There are plenty of video game heroes that have multiple installments, and still have yet to utter a single word. Shelter 2 is the spiritual successor to the wildy popular Shelter. Shelter 2 presents a mother lynx and her four kittens. Your job is to help the kittens grow up into independent killing machines. The game world is far more expansive, and with your long kitty legs and carnivorous tendencies, you can run down rabbits and deer in a way that mama badger could never dream of. To add to the immersion, a stamina bar has also been implemented. This means you must sometimes choose between feeding your pups, or consuming the catch for yourself in hopes that you might be able to run down more. Unfortunately I made the mistake of naming my kittens… I grew quite attached to each one of them. So much so that when one finally keeled over from starvation during an especially harsh winter, I didn’t have the heart to go on. I abandoned the remaining three kittens as I hurled myself into a lake. Why is Shelter 2 so good? I shall attempt to explain.
In addition to the harsh calls the stamina bar forces you to make whenever you catch prey, there is also a new smell system for hunting food, and keeping track of the kids that will run off in any direction at the first sign of nourishment. Right-clicking will turn any nearby prey animals a bright red, making it easy to mark your target from a great distance. Catching your target is another story. As you walk toward a prey animal, you will automatically assume a crouched pose that allows you to sneak up as close as possible. This is particularly necessary for deer, as they run only slightly slower than mama lynx. Rabbits will be the main sustenance, and are relatively easy to catch even without sneaking. They do make sharp turns however, similar to how an actual rabbit would run when trying to escape a predator. Sometimes they will escape, and while your stamina will partially recover, the true victims of your failure will be the children. It’s always the children. Overall, Shelter 2’s hunting/hunger systems create a fantastic game of cat and mouse.
On top of all the gameplay improvements from the original, Shelter 2 offers a more avant-garde aesthetic. Fur used to look like hair, but this time it looks more like strokes from an oil paintbrush. There are patterns in the trees and on the ground that don’t look natural, however they won’t break immersion either. They simply serve to give the game its own unique style, which was arguably something that Shelter lacked. There is now also a growth mechanic which I don’t believe I ever noticed in the original. After a set amount of time or meals, your kittens will grow into lanky adolescent cats. Enjoy this stage, as it will be the last time you’re able to spend with them before you abandon whoever was strong enough to survive this far. This game WILL rip your heart out, but to have a game be able to move me almost to tears speaks volumes. Eventually you might play through again as one of your offspring, only to be reminded that nature, while beautiful, does not give one damn about cries of mercy, as she breaks your heart once more.
Overall Shelter 2 is an outright winner in my book, however I did find a couple blemishes. The controls feel a bit stiff and don’t really lend themselves to any sort of delicate work, such as picking up the right kitten from a pile of four. The difficulty is relatively low, and you will need to implement your own set of rules in order to really get that gripping survival feel. The music is acoustic guitar, which suits better than the electric guitar in Shelter, but it still tends to drop out seemingly at random. Finally the map takes a lot of getting used to, you will find yourself lost in this big wide world quite a bit, but at least you aren’t alone. The potential for this series is unmatched, and I can think of 100 animals I’d like to see a Shelter game for. Can you imagine raising baby flamingos? Teaching them to dip their head in the water and eat krill? Or to fly awkwardly with their legs dangling down like some sort of paraplegic? Then stopping by a river for a quick drink and an alligator snatching one away. I want to see it. Please take my money!! If I had to make a list of Greenlight games proving that it’s a working system, Shelter would be right at the top. Thanks so much to Might and Delight for sharing this game with the world.
- Controls- 6/10
- Fun Factor- 8/10
- Difficulty- 5/10
- Replayability- 8/10
- Innovation- 10/10
- Graphics- 9/10
- Music- 6/10
- Sound FX- 7/10
- Story/Lore- 9/10
- Level Design- 6/10
Final Score: 82/100 for innovation, gameplay, and graphics.
Summary: Immersive and beautiful wildcat simulator. Keep your kittens alive, or have your heart wrenched.
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