseer of your Vault. Your Vault has citizens (dwellers). You can direct your dwellers to different Rooms within the Vault depending on what they do best. Some dwellers have high intelligence so they are better in scientific work while others have high strength, making them suitable for power generators, for example.

As is the case with simulation games (think Sims, for example), you have to keep your citizens happy by meeting their requirements (which in this case include food, water, and power).

Are these creepy smiles unsettling?

Bethesda (developers of the original Fallout titles, DOOM, Elder Scrolls franchise, Dishonored, Wolfenstein, etc.) partnered with Behaviour Interactive (of the Warhammer 40,000 fame) to build this Unity-based post-apocalyptic simulation game back in 2015.

Fallout Shelter has little in common with the PC/console Fallout main series. Sure, the post-apocalyptic theme is preserved (and that’s the sole reason for naming this franchise “Fallout”). Some monsters and certain attributes, among other smaller things, are similar or the same as those in the main series.

The looks

Fallout: Shelter is a game that lacks detail. You’ll be hooked and even more so if you’re a fan of simulations and controlling your own little system. But in general, it lacks detailing and depth. Sort of how every non-PC simulation game is.

Also, it’s an offline game (with cloud save available) so all those long hours without internet or with a low battery will finally pay off.

The menu graphics are perfectly beautiful. The music, should you keep it on, is also great.

Because it’s not an online game, you’re under no pressure to keep checking the progress when you’re busy. The nature of the game makes it impractical for online gameplay. For example, there are attacks, infestations, and fires that happen as you play. If it was an online, real-time game being played on a server instead of your local hardware, those things would happen regularly and if you didn’t open the game for a good while, you’ll witness a nightmarish graveyard the next time that you did.

fallout shelter

What are you supposed to do?

In Shelter, you’re supposed to build your underground colony in a post-apocalyptic world. You do it by expanding your Vault by creating new rooms as they become available (availability depends on your colony’s population).

Here’s a bonus tip: Don’t build rooms as they become available. It will make things overly haphazard. Instead, plan ahead and build consciously to maintain order and keep a smart Vault.

Basically, new children are born from your existing dwellers. And you also have to keep your dwellers happy. When you’re able to do both these things successfully, you’ll have a force that can be armed, directed towards a variety of work, and one that can be relied upon.

Pros and cons

This game is undoubtedly an extension of the bigger Fallout universe and that’s a charm if you’ve played Fallout titles. Besides that, you will also love the simplicity of the game. The basic gameplay and mechanics are easy to understand. The low-detailed visual style of the game is also pleasant and positively refreshing because not all post-apocalyptic scenarios need to be dark and gloomy.

Now, certain things don’t add up or satisfy the player that much. For example, there’s no end to this game. It will keep going on. This is a pretty baseless accusation for a simulation game but is something that Shelter players repeat time and again.

Also, in general, the game is low-detailed, as noted above, and therefore lacks substantially in elaboration and design.

The microtransactions are subtle and not at all important for enjoying the game. It’s a purely F2P game and not a P2W as there are no global leaderboards.

Your dwellers are your main weapon

fallout shelter reproduction

There are several ways to increase your Vault’s population.

  • You can rescue people from wastelands so that they can dwell in your underground colony, your Vault. Over time, you can increase your dwellers’ count by waiting for people to arrive from the wastelands.
  • You can pair a male and a female dweller in the same living quarters which will produce a baby.
  • Additionally, you can use the Radio room for getting more people or buy packs with certain dweller cards that might be hugely beneficial (a higher rarity).

Each person, just like in the real world, has a knack for a different thing. This is indicated by their SPECIAL stat, which is the same as in the larger Fallout universe.

For the uninitiated, SPECIAL stands for Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility, and Luck.

These abilities, or rather attributes, are inbred. The SPECIAL profile of a dweller will decide which resource it can generate or help generate faster. You can also amplify their stats by training them in the respective stat’s room that is available for construction soon after you begin.

Now, once your dwellers are generating resources for you, you’ll have a stable supply but your job is far from over at this point (and in fact, your job is never over). Balancing out the resources will be a tough job.

The dwellers also level up the more they perform tasks. An increase in levels doesn’t allow them to obtain skills (as in Fallout) but still allows them to hold more items or weapons that will ease their work.

Once you have many talented dwellers, building new rooms to exploit their talents might seem like the logical thing to do. However, it’s oftentimes a better idea to upgrade their existing stats so that they operate more efficiently in the existing rooms.

Make sure that your dwellers are not on a “coffee break.” This is not really a break but unemployment. You can sort your dwellers’ list by their jobs. Those that are unemployed should be put into a job to maximize resource efficiency. Don’t worry, you’re not taking anything away from them because dwellers are actually happier when they’re busy.

