When the zombie apocalypse does finally arrive us gamers are going to be so prepared the zombies won’t stand a chance. With the arrival of Shelter, from Preston-based indie developer Chris Roberts, we’ve been taking the opportunity to get some more practice in.
Unlike the many zombie games you’ve played previously Shelter is refreshingly different. It’s not yet another first-person shooter or third-person survival horror but instead a collectible card duelling game. With games like Magic: The Gathering, Tekken Card Tournament and Transformers Legends we must admit we’ve become rather addicted to the card gaming genre. Even Blizzard are trying to get in on the action with Hearthstone their World of Warcraft spin-off.
Despite the huge number of card games available Shelter is definitely the first zombie card game we’ve come across. Unusually for the genre there’s a story playing out as your character treks across the country to get to his girlfriend. Everything is presented in a lovely graphic novel style and the artwork of the cutscenes and the cards is superb. Card games tend to take some time to learn but the tutorials here are give you plenty of guidance.
As you move to each new location you are presented with a map that features a number of choices. For example in the first location, do you try and take a car? Go on a run for diesel? Search houses for food? Once you’ve made your choice you then have to do battle with the zombies lying in wait at that location.
The majority of your time with Shelter is spent on the battle screen where you must defend your position by fighting off the incoming zombie hordes. Battles are turn based and the AI plays the zombies. Across the middle of the screen are the barricades that will temporarily keep you safe from the incoming zombies. The zombies take the top portion of the screen and the bottom of the screen is for you.
At the start of each turn your action points refill which you can then spend on the cards you have available to play them. Guns must be placed down before you can use them and you must also manage their ammo by playing a reload card when low or out of ammo. Melee weapons you can keep until you really need them. You can also apply modifier cards such as scopes or altered bullets for extra damage.
The zombies line up at the barricades and gradually smash through them so they can get at your brains. You can fortify barricades if you have the right cards available or focus on taking the more dangerous zombies down first. You can look ahead to see what the zombies have coming up which is very useful in planning what cards to play and when.
Should a zombie break through a barrier then you must take it out as soon as possible. If not then it will slowly eat away at your health until you die. Once you’ve cleared all the zombies you win the round but if they take your health first then you die. The battles can be quite tense especially when the zombies start taking down your barricades.
As you win duels you earn more cards which give you more choices in future battles. After beating the first location you open up the deck builder which allows you to tailor your deck to your liking. As you progress through the game you also come across allies who can battle alongside you. These each bring five themed cards to mix up your playstyle.
With over 100 cards to find and collect there is plenty to keep you busy. One thing we found is that the zombies turn can take some time which can be a little frustrating. Another weak point for us was the music which is really repetitive.
We’ve really enjoyed our time with Shelter and would recommend it to zombie and collectible card fans. It might be a little too slow paced for some but the game is interesting with plenty of options available to you. There is a decent amount of strategy in beating the tougher zombie waves but when you overcome a particularly difficult one it’s really satisfying.
Shelter is available now for iOS, Android and Windows Phone.