The Epic Game Store's ongoing free game initiative will make Sheltered free on September 9. The game boasts deep, intricate survival-management mechanics underneath a charming pixel-art aesthetics. The game is yet another installment in the long line of recent Epic Store free games published by Team17.
Like a lot of Team17's published titles, Sheltered is an indie title with a surprising level of complexity. In Sheltered's case, that includes an emotional maturity and endearing writing. Sheltered being free on the Epic Games Store in September 2021 is no coincidence. The reason the title is being made free now, five years after its release, is likely to build hype for the upcoming Sheltered 2. This sequel is set for release on September 25, 2021, according to its Steam page.
Interestingly, there is not a page on the Epic Store yet for Sheltered 2, and there is no confirmation if it will release on the platform. It would make a lot of sense for Team17 and Unicube to bring the sequel to the storefront, as the free release of the original will likely onboard a lot of new players who could well want to purchase the next game. Whatever the case may be, Sheltered being free on the Epic Games Store is a great get for customers.
What Is Sheltered?
Sheltered takes a markedly different approach to post-apocalyptic survival when compared to games like Fallout. Unicube's 2016 title is more similar to This War of Mine in execution, with central gameplay loops involving scouting, gathering, and hunting. Alongside that is the constant need to recreate the central family's living quarters, developing it from a barely functional bunker into something that approaches a home.
The game's main characters being a tight-knit family is a clever twist on the typical post-apocalyptic game formula. Rather than having to navigate the complex social web of misfits drawn together in dire circumstances, the game can focus in on another set of tropes. Of course, that is not to say the game sticks to the problematic ideas of the nuclear family, as players can entirely customize the selection of characters they manage (and even have a pet horse if they want).
In Sheltered, memories of a time before the apocalypse are always present, but serve as stark reminders of a time the family will probably never see. The game's whimsical pixel art graphics hide some of the darker themes that quickly become apparent during play. Trauma mechanics, hygiene concerns, and deadly dust storms all stalk the family. The option to open up to and collaborate with other actors in the wasteland also invites a potential danger, compounding a fraught family dynamic.
Things To Remember When Playing Sheltered
Sheltered emulates the post-apocalyptic survival experience by being a really intense management simulator with a lot to do. Each family member has stress, sleep, hunger, thirst, hygiene, health, and trauma meters. Any of these dropping to certain levels can cause huge distress not only to that character, but to the family around them. As with the best survival simulator games, players will need to pay close attention to each of these meters, and figure out the most effective way of maintaining a healthy balance across the board.
RELATED: 20 Best Mods for Darkest Dungeon
The trauma mechanic in particular is one to watch out for. Not only is managing trauma important for a character's wellbeing, but in Sheltered it can also lead to impactful narrative choices that change the game itself. Accruing experience and trauma can alter the family members in various ways, leading to an RPG-style character progression.
Player agency in game stories is important, and Sheltered recognizes that. In-game statistics like strength, agility, and intelligence for survivors will alter depending on what they experience. This means that the player's choices with regards who goes on missions can and will impact how the rest of the game plays out.
In a sense, the trauma system works in a similar way to Darkest Dungeon, in which psychological damage from adventuring can permanently affect characters.
Sheltered on the Epic Game Store Before Its Sequel
Getting Sheltered for free on the Epic Games Store in September is useful for anyone interested in Sheltered 2's release at the end of the month. The sequel is set to add a whole host of new mechanics on top of the solid post-apocalyptic gameplay of the original. Sheltered 2 also seems to have a more tongue-in-cheek tone than the original, alongside much higher-fidelity graphics in a new art style, if its trailer is anything to go by.
Sheltered 2 is bringing more than just a cheekier sense of humor and some updated graphics. The faction system is more fleshed out, allowing players to forge nuanced relationships with other survivor groups in the post apocalypse. Factions can either swap resources and support each other, or they can do battle over the precious materials. As a result, Sheltered 2's groups will likely be very different to the factions of Fallout 4.
While the sequel will carry on the trait and trauma systems of the first game, it will have one big difference in terms of characters. Sheltered 2 allows players to create a faction leader who acts as the central figure in any given group. These leaders get extra powers and abilities, and their death means losing the game. If players are at all intrigued by what the upcoming Sheltered game might have to offer, the first title is worth checking out for free.
Sheltered will be free through the Epic Games Store on September 9.