Jun 25, 2013

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Shelter Review

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Yep, it’s another zombie apocalypse and you’re going to need more than just a pistol to survive. Zombies have long been the center of attention for many games, but Shelter offers you a new weapon to take on these “brainless” hordes: a collectible card game. Don’t let the regurgitated survival premise fool you, because this is one interesting game that you’ll want to think twice about.

A single-player story-mode is the crux of the game, and it begins when a man named Josh receives a phone call from his girlfriend, Rachel. They discuss the zombie apocalypse scenario and set a goal to reunite. Shortly after, our long journey across Bristol begins and you come across allies and zombies of all kinds as you search for valuable resources such as transportation or weapons. Nothing new, you say? Well, this is where the game becomes intriguing. The gameplay is captivating and will have you holding onto your device for hours. As you begin your adventure, a map of Bristol is laid out with pins indicative of areas for you to explore. You’ll have the freedom to choose if you would rather gather extra resources marked by blue pins before proceeding to the next chapter of the story by tapping on green ones. Each pin triggers an invite to duel with zombie foes and will lead you directly to the battle screen. What is notable about these duels is that as you progress through the story, you’ll encounter zombies with different talents that only become a greater pain in the rear. But the bigger the challenge, the more enjoyable the game becomes. Now, onto the duel.

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Your screen is divided into two equal halves, with three main rows of five slots taking center stage. Cards directly in the middle represent your barricades that keep the zombies at bay – at least until they force their way through. You’ll have to pick and choose the cards you want to lay out from a randomized set, and the same routine applies to the zombie AI. Like every card game, there’s always a catch. The numbers at the top of your screen symbolize your total health (50) and action points (6). Each card has specific points that are required when placing them and attacking, plus you’ll have to discard one card before moving on to the next round. In other words, choose wisely. Each zombie card has a health and damage rating, while you’ll be depending on weapons to eliminate them. If a zombie gets past your barricade and you’re unable to take them out before the next round, they’ll damage your health.

As far as tactics go, this is where things get a little complicated. With limited cards, sometimes not the ones you want, you’ll also receive cards that are weapon modifiers, extra defense, or health boosters. Like weapons, each zombie also has unique traits. Some have heavy armor that preferably requires a weapon with “piercing” to deal damage to, while others devour a neighboring zombie and absorb its traits. There are also zombies that resurrect, heal, and stack onto each other, but my favorite has to be the kamikaze zombie that will sacrifice itself while dealing extra damage to your health. Will you choose to boost up your defenses, stock up on ammo, or spend points on ranged weapons versus short range? The choice is yours. On a side note, each duel can take up to twenty minutes or more and you can’t skip through any attack animation, so if you’re expecting fast-paced action such as Transformers Legends, don’t get your hopes up. After each victory, you’ll get more cards added to your personal deck, which you can manage under the “deck builder” tab. Ultimately, although the apocalyptic scenario isn’t original, the gameplay depth and mechanics will keep you entertained. As the official website states: easy to learn, hard to master.

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Another big plus of the game is its graphic-novel style. For those familiar with The Walking Dead franchise, you’ll find Shelter to be a little close to home. The design of each card is articulate, minus a few spelling errors I came across along the way, and there are more than 100 cards in total. The variation of zombies also keep things interesting, especially when it’s the AI’s turn to select cards: an animated 3D dice will be rolled to see if the number matches the score required for summoning. At this point you’ll be biting your lip hoping that five powerful zombies won’t be summoned in the first round when you only managed to pull out two guns. Screens during the story’s progression are also animated, with captions that evoke a tinge of sarcasm. When we first meet Josh, for example, his story is described as follows: “On a mission to save his girlfriend Rachel, Josh will pull out all the skills he’s learnt from a lifetime of horror films and survival games.” An indirect critique of the overemphasized genre, but developer Chris Roberts leaves us with a protagonist who doesn’t emphasize the bravado of being an ex-military, town sheriff, or marine. He’s just your average guy who’s trying to survive and reunite with his girlfriend once more.

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One thing to keep in mind is that the game will not automatically redirect you to a duel if you quit and wish to continue later on. You’ll meet the main menu once more and have to restart where you left off. Also, muting will probably save you from a headache. While the game’s music helps to alleviate tension and eeriness, it’s highly repetitive with occasional piano notes to break the monotony. Nevertheless, the overall tune is rinsed and repeated without pause, so it might be best to turn the sound off when you’re strategizing. The game is also designed to be more enjoyable when you have a few hours of uninterrupted play to spare, so if you’re trying to rush a duel during lunch break, I would advice waiting until you finished eating or working for that matter.

All in all, Shelter is engaging for both non-card and card game fans alike. With a personal background in Magic the Gathering,this app is able to combine graphics, long story missions, and a complex gameplay mechanic that is just as engaging as an actual card game with friends at a table. The combination of side and story missions will keep you amused for days before you even finish the main story. Will Josh end up seeing Rachel? I’ll leave that to you to find out.

Shelter
Platform: Android, iPhone, Windows Phone
Genre: Battle Card Game
Release Date: February 17, 2013
Developer: Survivalist Games
Publisher: Survivalist Games
MSRP: $1.99


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About Sabrina Ajeep

Food enthusiast, tumblr addict, and gaming junkie. It's hard not to take an interest in video games when you spent your childhood watching your older brother play StarCraft or Doom over his shoulder - that is until you take over the computer. If i'm not playing games, you'll find me on ceramander.tumblr.com making gaming edits and reblogging random stuff of all sorts.