To bolster the section title, your dwellers are actually your weapons. Once you start collecting weapons, you should always arm your dwellers. Keep the strongest weapons (there will be a number depicting damage, if it’s 0-1, just sell it) for your explorers and equip others for radroach infestations and attacks.

SPECIAL breakdown

fallout shelter recruit
Initially, you should always say yes to even low stat dwellers and train them instead. Later, however, it will be better to reject low stat wanderers and send them away to fend for themselves in this awfully, irradiated world of nightmares.

So, which stats helps in which way?

  • Strength: Increased production in power generators.
  • Perception: Increased water treatment.
  • Endurance: Longer survival in the wasteland.
  • Charisma: Faster repopulation and better acquisition of new people through the radio station.
  • Intelligence: Better StimPacks and RadAway production. StimPacks heal dwellers and RadAway cures radiation if your dwellers become irradiated due to lack of water.
  • Agility: Faster food production in the Diner and Garden.
  • Luck: Decreases the chance of a catastrophe when you rush production in a room (more on that in a while). It also allows them to find better loot in the wasteland.

Depending on which stat is higher in a dweller, you can assign them to different rooms to maximize their effectiveness and your Vault’s overall production.

During dweller assignment, when you hold one over a room, you’ll see the net difference it will make in the efficiency of that room – it can also be negative. Use this information to double-check your assignment decisions.

Now, a couple more things about these stats.

  • You’re supposed to increase the strongest stat(s) of a dweller further by building training rooms. This will make them better equipped to do their job.
  • A second stat to spend training on can be luck or charisma. Luck will also help them and charisma will help with the repopulation speed.

Vault rooms

fallout shelter dwellers

If a room has 2 people, it will produce the resource slower. If it has 6, it will do it a lot faster. So, when you’re full on a resource and red on another, shift portions of your manpower temporarily to reach equilibrium.

You can build many different rooms in your colony. They will provide additional resources, stat bonuses, items, etc.

If you build two same-type rooms side by side, they connect, up to a maximum of three rooms.

General tips for making the best of your rooms, resources, and dwellers in Fallout: Shelter

Let’s sum up some general tips and tricks. Nothing here is a hidden gem – you will very likely figure all of this out as you play. But what my beginner’s guide is about is to better equip you with actionable intelligence before you roll out a couple of rows of rooms.

Rush

You can instantly complete production but at the risk of radroach infestations or even fires. This can be done by clicking the “Rush” button during production. It will show you the risk percentage of such an incident. Keep your dwellers ready to kill radroaches or extinguish fires if the incident probability is high. Rushing doesn’t charge you anything but resets the production time if an incident occurs, so it’s best to rush right after production has finished.

You can rush the production as many times as you wish but with each one, the chance for an incident will increase. It’s a good idea to equally spread your armed dwellers among all the rooms where you’ll be rushing production.

Power distance

Remember that rooms need power and the further away they are from a power source, the more power they will consume. Evenly spread your reactors. Also, on the other hand, if you’re having more power than you can use, it’s a good idea to build more storage facilities. It will not decrease your resources.

Space management

Always play smart and aim for larger rooms that are connected to each other instead of smaller rooms belonging to the same category as they become available. You might gain short-term stats or resource spikes that way but in the long-term when your population goes high, it will create problems.

It’s a good idea to keep some space around rooms for expansion. For example, build one Storage on the left side and let it stay there until you have the need to expand your storage. Meanwhile, you can move downwards. Don’t build another room right next to the storage because later you won’t be able to connect two storage rooms and then three to max out the size.

Don’t create rooms just because you can. Certain rooms will keep leeching off power even when there are no dwellers in them (like the Water Treatment rooms).

The elevator

There’s a central elevator. You can build rooms on either side of it. Now, initially, it would seem like an easier move to expand horizontally but the smarter tactic here is to also develop downwards by building the elevator further. It will be more expensive but also more effective in the long term.

Your first Vault can easily feature a standard central elevator design. But note that elevators can be built on either sides as well, for example. Changing the overall design of your Vault can help you manage it better. For this, however, you first need the basic understanding of how rooms, attacks, and dwellers work. Read Chirantan Raut’s 2016 guide on designing better Vaults that he learned from honest mistakes.

fallout shelter vault design

Hazards

You’ll see that hazards like raider attacks (and not radroach infestations and fires) will only happen through your vault door. It is a good idea to keep 2-3 of your best-armed dwellers in the room closest to the vault door so that you can move them to the door room quickly.

