Top Critic Average
Shelter 2 has a memorable visual identity and a considered soundtrack, but in terms of survival and a rewarding exploration of the space there's just not much there.
In the first game, there was a sense of progress and achievement, and of variety in gameplay. Now, we're faced with repetitive rabbit-hunting and the bane of all open-world games, meaningless collectibles.
In the end the beauty of this game rests mostly on, well, the beauty of the game. The game is a wonderland of sounds and sights with an immersive and touching story of survival (less survival than I'd like in my case). Although the gameplay is smooth and succinct, with a playtime of a little over two hours to complete it may not be the sort of game you'll want to pick up to keep yourself amused for that lazy week off work. However if I had more time I would happily spend longer wandering around the lands to discover the objects hidden within or to simply take in more of the sights.
Shelter 2, in spite of a lack of dialogue, managed to create a hauntingly beautiful experience. Due to its extremely short length and virtually zero replayability, I cannot recommend the experience unless it undergoes a severe price drop.
Shelter 2 isn't a great game, but few games charge players with wrestling genuine emotion or real-world struggle, and in general the medium hardly demonstrates or encourages such circumstances. There's no complex mechanic or grand story to work through, but there's none that could easily capture "feelings" either.
Shelter 2 has its moments. Playing as a lynx is disarmingly authentic, the art design is visually arresting and there's no denying that you'l feel... something... once your first litter of cubs survives to grow to adulthood thanks to your tender loving care. But the lack of threat and its big yet pointless open world robs the game of challenge, likely leaving you broadly unsatisfied after just a handful of hours.
I never felt like my cubs were in danger of perishing as a result of anything besides negligence. Ironically, it's a good thing that this game only lasts a couple of hours, because it's barely deep enough to hold my attention for even that long.
I don't have kids, nor do I plan on having any for a very long time, but something about Shelter brought out my parental instinct to protect children. It was emotional when they were taken away from me - as was it emotional when they grew up and left the nest. It's a nice touch that they've allowed you to look at the family tree, and see the generations that lived before the lynx that you're currently in control of. It's just a shame that the gameplay is so generic. It doesn't take long for one generation cubs to grow up, and so the impact of what happens to them is then diluted from the minimal time that you'll spend with them. And as much as I loved looking off on the beautiful horizon, everything else made me want to get out as quickly as possible.