August 23, 2013 5:00 AM | Konstantinos Dimopoulos / Gnome
Never really aspired to being a mother badger, let alone to dragging along five pathetically defenseless cubs through the forest. What's more, I never really cared much for nature documentaries and Shelter did get off on the wrong foot; I simply didn't know what to do and kept wondering why the gamma was all over the place. Thankfully, a short email to the devs (Might And Delight of Pid fame) did sort everything out, and I'm now more than happy I played such a unique and beautiful game.
Better though to do the sensible thing and start at the beginning. Shelter is essentially a 3rd person survival adventure game that is to be released via Steam (and on its own site) on the 28th of August for Windows and Mac. Oh, and it can already be pre-ordered for a small discount, but I will refrain from going on a rant about the sheer absurdity of the word "pre-order". I mean, seriously, how is it even possible to order something before ordering it?
Anyway. As already implied, Shelter is a game about protecting your five little badgers. You being their mother, you actually have to provide them with food and make sure those other predatory beasties do not eat them up. Them being cubs, they will easily get scared, run off and get eaten, thus reminding you how care-free life was when all you cared about were badger gentlemen. But, this being a game about wildlife, instinct rules and you simply cannot abandon them.
You do instead have to knock apples off trees, ambush mice and dig out turnips and carrots to feed them, while chasing away foxes, hiding from eagles and despairing at the sound of wolves and crackling forest fire. And even though the highly stylized forest is jaw-droppingly beautiful and, err, stylized and nature doesn't come with its own, lovely soundtrack, everything feels realistic. The need to survive rules, and the only feelings you will find here are those your human brain will project onto the computer screen. Also, you'll be terrified of the dark.
Being stealthy, solving subtle yet brilliant environmental puzzles, seeking refuge, eating and not being eaten all become second nature and this is where Shelter's design truly shines: it's never silly, never boring and always masterfully balanced. As for me, well, I just cannot recommend it highly enough.