Sequel Soliloquy: Shelter 1 & Shelter 2

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Some say you shouldn’t mess with success and that’s why sequels come out so often. From Pokemon to Halo, sequels are never-ending. Last time I talked about whether Psychonauts deserved a sequel, but this time is a comparison of Shelter and Shelter 2. Did the sequel live up to the original?

I’d actually have to say the sequel is 10x better than the first game. In Shelter, you play as a badger momma searching for food in order to feed her babies who frequently need to eat. The problem with the game, despite it’s natural drama of surviving the wild, is that it’s incredibly linear and lacks decent mechanics. I found myself with passed out baby badgers way too often and there was no way for me to know where I could find food since I kept getting lost and you could only go forward. In fact, I couldn’t even figure out how to get past the bird. I couldn’t find a way out and it frustrated me having to go in circles.

This mother badger really doesn't have much to do other than find food.

This mother badger really doesn’t have much to do other than find food.

On the other hand, Shelter 2 is like what the first game should’ve been. In the sequel, you play as a mother lynx rather than a badger. This one change makes the game better in so many ways. As a lynx, you’re now in the middle of the food chain, predator and prey. You go run after voles and hares and still have to watch to make sure a bird doesn’t carry away your cubs. Plus, there’s a family tree feature added, so you can play as a surviving cub after they’ve become an adult lynx. The game always gives you four different cubs so you can tell which is which, and you can name them too! The game has a bit of a growing up story, detailing from when the mother lynx escaped from the wolves and found a den to the cubs being born and growing up. This gives the game more of a story than just forcing you to keep going forward because there’s nothing behind you.

In the beginning, you have to bring food to your cubs so they can grow enough to leave the den. After a meal or two though, they’re following you around and grow each time they get fed. You can tell when they’re really hungry when they whine and start losing their color. Once they get older, they actually can catch their own food too if you run at a group or if one sees a stray vole. The field changes seasons as you play, but you can always find something to eat thanks to the mother lynx’s ability to sense food. It can be a bit tricky to catch said food, but you get the hang of it after a bit. Despite my stance on hunting, I found that chasing after hares to feed my cubs was actually kind of fun and maybe a little addicting since you never knew when or if that hare would take a sudden turn and leave you in the dust. I even found myself replaying after I raised my first batch of cubs despite the relative simplicity of the game.

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You always get four adorable cubs with all different colors!

However, one of the great things about Shelter 2 compared to its predecessor is that it’s totally non-linear. You can go wherever you want, hunt wherever you want, and collect whatever you want. That’s right, for the collectors out there, Shelter 2 has collectibles, from bones to feathers to sticks. Plus, the field is randomly generated every time, so collectibles and animals will appear in different places whenever you start another family. You can learn to split your time between hunting for food and hunting for collectibles as you play. If you ever lose your cubs, you can always have more, so don’t fret if you have trouble.

As I’m sure you can see, Shelter 2 is much better than its predecessor. I honestly feel the sequel was what the first should’ve been to begin with. However, if you’re looking for some zen and beautiful art and music, either one would work. I however recommend skipping the first and going straight to the second. Shelter earns a 2/5 for solid atmosphere and graphics with gameplay lacking, while its sequel Shelter 2 gets a 4/5 for an overall good experience. If you want to try both, though, now would be the best time since Humble Bundle is having a sale. You can get the first Shelter here and the second here.