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Shelter Review: Strategic Card Combat

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What’s that? You wish there were more zombie survival games out there? Tell me about it. Just think of all that untapped earning potential developers have failed to identify! They could even do a zombie apocalypse type game where you strive to survive in a doomed alternate universe.

And we’re safely landing back in reality. Did you enjoy the flight? I laughed the whole time.

After downloading this little app on my iPhone 4, I decided to give it a quick whirl. Three and a half hours later I managed to be late for work. That’s pretty impressive considering I work from my home office.

Surviving the Horror, Strategically

Really the only time worth mentioning a zombie apocalypse game is when it’s good. I mean real good. Some may use the adjective addictive. I think an addictive game and a good game are two completely different things.

This game, however, manages to be both – somewhat.

Shelter starts out setting the story line within a graphic novel. You’re sleeping in bed and you receive a call from a girl asking if you can meet her (see what I did there?) across town. They both seem aware of these dead guys walking around so he gets prepared to make the journey. At this point (1.25 minutes in) the game’s got a walking dead vibe going. The visual artwork is delightful and the music eerie. After busting out a quick video tutorial of an overhead map, you’re on to pick your destination. You see, Shelter has a nice element to it which gives you some freedom as to what you want to do. More specifically, where you want to go. This is done by a map with different colored pins. Green pinned destinations further the story while blue pins are optional and can be completed or “farmed” multiple times.

What’s cool about Shelter is that after you manage to win a zombie onslaught, you take your pick of the card type to add to your deck which can be used in future duels. So it isn’t completely random. One such category are gun weapons, another being melee weapons, and the third being supplies which include ammo and health packs. It’s a nice touch to a game genre that typically throws random cards at you regardless if you need them or not.

Fighting The Horde – or is it flock?

I did say something about duels. I suppose that’s an important aspect to this game.

The duels are the juicy meat of the game. Thankfully, it tickles my itch for strategic card combat. You’re dealt ten cards, five being various barricade cards automatically placed and the other five are dealt from your specially chosen deck of twenty. You’re squared up against the zombies ten to one with barricades in between to give you a fighting chance. Without these barricades, you would almost certainly be lunch meat. Keep in mind you have a limited amount of action points or AP to use every round. You have various option available including laying down your guns or strengthening the barricades; all costing a certain amount of AP.

As the turn based combat goes on, your ultimate goal is to destroy the brain eaters and claim the supplies to build your deck. There’s a bit of a catch to this. Zombies come in different forms. Some may have the ability to heal other zombies while some have extra armor for added penetration protection. Some can suck the AP right out of you, severally limiting your options. Even the most basic of zombies can stack on top of each other to increase their threat. Thankfully, this is just a game where you have the upper hand as a living player with several strategic offensive and defensive options.

One such option is the hunting rifle. The hunting rifle comes with the added bonus of being able to pierce through armored zombies. Another terrific weapon is the sub machine gun which is best used on the above mentioned stacked zombies – totally mowing them down in the process (Weren’t we playing a card game?). There are also additional gun mods that give you bonuses like the scope or hollow point bullets for bonus damage. Just remember to read every card so you completely understand it’s benefits and weaknesses.

To Play Or Not To Play?

I never fancied myself as a card combat player. The Collectible Card Game or CCG genre was always intriguing to me, however I never pulled the trigger on one until I came across Shelter. To me though, this says something about it. I’ve enjoyed almost every moment with it and have a hard time putting it down.

You might have noticed I said almost up there. There are a couple of annoyances with Shelter.  One slight annoyance is after zooming in on the board to read specifics about a placed card, and then pulling out your hand for review. After reviewing your hand, going back to the board reverts you to being zoomed out. A minor annoyance and certainly not a deal breaker but it is indeed an annoyance. Albeit one that can certainly be updated with a quick patch.

Some feedback I have come across is that the duels move a bit too slow. However I have not felt this way as the game allows you to fast forward the zombies turn. You can also skip the battle sequences if you so desire. Again, I have really enjoyed the pace of this game and believe it fits with the atmosphere they have done so well creating.

One man army Chris Roberts at Survivalist Games did a wonderful job with the artwork and game. Shelter is a fun, strategic, and manages to feel original in its overall polish and rock solid game play. There aren’t any IAP to speak of which is refreshing in a day where more and more premium titles seem to “feature” this monetization tactic. Although Shelter may not be flawless, it should definitely be getting more attention than it’s getting. If you’re in the market for a strategy game or you like playing CCG’s, I recommend picking up Shelter. If you’re anything like me, you’ll have a hard time putting it down.

Shelter is available on Windows Phone, Android, and iPhone platforms for $1.99.


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