  • Don’t put “guards” (dwellers with guns) in the door room because they’re not going to either level up or produce resources. Later, of course, you can keep a couple of all-time door guards (when they are maxed out, for example).
  • During an attack, you need to be swifter than usual as the attackers will move and your attacking dwellers won’t follow them, so you’ll need to manually chase the attackers with your dwellers. However, if you put door-guards, as they have no other task, they will follow the intruders throughout the Vault.
  • Manufacture plenty of StimPacks. In case you find a number of your dwellers knocked up pretty bad, just use these. Let’s say at the beginning you have 20 dwellers. Now, it’s a good idea to keep 5-6 StimPacks always with you. Once you reach that point, move your StimPack developer (usually a high intelligence dweller) somewhere else and when you start running out, switch them back. As your dwellers increase, your StimPacks should increase too.
  • Similarly, you should also keep proportional amounts of RadAway. You never know when a series of unfortunate events will make you run out of water. Radiation will then affect your dwellers and they’ll keep losing health. First, use RadAway on them to cure the radiation and then use StimPacks to heal them.
  • No citizen dies, even the ones exploring the wasteland. You can always use caps to revive them.

Objectives and exploring

When you get objectives (you should always finish these) like equipping guns, you can recycle the guns and equip them on different dwellers repeatedly to finish up.

When you send someone to explore the wasteland, always equip them with StimPacks because beginners tend to forget their wanderers. You can tap on the outside area (non-Vault) to quickly get an update on what your wanderer is up to.

Have a few designated wanderers who will play Fallout for you. They will go out and come back with supplies. Equip them with a powerful gun, armor, pet, StimPacks, and RadAway and they will be good to go. They can keep wandering for hours and later, even days. Make sure they have high endurance and strength. Low stat dwellers don’t make good wanderers.

Happiness

Dweller happiness is a critical factor. More than it impacts performance, it impacts your mood and your own happiness to see how badly you are failing in keeping virtual people happy and satisfied.

Here are the things you can do to increase the happiness level of a dweller:

  • Ensure there’s enough power, food, and water. The amount of the resources you have from the minimum line defines how negatively or positively will dweller happiness be affected.
  • Put them in a room that is suitable for their stats.
  • Get them laid.

Getting more dwellers

fallout shelter sexual innuendo

A beginner can feel their progress being stalled soon after they’ve reached 10-15 dwellers. Well, the point of the game is that you should also focus on producing babies and that takes a while.

You should put a male and a female in the living quarters together. They’ll bond and talk. Soon afterward, they’ll be very excited and go inside a room. That’s why this game might not be very safe for work or for kids to play. There are tons of sexual innuendos and cheesy dialogs.

“If I seem drunk, it’s only because you’re so intoxicating.”

Beverly, who once had the hots for Henry, before she moved on to her Power Plant buddy Bill, Henry’s best friend.

Damn it, Beverly.

Now, I know some people might differ and find these dialogs very lame for kids to make sense of, but that’s relative, really. The mere thought that you got to pair a man and a woman in a room, produce babies, and often go through cheesy dialogs can be borderline inappropriate for kids under 12 for many.

Anyway, when the couple comes out of the room inside the living quarters, the female would have quite a belly and she’ll be walking slowly.

Pregnant women work normally until there’s a threat. A radroach infestation, fire, or any attack (higher level colonies will see more intense attacks) will mean that all of them will run immediately to the living quarters and hide. Only the non-pregnant women and the men will defend against threats, so it’s not recommended to give pregnant women guns if you’re short on them.

After a few hours of pregnancy, the Vault will be blessed with a baby. The delivery is instant. Kids don’t work. They only increase the population. You have to wait for them to grow into adults. You can see a timer when you select the kid that will tell you how much time is remaining. The same time is also shown in your dwellers’ list under the time column.

I highly recommend you go through Ed Nightingale’s brilliant take on Shelter’s dweller repopulation mechanic which can literally just boil down to treating women in your Vault like another resource production facility.

And that’s about it

fallout shelter raid
Even in the face of adversity, your dwellers smile. They love their Vault in an uncanny way.

Though I initiated this piece declaring this was a game that lacked in depth and yet penned so many descriptions of all sorts, I’d like to finally tell you the truth.

This is a simulation game. Nothing else matters. The art, mechanics, features, microtransactions, lore, etc. could be anywhere from utterly, illogically pointless to meticulously well-designed and precise – it doesn’t matter. Some don’t like the experience of a simulation game because it is too slow or boring for them. And those that do like this genre will find Shelter to be absolutely enticing, addictive, and weirdly satisfying in mysterious ways.

If you love simulation games, go for Shelter. No prior knowledge of Fallout is required.

Though there are indeed more complex things and finer mechanics (like you can’t put a dweller with his own daughter in the living quarters together and expect a baby – close relatives are forbidden to make love), the mention of those is excluded entirely because that would make it an advanced guide.

Just know that there’s more to almost every aspect that we’ve seen so far, including exploring the wasteland, reacting to intruders, going deeper into the heart of the mountain, using the radio to get more people, and so on and so forth.

Good luck overseeing your Vault and don’t be wondering how room rushes literally work!

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