Shelter 2

The world that greets you in Shelter 2 is a daunting one. With experienced expectations in this, the second in the series, the instant pressure of keeping your cubs safe and alive weighs heavily upon you. With little instruction or guidance, you are left in the world and have to figure everything out for yourself.

You play as a mother lynx with four cubs to look after. This contrasts heavily to the badgers of its predecessor. Being higher up the food chain means fewer predators stalking your moves and movement is a lot faster. After a brief introduction you leave the cubs in the den in search of food. The vast, sprawling landscape around you is intimidating initially but it doesn't take too long for you to become settled.

Shelter 2

There are a few tools at your disposal to assist navigating these large spaces. You can sniff out animals and map transition points – the screen turns to monochrome, animals highlighted in red and symbols for transition areas. There is a map that fills in as you travel around. Again, symbols are used rather than a clear outline and it does take some time to work your head around.

The aim of the game is to look after your cubs and keep them alive. Once they are healthier they join you outside of the den and it is your responsibility to find food for them. After that you all travel together and your journey begins.

Where Shelter 2 really shines is in its presentation and emotional hooks it embeds in you from the start. The world is a beautiful place, with seasons changing in front of you and various weather conditions occurring during your travels. The large expanses are impressive and it was with a nervous joy that I explored. I wouldn't say the game is open-world, but the several areas you travel through are large. The bright, colourful scenery conceals the dangers that lie around you.

The main attraction of the game are your cubs. You feel a connection with them and will try your best to keep them safe. This is really quite challenging. As they follow you through the landscape, running to catch a rabbit for them leaves them behind and sometimes separated. Their howls as they anticipate abandonment make you panic as you rush around the area trying to find everyone. The dilemma that one rabbit only feeds two of your cubs poses problems, especially in Winter when prey is sparse. Your cubs can blend into the scenery and although there is a way to see their current location it can still be difficult to reunite with them.

Shelter 2

If starved of food, cubs can collapse and not move until they're fed. Wandering around the barren Winter landscape willing something to be there you can find for them highlights the emotional impact this game has on the player. There were several occasions in my play through – some scripted, some not – that hit hard and remain memorable. The ending of the game too was strong, though there are some things about it I'd criticise.

The audio completes the atmosphere. Sometimes quiet, but soft guitar pieces kick in every now and then complimenting the tone of the rest of the game well. It almost feels like a sorrowful dread, as you know its unlikely you'll be able to keep all of your cubs alive.

If any of your cubs live through to the conclusion of the game you are able to begin again but with them as the role of mother. I felt this was a really nice touch but it was undermined by using the same model for mother lynx (rather than the colours my cubs were) and the same names come up each time. While you can manually change these names, it would have been nice if some variety was included. Still, the world of Shelter 2 is one I want to spend more time in.

Shelter 2

I did find some issues during my play through. The game ran smoothly throughout though there were some collision issues with the cubs leaving them standing at a bizarre angle. Only once did I encounter a predator; it appeared on the screen suddenly, attacked me and I re-spawned. Your own stamina regenerates so looking after yourself isn't necessary. While it is fun to hunt frogs, rabbits and deers for yourself, it becomes unnecessary. I appreciate the concentration is on the survival of the cubs but I wish there was an element of that for yourself as well.

I feel Shelter 2 improves on its predecessor considerably. I didn't enjoy Shelter that much but the best parts of that game were taken and expanded on. The large landscapes and increased freedom make you feel that you have more control over the fate of your young. This feeling of control also increases the notion of responsibility; that it's up to you to keep them alive. The game isn't going to help or hinder you.

Shelter 2 engrosses you in its world throughout your time with it. The wonderful aesthetic and atmosphere are a great background to the developing story and the emotional connection you feel to the outcome of your cubs. It won't be the scripted events that you'll remember the most, rather, the story you make for yourself.

4

In Short

  • + Wonderful aesthetic and sound design
    + Better control over your own fate
    + Emotional hooks with the safety of your cubs
    + Playing as a lynx is enjoyable

  • - As mother lynx you are essentially invincible
    - Some collision issues

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