Shelter 3 takes players on a journey to understand the survival difficulties elephants face while migrating, by solving terrain-based puzzles.
Shelter 3 is a survival puzzle game for PC developed and published by Might and Delight, and is the third installment of the main Shelter series. Shelter games have primarily focused on the survival of an animal species in the wilderness. While Shelter 3 does include some of these elements, it appears the new title may be more of a relaxing puzzle game than a survival simulation, which could be frustrating for fans of the previous Shelter games.
Instead of taking on the role of a solitary species raising their young like in previous games, Shelter 3 follows the struggles of a group of elephants who have been estranged from the rest of the herd thanks to an aging elephant matriarch losing her way. Players control a young mother elephant who is destined to become the next matriarch as she learns to lead her family, including her new calf, through dangerous terrain. Players must find food and water, avoid dangerous creatures, and pick the best routes to keep the herd alive.
The gameplay of Shelter 3 is broken up into different areas. Players begin by choosing between two different routes, and then they must solve the puzzle of the chosen area to get to the next destination. These challenging puzzles include misty forests to be navigated, dangerous waters broken up by islands that must be crossed, and expanses with limited resources. After completing one area, the player will pick between new options and take on the next puzzle. Throughout each area map, the herd needs to be kept together, with attention paid to the stamina gauge at the bottom of the screen that can be filled by eating fruit or drinking water. Players will also need to look out for their calf, and nurse it often to keep it strong and healthy.
While Shelter 3 has many similarities to previous Shelter titles, including an excellent soundtrack and low-poly graphics similar to storybook illustrations, this installment has pulled away from many gameplay mechanics seen in Shelter and Shelter 2. The story is linear, with less room for exploration, and the survival elements have been simplified to focus on the terrain puzzles. Because of this, gameplay can feel boring and slow at times.
The biggest hurdle with gameplay in Shelter 3 is mobility. All Shelter games have had issues with movement controls, causing jittery animations, problems with getting stuck on objects like rocks and trees, and difficulty navigating the map at a run. Shelter 3 has continued these problems, as well as a newly added hurdle. The Elephants are very slow. Even moving at a run, they are sluggish. Because of this, it takes a good deal of time to move through each map, and it bogs down gameplay. Increasing the elephant movement speed would greatly improve the problem, and make solving the terrain puzzles more enjoyable.
Shelter 3 also struggles with a surprisingly empty environment. In previous Shelter titles, players could hunt many different types of prey or collect different types of food. Exploring the map would reveal collectible items, and the seasons in Shelter 2 changed, offering new struggles for players to tackle like lack of food and bad weather. Shelter 3 has beautiful maps with different animals present, but they can’t be interacted with, and even herd interactions are limited. Shelter 3 could benefit from more food varieties to collect for each map, more ways to interact with herd members, and even the ability to interact with other animals that aren’t hostile. These additions would help flesh out the areas and make them more fun to explore.
While currently lacking as a survival simulator, Shelter 3 is a good game for fans of relaxing puzzles. However, those who have enjoyed the challenge and high risk of past Shelter games may find the change in mechanics frustrating. Despite this, Shelter 3 offers a moving storyline, and a unique look at the life of elephants. With a few tweaks to improve immersion, mobility, and promote exploration, Shelter 3 could stand out against previous titles in the series.
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Shelter 3 is available on PC. Screen Rant was provided with a Steam code for the purpose of this review.
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